JENNIE by Paul Gallico
1 How It Began
2 Flight from Cavendish Square
3 The Emperors Bed
4 A Story is Told
5 When in Doubt - Wash
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
13 Mr Strachan Furnishes the Proof
14 Mr Strachans 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?
Ive 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
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 Nannys 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
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.
Peters 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 didnt like cats and was afraid
of them. It was important to Peters mother that Nanny be
humoured in the matter of cats, so that she would stay and look
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 bombedout 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, Nannys 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 Nannys 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 Nannys 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 Nannys glasses
in which he could frequently catch a reflection of his curly head
of closecropped auburn hair, round eyes, upturned button nose,
stubborn chin, and cheeks as redandwhite and rounded as two
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 kittens 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 reddishbrown curly hair and
apple cheeks, his fur now seemed to be quite short, straight, and
Why, said Peter to himself, I said "fur" instead of hair.
What a strange thing to do. It must be looking into the cats 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 slantset 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 catseye 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 eartip
to tail-tip he was clad in spotless white fur.
The tigerstriped 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! Hes dragged in anither stray off the street!
Shoo! Seat! Get out!
Peter cried out- But, Nanny! Im Peter. Im not a cat.
Nanny, dont, please!
Rail at me, will ye? Nanny bellowed. Tis the broom Ill
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!
Ill 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
Holding him as far away from her as she could, Nanny ran
down the hallway muttering, And its to bed without any sup-
per for Peter when I find him. How often have I told him hes
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
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
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! Nannys put
me out, me-out, me-out !
Peter then heard the husband say as he dropped the curtains:
Its only another stray, a big white tom. Where do they all come
from? You never get a minutes 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
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-
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
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
Not that the feet werent 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 Peters ribs and shoulders where it landed a numbing
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
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
But now that he seemed to be a cat the rain was almost un-
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
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
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
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
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 girls voice
from high above him complained:
Oh! That filthy beast! Hes rubbed up against me, and look
what hes 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
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 Peters 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
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 Peters 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 tigers, and an ugly, heavy scar
running straight across his nose.
Peter said: Please, I cant. Maynt I stay here a little while?
Im so tired -
The cat looked at him out of hard yellow eyes and growled,
You heard me, chum. I dont like your looks. Pack off !
But Im not hurting anything, Peter protested. All I want
to do is rest a little and get dry. Honestly, I wont touch a
You wont touch a thing, mocked the yellow cat. Thats rich.
Ill wager you wont. I work here, son. We dont allow strangers
about these premises. Now get out before I knock you out.
I wont, said Peter, his stubborn streak suddenly showing
Oh, you wont, wont you? said the yellow tom softly, and
gave a low growl. Then, before Peters 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 wont go. Theres 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 Peters 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 needlesharp
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 dont come
back. Because the next time you do, Ill 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.
The Emperors 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
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
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, thats
better. Im glad youre alive. I wasnt 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, Im sorry. Ill go away as soon as I am
able. I dont 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 dont think youre very well. Hold still, and Ill 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 dont want to trouble you. I dont 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 doesnt hurt any more!
And it hadnt. 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
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, mothers making it all better! There! Now it
doesnt hurt any more . . .
But she didnt. 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
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, thats 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. Its really quite fresh. I wouldnt mind sharing
it with you. I could stand a snack myself. There you are. You
have a go at it first.
Oh, nno . . . No-no, thank you, said Peter in horror. N-not
mouse. I couldnt -
Why, asked the tabby cat in great surprise, and with just a
touch of indignation added, Whats 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, Im sure. Its . . . well, its just that Ive
never eaten one.
Never eaten one? The tabbys 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 its been fresh chopped liver and cat food out of a tin.
You neednt tell me. Ive had plenty of it in my day. Well, when
youre 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 theres 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 didnt 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 benefactresss 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 wasnt so bad, was it? My tail, but you
were hungry !
Peter said, Im sorry. Im afraid Ive eaten your dinner.
The tabby smiled cheerfully. Dont 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 dont, youll soon
find out. Though I must say its months since Ive been dis-
turbed here. I know a secret way in. Its 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 couldnt resist showing off. He
said, The bed must have belonged to Napoleon, once. Thats 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
dont suppose he has any further use for it, for he hasnt been
here to fetch it in the last three months and neither has anybody
else. Youre quite welcome to stay here as long as you like. I
gather youve 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. Hes 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 tabbys 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 toms last -
words: And dont come back. Because next time you do, Ill
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 wasnt so much. If I hadnt been so tired from run-
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 dont think that everybody doesnt run. Its
nothing to be ashamed of. By the way, what is your name?
Peter told her. She said, Hm Mines Jennie. Id 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.
A Story is Told
BY and large, Peter made about as bad a beginning as could be
when he said:
Im not really a cat, Im a little boy. I mean actually, not so
little. Im eight.
Youre 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 tabbys tail swelled another size larger and twitched
nervously. Her eyes seemed to shoot sparks as she hissed: I
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, its just your imagination. I should have
known. Were always imagining things, like a leaf blowing in
the wind being a mouse, or if theres no leaf there at all, then we
can imagine one, and when weve imagined it, go right on from
there and imagine it isnt 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 youre a little boy, though what kind of
a game you can make out of that I cant see. Still-
Oh, please, said Peter, interrupting. He could feel somehow
that the tabby very much didnt 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, Im 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, dont 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. Ive felt
it all along. You dont act like a cat -
Of course not, Peter said, relieved that he might be believed
But the tabby, her eyes growing wider and wider, wasnt 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
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, its against the rules. She almost seemed to
be ticking the items off of the ends of her claws, though of
course she wasnt. And then you didnt want to eat mouse when
you were literally starving - said youd 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 coursethats what I `
was trying to remember! You ate mouse right on the silk -
counterpane where youve been sleeping, and you didnt wash `
after youd 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 dont! declared Jennie decisively, 'and it seems to
me much the more sensible way. Its after youve eaten you find
yourself all greasy and sticky, with milk on your whiskers and
gravy all over your fur if youve been in too much of a hurry.
Oh dear! she ended up. That almost proves it. But I must say
Ive 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
wasnt 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 Peters 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 wasnt 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
werent 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 Peters father was away she was
unhappy and bored and went off with friends a great deal seek-
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
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 were provoked, and then we do it on purpose.
And cant we just- ! But strangely enough she took Nannys
part when Peter reached the point in his story about Nanny
being afraid of cats and not liking them.
There are people who dont, 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 cant 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. Its 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 couldnt 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-
He began by telling about the tigerstriped 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 wouldnt 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 youre 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
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
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 Peters
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 toosmall, slender head towards Peter
and said: Well, what's to be done?
Peter said, I dont know, Im 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, dont you see, thats just it! You said yourself that you
didnt feel as though you were a cat at all. If youre 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 couldnt 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 shouldnt be inclined to give you more than ten
minutes before youd be in some terrible trouble again - like last
night. It isnt easy to be on your own, even if you have learned Z
to know everything or nearly everything that a cat ought to
Peter hadnt 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 couldnt 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 didnt 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 Im really ,
frightened! What shall I do? i
She thought for a moment longer and then said, I know! Ill
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, youre my responsi-
bility. I found you and brought you here. But one thing you
must promise me if I try . . .
Peter said, Oh yes, Ill promise anything
First of all, do as I tell you until you can begin to look after
yourself a little, but most important, never tell another soul your
secret. Ill know, but nobody else need- to, because they just
wouldnt 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
He said, Wont you tell me your story now, and who you
are? I know nothing about you, and youve 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, Im sure,
because I like you.
Jennie could not resist a small purr at Peters 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
Peter hid his disappointment because she had been so kind to
him and he did not wish to upset her. He merely said, Ill try,
though Im not very good at lessons.
Ill help you, Peter, Jennie reassured him, and youll 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, its something like this . . .
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 Jennies head and shoulders as
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. Thats our first rule of social
deportment, and you must also observe it.
Whatever the situation, whatever difficulty you may be in you
cant 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. Theyll 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 dont care to come and still
you dont wish to make it a direct insult wash. If youve started
off to go somewhere and suddenly cant 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 youre 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 thatbe nonchalant
wash. Feel sad wash away your blues. Been picked up by some-
body you dont particularly fancy and who didnt 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 moments 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 dont see how I
could possibly remember them all.
You dont have to remember any of it, actually, Jennie ex-
plained. All that you have to remember is Rule 1: "When in
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. Its true, I re-
member, you always do seem to be washing he protested to
Jennie, I mean all cats Ive seen, but I dont 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 wont 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 isnt 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. \Well begin with the back. Ill do `
it first, and then you come over here alongside of me and do as
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
Oh, bravo! Splendid! applauded Iennie. There, you see!
Well done, Peter. Now turn a little more youre 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
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
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. Thats it. Well
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 hadnt said, There, thats
enough of that. Theres 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 youll
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
But I cant 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. "Cant" catches no mice, she quoted. That is
more diilicult. Watch me now. You wont do it lying on your
side. Sit up a bit and rock on your tail. Thats 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. Youll get it with practice.
Its all curves. Thats 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 Jennies knowledge, experi-
ence and teaching brought him a new enjoyment and pleasure of
accomplishment. And of course Jennies approval made him very
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?
Oh, thats easy, Peter cried. But it wasnt 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
I cant - I mean I dont see how . . . wailed Peter, there isnt
any way . . .
Jennie was contrite at once and hoped Peter had not seen she
had been amused. Oh, Im sorry, she declared. That wasnt
fair of me. There is, but its 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?
Im sure youve 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, lets try it by counts, one stage at a time.
Once youve done it, you know, youll never forget it. Now
One - rock on your tail. Peter rocked.
Two - brace yourself with your left forepaw. Peter braced.
"l'hreehalf 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 - youll 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 youve 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
theres only one thing more. The back of the neck, the ears, and
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 wouldnt work. He cried Oh
dear, THAT must be the most complicated of all.
On the contrary smiled Jennie, its 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 Peters 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, Im 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
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.
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: Its good to take a nap
after washing. I always do. Youve earned it. Ill join you, and
after weve slept a little, perhaps Ill tell you my story as I
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-
There, Jennie said when she had done. How do you feel
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 wont you please tell me
about you? Please, Jennie, I should so love to hear it . . .
The tabby could not resist a small purr at Peters sincerity,
but immediately after she became serious. Dear me, she said, I
didnt think Id ever be telling of this to anyone as long as I
lived. Still- since you really wish it, so be it.
And she began: .
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, isnt it?
Oh yes, replied Peter. Ive read about how Drake defeated
the Spanish Armada and a storm came up and wrecked all the
galleons. But I didnt 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 AfricaNubia, Abyssinia places Im sure
youve heard about. Someone named Julius Caesar is supposed
to have brought some of us to Britain in 55 to 54 B.c. But that
wasnt our branch of the family. We were in Egypt two thou-
sand years before that when, as youve 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,
theyre 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 - thats 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.
Ive been to the British Museum with Nanny, Peter said,
but I dont think I ever-·
Ah well, never mind, Jennie went on. It isnt 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 didnt get to see much because I was in the basket all
of the time, and anyway, my eyes werent open yet because I was
very young. Thats 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 dont know if
Im 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
grocers cat, or belong to a chimney sweep or a charwoman,
while others might come to live in a wealthy home in Mayfair,
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
We werent rich, but we were quite well off. I had my own
basket without a cushion in it and was allowed to sleep in Buffs
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 homea 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
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 wouldnt 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. Ive 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 its 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 youve been a cat yourself, Peter, and have gone through
it, you will never understand what it means to sit by, day in and
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 goodnatured as Jennie Baldrin.
Why, nobody would think of going away and leaving you be-
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 Peters heart and told
him more plainly than words that she was suffering. He cried:
Oh, poor Jennie Baldrin Im so sorry. It cant 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 Id better stop for a little. It hasnt been easy,
remembering back and living over those beautiful days. Come.
Take a walk with me and well poke about a bit to familiarize
you with this place so that youll 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
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
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. Its 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 didnt 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 couldnt 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-
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 didnt, but he also
didnt wish to interrupt at this point, so he did not reply and
Jennie went on)- but it was useless. I couldnt 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 didnt even have any of my toys.
I shouldnt have minded that if only I hadnt 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 couldnt have me until the new house should be ready
wherever it was. But then, on the other hand, how could I be
sure they werent 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 isnt 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
Jennies 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
Peter gave a cry of sympathy. Oh, poor Jennie Baldrin I But
then he added: I cant 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 wouldnt perhaps, Jennie said, but people do, and
THEY did. I remember that morning. I couldnt 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
On the morrow something much more terrifying occurred.
They didnt come, but the movingmen 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 wasnt 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. Werent you awfully hungry?
The pain wasnt 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
wasnt 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 Buffs 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-
Peter said, I do wish she had, Jennie . . .
It wasnt, 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 didnt 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 didnt 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. Its a rough one, and sometimes it isnt easy, but at least
no one can hurt me any more. I mean inside, where you cant
get at it and it never heals up. There isnt much that is open
to cats that I havent seen or done in the past two years. I
found this place months ago. Its wonderful, because people
hardly ever visit here. Come along, and Ill 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 drawingroom 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 Jennies 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, were
in for it. Its our home! Theyre 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. Id grown rather fond
of it, particularly your friends 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.
Wont do. Not in here, Jennie said decisively. Once people
show up, youve had it, and if you are wise you will clear out.
When the movers get those things into the light theyll find evi-
dence of our having lived there. Your hairs and mine. And the
mouse business. Then therell 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 well use my emergency exit. Theres
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-
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.
Always Pause on the Threshold
IM 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
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 wouldnt 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
isnt any milk. If youre 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 dont 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 Im used to milk! I like it, and Nanny
gives me some every day . . .
Sshhh! cautioned Jennie, theyll hear you. Then she added,
Theres nobody goes about setting out dishes of milk for strays.
Youll get used to not having it eventually.
But Peter didnt 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 . . . dont
take on so! I know a place where I think I can get you a dish of
milk. Well go there.
The thought caused Peter to stop crying and brighten up
immediately. Yes? he said. Where?
Theres an old watchman lives in a shack down by the tea
docks, Jennie told him. Hes lonely, likes cats, and is always
good for a titbit, especially for me. Hes been after me to come
and live with him for months. Of course, I wouldnt 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, isnt it?
Its taking, but not giving anything, Jennie said, with that
strange, unhappy intenseness that came over her whenever she
discussed anything to do with humans. Well 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 cant have it both ways,
Peter. If you want to live my kind of life, and I cant see where
you have very much choice at the moment -
But of course I do! Peter hastened to explain, its just that
Im 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: Thats the lot, then, and
another voice replied, Right-ho! Jennie peered around the
corner and said, Theyve finished. Well wait a few minutes to
make sure they dont come back, and then well 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
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.
Dont 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
Peter! Wait! she cried. Not like that! Cats never, newer
rush out from places. Dont you know about Pausing on the
Threshold, or Lingering on the Sill? But then, of course, you
wouldnt. Oh dear, I dont mean always to be telling you what
to do and what not to do, but this is really Important. Its
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
dont quite understand, Jennie. You mean Im not to stop before
coming in, but I am whenever I go out?
Of course. What else? replied Jennie, sitting down quite
calmly in the mouth of the exit and showing not the slightest
disposition to go through it and into the street. You know
whats inside because you come from there. You dont know
whats outside because you havent been there. Thats 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 dont change
Oh, my goodness, said Jennie, I couldnt 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 isnt that youre 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. Youd certainly want to know about that
before you stepped out into something you werent prepared for.
Then youd want to know all about the weather, not only what
its like at the moment, but what its going to be doing later, say
an hour from then. If its going to come on to rain or thunder,
you wouldnt want to be too far from home. Your whiskers and
your skin tell you that.
And then, anyway, Jennie concluded, its a good idea on
general principles not to rush into things. When you go out
there are very few places to go to that wont 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 well 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 hadnt gone charging out into goodness knows what.
Feet went by at intervals. By observation he got to know some-
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 horsedrawn 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 cats 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 didnt 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
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. Theres a tea boat just docked. Thats good.
The Watchman wont really have any responsibilities until shes
unloaded. Rains all cleared away. Probably wont rain for at
least another fortyeight hours. Goods train just gone down into
the docks area. Thats line. Means the gatesll be open, and
besides, we can use the wagons for cover.
Goodness! Peter marveled, I dont see how you can tell all
that from just one tiny sniff around. Do you suppose Ill ever ?
Of course you will, Jennie laughed, and with a bit of a purr
added, Its just a matter of getting used to it and looking at
things the way a cat would. Its 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 Peters eyes, which was only feline.
Well, I dont understand Peter began, saying just the right
thing and giving her the lead which she was quick to take up.
Its really quite simple, she explained. For instance, you can
smell the tea. Well, that wasnt around last time I was outside.
Means a tea boat has come in and theyve opened the hatches.
No cats about- I dont 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, hed be clean, and a clean dog smells
different. This one was filthy, and thats why I say hes nothing
to worry about. Hell 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 itll 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 youre 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!
Were off ! and the two friends went out into the cobbled street.
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 youre 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 stovepipe 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
Hes 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 isnt 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. Hes old, yes, quite -and yet
what he really looks like most is a little boy. He really doesnt
seem to be much older than I am, at least thats the way he feels
to me. I think I am going to like him.
The watchmans 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 lets 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 dont get any milk,' and with that she sent up another
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? Dont you go way,
and Ill 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 didnt understand the rest.
I did, said Peter. He said we werent to go, he was going to
fetch some immediately.
Jennie stared at Peter as though she couldnt believe her
ears. Peter! You mean you can understand everything he
But of course I can. Why not? He spoke in plain English. If
he spoke in French or German Im sure I shouldnt know a
word, though Daddy says next year Im 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 heres the proof for once and all.
For if you were entirely a cat you wouldnt 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.
Id 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
said, Come in if you want it, pusses. Im just about to ave me
Peter translated for Jennie, He says were to come inside if we
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 didnt
want to say anything, but I was afraid something like that would
happen. Poor Peter . . . of course you cant 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 its 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 dont curl it up and around, but down, around and
But it doesnt 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, Im sure I couldnt possibly do it, or learn. Our tongues
just dont go that way.
Yours dont, 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, wont you have some more . . .?
Jennie rewarded him with her most winning smile, saying,
How sweet of you, Peter! I dont 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 itgeraniums of every kind and variety, from pure
snow white to darkest glowing crimson, some the colour of
appleblossoms, 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
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
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
youd 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 aint 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.
Hes 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 hadnt 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.
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
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
Said he, spearing a piece of the liver and conveying it to his
mouth, It aint much, but what I say is-youre welcome to
what Ive got. It aint often we get to see a bit o fresh meat like
this now, and Ill wager you both are wondering ow Ive come
by it. He wagged his head and said, Ah, well, youll 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 lambs liver Ive set by for you, for I
says to myself, its not much meat you gets to see on your ration
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. Ive 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.
Its quiet living here, but comfortable, pusses, with nobody
coming to disturb you for weeks on end if there isnt a call for
cargo to be shifted or a ship to unload or clear. Not that it dont
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 threed be in here, that is providin as ow
you liked flowers. But then Ive never seen a puss as didnt 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 wouldnt 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 dont know where they all dont come from.
Hindia, China, South Africa, Australia, and Noo York . . .
He glanced appraisingly about the tiny room and continued:
Now Id shift me bed into that corner, so youd 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
youre of a mind to stop and stay a while. It aint much, but it
would be ome sweet ome for all of us, and welcome youd be.
And that goes for you too, Whitey, as long as youre a friend o
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 didnt mind his being dirty and every-
thing being poor and cracked and shabby, in fact he rather liked
it because there wasnt 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 Grimss 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 remarkYou
see. Just as I told you. I didnt like it at all when he shut the
door on us . . .
But hes 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, Thats what I like
to see, pusses, settling down nice and omey and avin a bit of a
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 aint far and its no
trouble. Well 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!
Dont 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, dont go away,
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 didnt 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 couldnt manage to feel that they, or even
he, had done well at all.
WASNT it a lark? Jennie laughed. Ill never forget the ex-
pression on his face. He looked so foolish when we ran off.
Werent you amused?'
No, said Peter, I wasnt.
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
greyand-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! Im afraid youre
angry with me. Have I done anything wrong?
No, Peter replied. At least I dont suppose you meant to.
Im sorry about my tail, but its something that seems to be
going on in spite of me. Its 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 didnt look foolish or
funny when we ran off, he looked disappointed and lonely and
But, Peter, Jennie protested, dont you see, he wanted some-
thing from us. Thats 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 wouldnt let yourself be bribed,
would you? she concluded, with what almost amounted to self-
It wasnt a bribe, Peter said with some indignation. He gave
it to us because he liked us. Couldnt 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 Baldrins 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
Peter said stubbornly, Perhaps he shut the door on account of
his flowers. He couldnt have been wicked and meant us any
harm and kept so many flowers.
Jennie gave a low growl. All people are wicked and I dont
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. Im a person, and -
You are not! Jennie cried, youre an ordinary white cat and
not a very nice one at that,after all Ive done to Oh dear, Peter,
do you realize were having our first disagreement? And over a
human being! You see what happens when they come into your
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, Im sorry. I didnt mean to be angry
with you. Youve been so kind and gentle to me. And if it upsets
you to think or talk about people or Mr Grims, we wont do it
Jennies eyes softened, her tail quieted, and she said: Peter,
you are a dear, and Im 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.
Ive been going to school for two years. I can read nearly every-
thing, I mean if the words arent 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. OReilly, Thames Towing Co. Limited, Lime-
house, Peter read without hesitation.
And the one thats being pushed?'
Esso Queen, Standard Oil Company, Bayonne, N.J.
And the one out in the river, just going by . . .?
Ryndam, Amsterdam. But I dont know what that one
means . . .
Jennie gave a great sigh, and the look she turned upon Peter
was positively doting. Oh, she said, you couldnt 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 dont believe-
Oh, but I do, Peter, I do ... said Jennie in a voice that
sounded absolutely thrilled, I just almost didnt dare. Oh, I am
lucky. Dont you see what it means? ·
Peter tried to, but it was obvious to Jennie from his baffled
expression that he didnt, 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 didnt 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
He started to ask Jennie, 'It will be dark soon. Where will we
go for the night . . .? but she wasnt 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
At once Peter was interested, nay more, captivated, for he
loved going places and was happiest when he was travelling.
A trip? Oh, Id love it! Where to? When?
Now. At once. Tonight, I mean, or whenever it goes. But we
can look for it tonight. To Scotland. Id 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, wouldnt it be the most fun . . .
Peters eyes were now quite as wide with excitement as were
Jennies 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
havent any money, or tickets . . .
Oh, that part, thats simple, said Jennie. Well take a job and
work our way north to Glasgow . . .
A job, Peter repeated, bewildered. But what can we
Plenty, Jennie replied. Well find a ship bound for Glasgow
and sign on as ships cats after they discover that were aboard.
It was now Peters turn to look with wonder and admiration
at his companion. Jennie! he said, do you mean to say youve
done it already, youve 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 shipsisnt that being with people, after all, I mean, you
know what you said about not caring to -
Not at all, Jennie replied coolly. Its quite different. Youre
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 youre called upon to do. Its 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 theres an end to it. The food isnt too bad,
and whats important, its regularno 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 isnt 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. Im for going.
Bravo, Peter! Jennie called, giving a little croon of delight.
I knew you would. Well search these docks back here in the
basin first. Your job will be to read off the names. Ill 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
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
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 Catherines Docks, they came
upon a little one squatting low and lumpy alongside its berth,
and its letters werent 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, thats our
ship. Theres your new home for the next few weeks or so,
Peters 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: Its
going to be a job to keep ourselves clean aboard her. But of
course you know what it means when shes smoking like that.
Probably getting up steam to sail tonight. Were just in time.
You see theyre loading as fast as they can.
Jennie studied the situation for a moment and then observed:
Looks to me like theyre loading general cargo. Which means
plenty of work for us, especially since therell be foodstuffs.
Well, Peter, are you ready to go aboard? We might as well, while
theyre busy, and pick ourselves a spot to stow away until they
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 shant want to risk getting stepped on
where theyre loading. There ought to be a third gangway aft to
the officers quarters. The mere sight of the vessel had been
sufficient to turn Jennies speech quite nautical. She continued:
If I know anything about the discipline aboard, the way this
tramp seems to be kept, there wont be any watch on it. The
crew is probably mostly ashore having a last fling. Come along,
well 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
wasnt 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.
Price of Two Tickets to Glasgow
ONCE aboard, Jennies experience and knowledge of ships stood
her in good stead. She called for the pointto-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 Peters
snowwhite 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
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 ships 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
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. Lets 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
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-
ments 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 hadnt thought
of that. Of course you wouldnt know how. Why should you?
But we shall be in a pretty pickle if were caught here before you
know something about it. And I dont 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, isnt there anything I can do?
Does EVERYTHING have to be learned?
Its practice, really, Jennie explained. Even we have to keep
practicing constantly. That, and while I hate to use the expres-
sion "know-how". Its like everything else. You find theres 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, Ill 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. Thats what you must try, to begin with, she
explained. We dont do that for fun, or because were nervous,
but to give ourselves motion. Its 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.
Peters 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 footracing, 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 hairs breadth, owing to
over-anxiousness, but Jennie praised his pawwork 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 isnt 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-
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.
Youll just have to watch me and try to learn as best you can.
And above all now, whatever happens, dont move a muscle,
dont stir, and dont make a sound, even if you want to. Now
remember. Im 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. Jennies 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
Peters 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
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,
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. Im always afraid of that . . .
Peter said with deep sincerity, Jennie, I think you are the
bravest and most wonderful person I mean catI 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: Thats just it, Peter. We cant
practice and learn on the rats the way we did on the mice, be-
cause its too dangerous. One mistake and, well I dont 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 thats 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. Youll be learning some-
thing. Then if, and when, the moment comes when you have to
do it yourself, youll 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
Peters, 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
Peter Brown, Storeroom, Countess of Greenock, April 15th,
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
Jennies and Peters 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 ships 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 focsle 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 Jennies benefit, and before they knew it the two
friends found themselves separated for the first time, with Jennie
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, Dont worry. Well find
ways to get together. Do your best. And if you come across a
rat, dont hesitate and dont play. Kill !
Then the bosun picked her up by the scruff of the neck and
carried her forward.
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
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
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
Sourliess 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 masters
ticket. When his father had passed on, he had hung the final
anchor around his sons neck by willing him the controlling in-
terest in the Countess of Greenock. Captain Sourliess 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
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
Peter and Jennie estimated that the captain weighed close on
twentytwo stone, which would be over three hundred pounds.
He had smallish eyes, somewhat deepset and knowing, like a
pigs, 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
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 souwesters 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
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-itor-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
burntout matchstick, or a small pebble, or a bit of paper, and
saying . . . ond this verra bit o paper Im 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 Sourliess 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
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 Strachans fencing practice during the voyage. It took
the form of attacking a dummy that Mr Box, the ships 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,
canvascovered, with a powerful spring in the wrist to which
was attached his sword, an epée with three needlesharp 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 afterhatch, 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 dummys 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 dummys riposte somehow, when the blade snapped
back and Auld Sourliess 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 firstaid kit and put six stitches in
Mr Strachans 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 Peters 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 Ill be lettin some ventilation through ye with my twa
double oction fortyfive 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 Jennies 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 forard 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 perrnanentwave machine in a
beauty parlour in Edinburgh until something had unhappily
gone wrong with it and he had toasted a clients 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 bosu.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 bloodpudding sausages. When Peter said that he
couldnt 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
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
couldnt 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 Peters 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
good job. I give you and your gorlfriend 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
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 selfsupporting cat.
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 youre 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 Jennies 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.
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 Jennies 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
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
weeks. But we can feel our way to her breast and bury ourselves
in her soft, sweetsmelling 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-seekand~jumpout, 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-
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
Thus, Jennie would coach him: I make a move to attack you,
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. Thats it. That
makes me think twioe before ooming in. No, no, Peter, dont take
your eyes off me iust because Ive stopped. Be ready as long as I
am tense. But youve got to feel it when Ive changed my mind
and relaxed a little. You can drop your left paw, but keep watch-
ing. There! lve looked away for a moment now WASH! That
stops everything. I cant do anything until youve iinished except
wash too, and that puts the next move up to you and it s your
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. Im 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. Im coming back
for a second try. Chin down so I cant 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. Thats it. If you make it real
_enough you can get me to look at it, and when I do, then you
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
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, youll 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 afterdeck at
six bells of the early afternoon watch, or three oclock, for he had
quickly learned to tell the ships time from the strokes of the bell
struck by the look~out on the bridge. This was always a kind of
doasyou-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
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
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
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
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
The beast was almost as large as a fox terrier and it was
cornered in a small alcove made by some piledup wooden cases
of tinned baked beans from which several boxes had been re-
moved from the centre. Also it was daylight, Peter wasnt 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 Jennies 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 hairs 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 afterdeck 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 uns 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 ships 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.
Goodbye, 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. Yell 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.
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
Countesss propeller just beneath the surface. Also it was shock- `
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! Dont be afraid! Hold out. Its me, Peter. Im
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 itwell, then, at least they could
comfort one another in their last moments and would not be
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 shouldnt have come.
I cant hold out any longer. Goodbye, 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 Jennies 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
bosun 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 dipnet. 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 AngusFeather 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. Theyll
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 wont 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 wont arf smash all is
dishes, e wont.
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 pepperand-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-
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
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 Andrews 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! turtledoved 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 amidshipsPROOF! 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-
tains words that Jennie was dead. Tucked under Mr Strachans
arm, he saw the puzzled expression spread over the face of the
mate as he tried to comprehend the captains argument.
But, sor, he protested, what more proof could anyone want
than thot Im 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 trilllike 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.
At the order to drop poor Jennie over the side, Peter managed
A to squirm out of Mr Strachans 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 captains 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
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
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
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
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 Peters
tongue over Jennies 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
Jennies 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 calledPeter . ..
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 Im so glad.
Jennie, they all thought you were dead, but I knew you werent,
that you couldnt 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
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 thats 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 heres 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 mates 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
Mr Strachans 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 redbrick 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-
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 shant ever be able to
get away if Mr Strachan keeps us locked up here all the time ....
But Jennie was unworried. She said: He cant 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 didnt want to stay. And besides, I dont 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
oclock 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 yell
be ready for a bit o shore leave an as soon as Ill have me jacket
an kit well be off. W/ell be stoppin by for a moment at the
Crown and Thustle for a pint o bitter, after which its
hame well go while I introduce ye to the Mussis wholl be
proud to know ye when I tell her the saircumstances in con-
Peter translated this piece of information quickly for Jennies
benefit and the little tiger tabby looked reiiective but not too dis-
turbed. They always want to take you home if they dont first
want to kick you or throw things at you. Of course THAT wont
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 Queens 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
shoregoing, 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 factoryhand
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 needlenose who eventually provided the open-
ing for which Mr Strachan had been waiting. Nodding towards
Peter and Jennie he said, Huish, thats a line pair o puissies
ye have there. Ill 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
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
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,
Peters uncatlike 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 Needlenose, 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,
Ahve heered stranger things before and, like he says, yons 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 . . .
Needlenose 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
dont understand all theyre 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, dont leave the bar while
theyre fighting. Wait until the constables come and then follow
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. Yell 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
The stranger who had originally taken Mr Strachans 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 Peters 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 barwoman screamed murder at the top of
Stand fast! Jennie cautioned. Dont let them push you off
the bar, or theyll trample you to death. It wont 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 Needlenose, 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. Whats a
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
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 butchers 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
cornedbeef 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
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
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, scarredup
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. Youre tres-
Oh, I beg your pardon, said Jennie politely, we did not
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 fathers side,
of course. Pure Scot for generations, and Highland at that. On
mothers side were almost a hundred per cent Kaifir. But then
youll have recognized that, naturally. The usual route, you
know. Central Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, and then that
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 Nelsons captains after he took the Island. Theres a remote
connexion between us, probably on the Baldrin side. Where did
you say you were from?
Well, Jennie replied, were 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 havent twice better here?
Peter could not resist chiming in- Well, for one thing, its
ever so much larger, and
Size isnt everythingf the Maltese said curtly and added: Ill
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 wasnt meaning to lord Peter began to protest when
Jennie interrupted him to say: Of course, Glasgow is most
beautiful and Im glad I was born here. Do you know where any
others of the family are? `
The Maltese looked down the side of her nose. Cant say I
bother much. Theyre all over the place and many of them are
no better than they should be. Theres a branch supposed to
have gone to Edinburgh, but of course wa dont have any deal-
ings with anybody on the East Coast. Provincial. Why did you
clear out of here? W/asnt 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 thats what the family is coming to. Our side ofiit
always found Glasgow good enough for them . . .
Jennie said, Well, I guess wed 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
havent lost your manners in London, which is something,
though I cant say as much for your friend. Good day to you,
and she arose and left.
It was just in time, for Jennies tail was lashing and waving
Oh! she cried, what a thoroughly odious person. If thats
what my relatives are like, I shant be wanting any more of
them. And did you hear her"Whats London got that we
havent twice better?" And she dared to talk about someone
being provincial. Of course she isnt 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, dont 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! Theyre 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, snakelil<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
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 longlegged, 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
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 safetys
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.
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 arent 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 Jennies voice came
through the fog, quite tense. Dont stir, Peter. Were up in the
towers of the suspension bridge. Way up high, I think.
Up in the tower, Peter repeated in amazement. Why, I dont
remember anything but just running-yes, for a moment I did
seem to be flying .... I say, how exciting . . .
Peter . . . Jennies voice was a little plaintive now. Can you
forgive me for leaving you that way? I couldnt help it. Its the
one time when cats just dont think. And then before he could
reply, she continued: Its all my faultbeing so upset over
that foolish Maltese, with all her talk about Turks and Knights
of St john and Lord Nelson. Of course, she doesnt come from
the Island of Malta at all. Trying to pull the wool over my eyes
with her grand ways. They just call those shorthaired 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 havent been myself these past days at all. Oh, Peter, Im
so sorry for all the trouble Ive brought to you.
Trouble . . . Peter repeated in amazement. But, Jennie, you
havent . . .
Peter, she cried, her voice full of despair this time, you dont
know what Ive done. Everything is my fault.
Peter didnt know, and what was more, couldnt 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
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 Enochs stations with their lines of rail-
way tracks emerging from them like strands of spaghetti from
Here, Peter thought, was the perfect birds-eye, or to be more
modern, aeroplanepilots-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 Jennies level, that he
found himself in difiiculties. He discovered that he could go
I neither up nor down.
Peter called over to his friend: JennieIm all right. But
how do we get down from here? Im sure the dogs have left by
now. If you go first, Ill 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, Im sorry,
but I cant. Its something that happens to cats sometimes. We
get up on to high places and lose our way and cant get down
even from trees or telegraph poles where we might manage to get
a grip with our claws. But this horrible, slippery steelugh! I
just cant think of it. Im terrified. Dont bother about me, Peter.
Try to get down. A
I wouldnt leave you even if I could, Jennie, Peter said, but
I cant. I understand what you mean. Im the same way. I
couldnt move an inch. What will happen to us?
Jennie looked quite grim, and averted her eyes. Were 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, Im.
so miserable. I dont 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, selfpossessed
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 were still alive, and we have each other
and thats 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
jennie made a little sound of despair in her throat- Oh!
People! My Peter, you dont 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 theyd 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,
Im for trying at least to attract somebodys 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 Enochs. 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
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 cant, I cant, I cant. Id Q
rather have the dogs get me. I cant bear coming down from
high places. I wont 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
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. Its 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. Its all your doing. If it hadnt 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 ones best. Do you suppose hell 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
First, the electric light and telephone wagons tried it, but their
towers werent 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, redfaced 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
This time it was two of the bridge maintenance men who had
fitted themselves out with their climbing shoes, grapplinghooks,
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
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! Yeve 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 Tams first down
with hisn. Bravo, Tam! Well climbed, Bill! Hooray!
Were saved! Peter called down joyously to Jennie. This
time theyre going to make it.
Oh dear, oh dear, Jennie lamented. I just know Im going to
bite and scratch when he comes, and I wont mean to. Thats the
kind of thing that gives cats a bad name, and we cant help it.
Im 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 Tams
hair. No, no, no! Let go! I WONT 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 Tams grasp while he was held by Bill.
Policemen, firemen, and citizens crowded around, the men grin-
ning and the women cooing Oh, the pretties. Isnt 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
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 passersby 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-
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, arent 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, Ive never been so miserable or un-
happy in all my life. Ive 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? Wont 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 dont know what I should do without
you, Peter. You have been such a comfort to me. Its true. I
have something dreadfully important to tell you about changing
my mind, but I feel like such a fool. Thats why I havent Q
told you before. But now Ive been thinking about it for
days, and after everything that happened I cant hold it back
any longer . . .
Yes, Jennie, Peter coaxed sympathetically, wondering what
on earth it could be. What is it . . .
You promise you wont 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.
Jennie Makes a Confession
PETER looked at Jennie as though he could hardly believe his
Jennie! Do you really mean it? We could go and live with
Mr Grims? Oh, Id love to.
jennie stopped crying and put her head down close to Peters
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 youre 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 teakettle sang
on the stove and his offering to share everything he had with us.
And besides, he seemed to be so awfully lonely ·
Peter- dont, Iennie wailed, interrupting him, I cant bear
it. Its 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. Ill 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
Jennies 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 dont 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 couldnt 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, Id 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 couldnt have done that to me,
that something must have happened, that it wasnt 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 didnt 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 didnt much care any more and
didnt 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 didnt re-
member anything more until I found myself in Mr Strachans
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 didnt 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 wont, 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 dont 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 isnt 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. Shell be going back again.
Maybe if we hurry we wont be too late and can catch her before
Jennie gave a great sigh and pressed close to Peter for a
moment. Oh dear, she said, its so good to have a male about
who knows what to do. Then she leaped to her feet. Come on,
Peter, lets 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
pointtopoint 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 softcoal
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, shes leaving. Faster, faster, Jennie. All
youve 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
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 Coos, 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 Boxs boot and toe was later assessed
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 Boxs 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. THEYRE 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 Mealies 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 forard, 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 Pipshaws 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 shavingmirror, and she was just as impressed as
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 oclock 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 ....
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
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 Grimss 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. Femalelike, 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 someones
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
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
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 planmakings 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 locked gates presented no problem to Peter and Jennie
since they were able to squeeze through the spaces of the orna-
mental grillework 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 arkshaped sheds loomed like a
mountain chain in the meagre light of a halfmoon 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.
Thats it, Jennie said breathlessly. It comes from the shack.
That means he must be there. Oh, Peter, Im 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 Grimss, 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, Its the wireless. Perhaps hes 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 - Whats the matter . . .?
I . . . I dont know, she replied. Oh, Peter, I just know Im
afraid . . .
Peter said manfully, Well, Im not, though he was not too
certain of it. What is there to be afraid of? Ill 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 snowwhite 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. Hes asleep. We can still surprise him. When he
wakes up, well 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. Its just the keys were 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 dont
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 chaps ad is last illness.
Aye. And thats the truth yeve 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 graciouscoloured
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 foremans 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
The foreman gently drew the cover over Mr Grimss 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 Peters ears for a moment. Aye, pusses,
Y6 know, dont ye, he said. Yell be in need of a new home now
and someone else to feed and look after ye, Ah well .... First
theres to see that hes properly cared for and then well think of
Whats to be done for ye. Old Bill would have wanted his friends
remembered . . .
He and the two dockers went out quietly, leaving the door
Peter said to Jennie: Hes going to be looked after. I heard X
the foreman say so. You mustnt 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?
Dont you see, if it hadnt 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
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 cant go alone, jennie. I dont dare. You must come
with me. I need you. Dont you see? . . . Just as you needed me
to go to Glasgow, I need you to help me here. Im not yet
enough cat to get around London by myself. Id get lost, Im
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 Ill 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 wed 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.
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
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
heavyhearted 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.
Peters 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 directionfinder which communi-
cated itself through her sensitive whiskers and enabled her to
travel tmerringly to any place where she had once spent some
Peter at least had the unique·from a cats 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
However, when it came to the lore of the city and how to pre-
serve ones skin whole, eat, drink, and sleep, Jennie as usual
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
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
dont 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
Small dogs you can keep in their places by swatting them the
way we do when we playbox, only you run your claws out and
hit fast and hard, because most of them are scared of having
their eyes scratched and they dont like their noses clawed either,
because they are tender. Here for instance is one looking for
trouble, and Ill 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
Jennies 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.
Youll see why in a minute. Peter had long since learned not to
question her, particularly when it was something that called for
splitsecond 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 Jennies
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 .... Theyll run off screaming for help, and if you stay
around youre likely to catch it, as you saw, though not from
them .... And you dont always have to do that. Quite often
theyve 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 cant reach. I,
for one, just dont 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 isnt ours.
But supposing its a bigger dog, Peter said. Like the ones in
Glasgow . .,.
Jennie gave a little shudder. Ugh! she said. Dont 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 Pauls 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, thats 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 thats silly?
She answered, Not at all. You dont realize it, but you really
looked quite alarming. Its 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 wont even start it, and goes away and there is no battle at all,
thats better than anything. It doesnt do any harm, and its
always worth trying, even with other cats. For in spite of the
fact that you know its 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 battlescarred 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 shouldnt
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. Theres 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 snackbar, 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
ones 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 Peters 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, lets 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. Wed better hurry if we
want to reach Cavendish Square before it starts. Oh, look there!
Theres the proper bus just going by now. We cant 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
Princes Street, and if we turn up Princes Street we cant help
coming into Cavendish Square, Peter explained, and then its
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 Princes Street where they turned up to the
right for Cavendish Square.
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
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,
blueandwhite 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/ere
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 didnt stop and make ourselves
known. Remember, we are strangers here. Come, walk quietly
with me around the right side of the square and well see what
they are saying. Well tune in on them.
,Peter did not wholly understand what Jennie meant by this
until they passed the areaway 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
couldnt 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
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 _
Jennies early admonition, sent out on his own wavelength.
()h, but I live here. I mean, just north in the Mews. Dont you
remember me? Im 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? Cant say Ive 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
hes gone away. Look here, my smart friend, if youre 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, its what my friend imagines. Thafs his
imagining game. Hes always playing it . . .
Ah well, said Mr Black, as long as thats all it is. Were not
snobs in this neighbourhood, but were rather full up on strays
at the moment.?
Were 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 dont 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. Ships 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.idnt, and that she had
never heard of such an amazing thing!
\X'/ell, it did, insisted Mr Black. I dont 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 dont like it and
complain to Mr Clegg. Hes 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. Theres 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. Im part Scottish, you know,
and my friends 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 Jennies 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.
Were twins. ·
Were actually Ukrainian?
Were 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 Peters and Jennies whiskers next. Hmph! Well! We
always say we dont 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. ld 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 its 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. Its nice to End
somebody left with manners these days. Youve been properly
taught. Remember, theres nothing quite like manners to get you
on in the world. Ive 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 youve seen Mr Black?
Jennie told their names. She was nearly bursting with pride at
the praise Peter had earned from the gingercoloured one.
Wuzzy said to Jennie- Jennie Baldrin, eh? Thats Scottish.
But theres more to you from the look of you. Good breeding.
Egyptian, probablyfrom your ears. Im such a mixture no-
body can say where it started. Come back and tell me all about `
you after youre settled . . . I
Now THERE; said Jennie Baldrin firmly, is one of the nicest
cats Ive 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. Im so bored. You two look
as though youve been places. (Havent we just, was Peters
thought to himself.) My names Hedwig. Ive got everything in
the world, and Im 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 cant make head or tail out of. Ive a basket
with a blue ribbon, and pillows and scratchingposts and toys,
just drawers full of things. And Im 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 Ill be over to the bombed
house. Im 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 isnt all cream and chopped liver . . .
They continued and met a stunning, rosecoloured, 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 didnt 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
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 . . .
Jennies 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! Dont you know that it
whatever happens, Ill never leave you? Never, never, never!
But jemiie was a better prophet than she knew. Except that it
didnt at all turn out as she thought it would, that which awaited
them at the tiny, narrow Mews ....
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 didnt even go bursting through the front door,
granting that it was off the latch, shouting Mu.mmy!
Mummy! Im home. Im back again. Have you missed me?
He couldnt 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 grownup would be more
likely to say: Stuff and nonsense. Small boys dont 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.
Its 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 sittingroom 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.
Peters 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, theyve gone away and left you. Im
so sorry. Its 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 oclock in the
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
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
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! Im 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. Ive 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,
dont 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 Buffs shoulders like a long,
live, limp furpiece, 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! Jennies come back to me.
Shes found me. Mummy, come down and look. Im sure it is
Thereupon Buffs mother came downstairs, and she turned
out to be a tall, sweetfaced 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 Buffs shoulder, Jennie! Ive the best news for you.
Ive been listening to what theyve been saying. They didnt 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 concludedI knew that people who really
loved cats, and particularly you, couldnt be like that. Arent 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 doesnt 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,
were all going to be so happy now. For I know theyll 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
Peters 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 Jennies troubles were to cometo an end, and, quite
naturally, Peter followed. But here Buifs 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 cant 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 Jennies 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·! Dont go away! I cant come now, but Ill manage
things somehow. Dont worry. Go to the bombed house at
Number 38 and wait for me. Ill come as quickly as I can. They
dont understand about us. Promise me . . .
Peter sent back his promise, and after that it was quiet in the
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 somebodys 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
Nannys 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 Jennies 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 Jennies 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
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 burnedout 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. Ive 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
Ho! she scoffed. You know me and being kept indoors.
When I make up my mind I want to get out-well! Anyway,
now youre here, you must come and meet everyone. There are
some really interesting cats here. Ive been having a chat with
them while I waited for you. Lets see, well start at the bottom
and go around. This is Hector, herethe name, of course,
doesnt fit him a bit. He once belonged to a coal miner, and hes
actually been way down deep in a mine. Later on you must get
him to tell you all about it.
Hector was a lemonyellow 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
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 fireiiowers, 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
ones 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
theres anything you ever want to know about London and the
best places to go to make a living, ask Mickey, Theres just
nothing he doesnt know . . .
Mickey, a big dark chap with a tiger stripe and an enormous
square head, lapped up Jennies Hattery and practically took a
bow as he said: Quite, quite. Be glad to answer your questions.
As Jennie Baldrin says, there isnt much I haven't seen or done.
Though I will admit Ive never been to Glasgow on a boat, or
fallen overboard. Id 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. Isnt she beautiful? Not a touch of white
on her anywhere, not a single hair. Thats 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, didnt you, dear?
Ebony showed a tiny piece of pink tongue at the centre of her
Coalblack mask and quickly gave herself a couple of self-con-
scious licks. She was so pleased she didnt 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 butchers shop and it closed down, got a job with a tailor
and he went out of business, then went into a boardinghouse 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. Hes 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 mustnt 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 Ill 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, trueblue cour-
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 fortyfour. Flyingbomb. Luckily Putzi and Mutzi
were out visiting in another block. \Uhen they came back there f
was nothing, just a hole. They didnt 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 halfPersian 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,
cheerfullooking mottled grey-andwhite 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 nights 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 groundHoor 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 funguslil<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
After supper was over, they all had a general community
wash-up and get together talkfeast, 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
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
Jennie, he said, wont you be, I mean, oughmt 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, Ive been out on my own too long
to go back. I shant be returning. Ive 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
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 didnt know what to
do. But wont 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 Jennies 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 isnt a child any longer, Peter, and doesnt 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 dont 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 didnt 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, thats 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
Jennies 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.
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 nights
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 wasnt 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
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 creamcoloured,
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
werent violet and they werent sapphire; they werent really the
colour of the sea, nor did they quite match the sky; one couldnt
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 its morning, but I dont 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. 'Thats because when I eat bloaters, or kippers, or have a
little hake, brill, cod, or pollock my breath always smells of fish.
Here, Ill 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 Ive forgotten the rest. Anyway, I think up
my own poetry. I am thinking of one now about thimbles. Very
well then, Ill 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:
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 Peters face as she said: Do you like tea? Do you like
coffee? I love olives. Wasnt 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
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 Im 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. Arent 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- Im not like a cat; Im not like a
dog; Im more like a monkey, really, but mostly Im 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
havent been off like this for ages. Im 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 dont 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, didnt 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. Dont 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 .
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 Regents 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. Isnt 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_Ive meditated, where shall we go
next? Oh, I want to have fun, fun, fun! One cant 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. Oughtnt you to be thinking about get- I
ting back? he asked- I mean, your people, you know. Wont
they miss you ? I
Lulu stopped and looked at him as though she could not
believe her ears.
Miss me? Of course they will. Theyll bust when I dont
come back. Why, thats half the sport. What fun would it be if
they didnt care? Im sure theyll have notified Mr. Wiggo the
Constable already. They hate me to be out. Sometimes I dont
come back for days if I dont feel like it. I think I dont 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. Ive never done
that before. They will be upset. Oh listen, Peter. It sounds like
music somewhere. Lets 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, shovehapenny 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. Isnt this
luck? Ive never been to anything like this. Ill 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 Ill 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
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 Ill
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. Thats 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 Lulus 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 Peters 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 couldnt lap another tongueful, That was
delish. Where do we go now? I think Id like to see the animals
if it was quite safe. Come on. You lead the way. Youre 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! Isnt it wonderful to be so frightened? ;
Dont you love it? I could just stay here the rest of my life and
tremble. Isnt it thrilling?
But soon she said: Im afraid; I want to sleep against you.
T They went round behind the lions 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 statuestill, 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. Its 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.
Arent 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. Dont
you think tomorrow is really the best of all? Today Im not
frightened of the lion any longer, I dont want any more ice
cream, and Im 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, Ive 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 dont 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, lets take a nice
long walk in it.
They left the fun fair and the Heath and promenaded steadily
north through Highgate to Queens 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 didnt 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 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! Were going to run right up a moonbeam. Im the only
one who knows how to do it. Follow me! t
Of course she didnt, 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:
I-Iokey-Pokey Bangkok Joe !
She repeated it several times, but her voice was growing sleepy.
Finally she said: There! Tomorrow Ill 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
were 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 herthat 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: Im not certain, but I think
were 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. Im
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 dont think I ever want to see or speak
to you again. Im going home at once. The mercy is theyll be so
glad to see me they wont scold me at all perhaps when I come
back. By now theyll surely think Im 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, dont go back. Stay with me-for ever.
Ill get you ice cream every day, and mice, and wash you as often
as you like, only dont 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? Dont you know that
Im a princess? Stay with you indeed! What I ought to do is
hand you over to the nearest policeman. I shant do it, because I
am too goodhearted, Everybody says I have the disposition of a
saint. But dont you dare to presume upon it. I am going home .
at once now, and dont wish to be followed. Goodbye.
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, wasnt 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.
Yes, when Lulus 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
And the more he thought about it, the less certain and happy
he became about the whole business, because it wasnt 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 holidaycamping 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 mediumsized 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
Squarethough 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
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 turnover in the population of
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, arnbercoloured, hostile orbs, and
he was greeted as he approached with a low growl and the old,
well remembered cry - Ware! Youre 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,
hardfaced, cherry-coloured tom with dirty white saddle mark-
ings and battle scars.
Excuse me, Peter said, l didnt mean to. I was looking for a
friend. We were here together - I mean we had that place three
days ago, and
Well, you havent now, the cherrycoloured 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 lve 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 Jennies
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. Its me,
Peter. You remember me, dont 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 Im looking for Jennie Baldrin, but I cant 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 dont understand. Where did she go? And why
wouldnt you tell me?
Because, replied both Putzi and Mutzi together now in
chorus, We saw you
All the worst possibilities now crowded to Peters 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 didnt 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
But WE knew you wouldnt, 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 wont get her. Shes
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
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.
PETER sat on the pavement and watched outside Buffs 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 Pennys “
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 receivingset 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 Buffs 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? Ive been horrid to her and I must find her and tell her
But of course Buff could not understand a word he was say-
ing. All she saw was a large and somewhat soiledlool<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? Its 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 Peters heart as cold and weighted as the cobble-
stone on which he crouched, and in his ears the echo of Buffs
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 Jennies 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 moments 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 hopeborn 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 Peters 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 linedup 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 redblooming 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, snivelinglooking 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
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-
liess cabin, and Jennie perched up on her favourite place - the
flag locker on the afterdeck.
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
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:
Dont 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, leftnow 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
Jennie! Jennie! Peter criedOh, Jennie, Ive looked and
looked for you. Jennie, have I really found you?
Jennie said: Hello, Peter. Im glad to see you. Ive been wait-
ing such a long time. I knew youd 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 youve grown. And your coat! Oh, my Peter, what has been
happening to you? You havent been eating. Youre starved,
Peter, you must let me give you some mouse at once. Ive 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, hes just the right size, and
nice and fat too. But dont eat too fast, Peter, if you havent 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. Ive 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
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, youre 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.
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
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
Mealies 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 Jennies 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. Wont 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 dont under-
stand. Where would you go? Why cant I come with you?
Wherever you go, thats 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
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 dont come back. Because
next time you do, Ill 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 dont understand why.
I dont want you to leave me . . .
She replied: Its 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, havent 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. Dont 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 dont want you to go. I wont 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: Im 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 thats why I think it would be
better if I went away with him. Peter, I couldnt bear to have
anything happen to you, dont 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 wont let you. Youll be able to forget
me in a while after Im 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 Baldrins 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 Jennies sake as well as his E
own, strive with his utmost to the very last that was in him, to
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
Dont worry, Jennie, Peter said. You shant have to go away
with Dempsey. Im 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 cats 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 selfaccusations, 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 loveloyal,
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 wont lind in the
book, and maybe that Dempsey hasnt 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 isnt much, but at least we can get in
some training and hard work. Dempsey doesnt know about you,
so he wont prepare, though hes 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
Ah, said Peter, I see. You wont come out, but I will. Theres
room in the street . . .
That will be in Dempseys favour, Iennie said, hes the
greatest streetiighter ever seen in this neighbourhood for gen-
erations back. But that cant be helped. Hes 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 wouldnt befair. I couldnt
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 wont
trouble about being "fair" . . .
Well, said Peter, I dont 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, lets 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,
Im 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 playpat, 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 Jennies claws had
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 .... Its 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 selfpreservation and
otherdestruction. 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
It was not that Peter could not take it, but when he first saw
the telltale Hecks of crimson on Jennies 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 anothers 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 Jennies 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 ·
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 Peters
throat. He flattened himself almost on to his stomach and began
to slink forward. The last thing he heard was J ennies 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
The Last Fight
MY Jennie, come aaaaaaaout! Naaaaaaow naaaaaaow come
The lowpitched, insistent cry from the street penetrated the
pitchblack 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
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. Dempseys 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 Jennies 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 iighters 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-
The church-tower clock of St Dunstans began to chime and
Peter counted the strokes almost automatically. Six-seveneight
nineten-eleventwelve. 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
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 Dempseys 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, compactlybuilt 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 battletorn
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 Dempseys 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 isnt 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 ordinarylooking 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. Im taking care of
Jennie Baldrin now.
Another terrible growl, more fiend than feline, issued from
Dempseys 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. Im 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 isnt 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 Dempseys .
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 `
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 Peters head from side to side, the bite follow-
ing too swiftly missed its mark of the throat, but sank deep into
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 Peters 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 Dempseys 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 Peters 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
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 Dempseys back.
And as he did so, he buried his teeth deep into the back of
Dempseys 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
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 Dempseys 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
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-
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 Peters 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, Ive killed Dempsey. But I
think he has killed me too. Goodbye, Jennie.
And then a little later he said, Jennie Jennie . . . where
are you? I cant see you . . .
For the bed, the room, the piledup 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 Jennies tearfilled 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, dont leave me! Dont 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 mothers
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-
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
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
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: Im 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
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 Nannys 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
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-andwhite 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 baudrons for ye tac keep for your ain.
But Peter only turned his head and cried- Take it away! I
dont 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. Dont 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, wellbeing, 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 mothers 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 Nannys 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
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 fourfooted 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
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 Peters chest, placed her head beneath his chin, as
so many cats were to do all though Peters 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 kittens 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 blackandwhite 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
Peter" s mother said: Why, shes a darling. What will you call
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! Isnt 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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