Chapter One – Blackie hears something.
Story by Richard Barnum.
Blackie was a cat. Now that I have told you this much I think you can guess why that was her name. It was because she was as black as a coal, or a bit of tar from the barrel which stood on the street when the men were fixing the roof. Blackie did not have so much as a speck, or a single hair, of white in her glossy coat of fur, and on a dark night, if you were to look for Blackie I think you would not have found her. For she looked just like a bit of the dark itself.
When you first looked at Blackie you might have thought she was just like other cats, but she was not. She was a very smart cat, and so many things happened to her, and she had so many adventures, that I am going to tell you about them.
Once upon a time, not so very many years ago, Blackie lived in a fine large house with a little boy and girl, named Arthur and Mabel. Of course the papa and mamma of Arthur and Mabel lived in the house too, but as the children were the ones who played with Blackie, and looked after her, giving her milk and good things to eat, it seems best to say that Blackie lived with them.
“Now it’s your turn to feed Blackie,” Mabel would call to her brother.
“All right,” Arthur would answer. “I’ll get her the milk right away.”
The children never had to be told twice to look after their pet cat, for they loved Blackie very much. Though the children’s father or mother often had to tell them twice, or perhaps even three times, to go to the store, or run on an errand, just one telling was enough when it was about Blackie.
“I certainly have a good home here,” thought the black cat, “and Arthur and Mabel are very kind to me. Yes, I certainly am a lucky cat.”
Of course Blackie did not say this out loud, for neither cats, nor dogs, nor other animals, can speak as we do. But they can make noises, such as mewing or barking, and I think that is, for them, talking in their own way, just as much as we talk in ours.
And cats and other animals think, too, I believe. Else how would they know enough to come to the same place many times to be fed, or how would they know how to find their way home when they have gone far off?
Of course cats and dogs often get lost, for they may go so far that they can not find the way back again. So you might say, from that, I suppose, that cats can’t think. But then did you never get lost? Yes, I’m sure you must have, at least once. And you can think, I know, but you could not find your way home alone.
I know cats and dogs think, and that they can talk to one another, too, in their own language. So it isn’t at all strange that Blackie should think about what a good home she had, and how kind the little boy and girl were to her.
“Now, Blackie,” said Mabel one day, as she got ready for school, “be a good cat to-day, and don’t run off.”
“Put the red ribbon with the bell around her neck,” said Arthur as he gathered up his school books. “Then if Blackie goes away we can listen for the bell and find her.”
“Oh, yes! That’s what I’ll do,” said Mabel. “Here, Blackie!” called the little girl, “come and have your ribbon put on.”
There was a pretty red ribbon for Blackie’s neck, and it always looked nice on the cat, because black and red seem to go well together. I think they “match” as the ladies say, though I don’t know much about such things. I know when a team of horses match, and go well together, and when two dogs, or two cats, are well matched, but I am afraid I can’t tell much about ribbons and such things matching.
Anyhow a lady told me black and red matched, or went well together, and I guess she is right. And I know that the red ribbon looked very pretty on Blackie’s neck, for I saw it there myself.
“There!” exclaimed Mabel, as she tied the ribbon into a pretty bow. “Now you won’t get lost, Blackie, and when I come home from school I’ll find you here.”
Blackie lifted one velvety paw, and shook her head. This made the little brass bell tinkle.
“You can hear that a good way off,” said Arthur. “When I come home from school I’m going to try to teach Blackie the trick of standing in the corner.”
“She can do one trick now,” said Mabel. “She can jump through my hands, when I hold them in front of her like a hoop.”
“Can she?” asked Arthur. “Let’s see her do it.”
“Children! Don’t be late for school,” called their mother from the dining room.
“No, we won’t, Mother,” answered Mabel. “I am just going to have Blackie do one trick. Come here, Blackie!”
Blackie always came when the little boy or girl called her, for the black cat knew she would be petted, or given something nice to eat each time. This time Mabel stroked Blackie’s soft fur, and then put the cat down in front of her, behind her arms which she held in a round ring.
“Jump through, Blackie!” called Mabel, and Blackie did.
“See!” said the little girl to her brother. “Didn’t Blackie do that trick nicely?”
“She surely did!” exclaimed Arthur. “And when I come home from school I’ll teach her to stand on her hind legs in a corner.”
“Come now, children, run along!” called the mother, and Arthur and Mabel, having each patted Blackie once more, hurried off to school.
“Well, I think now I will go and take a little sleep,” said Blackie to herself. “Then I will go out and see if I can find another cat to play with until the children come home.”
For Blackie loved to play, and she was sometimes lonesome when the children were not home.
Mabel had made a little cushion for Blackie, and this cushion was kept in one corner of the dining room, where the sun shone a good part of the day. Blackie liked to sleep in the sun.
“Yes, I certainly am a lucky cat,” thought Blackie, “to have such a nice home, and such a good little girl and boy to pet me. I have a nice red ribbon, too, and a bell. Not many cats have things as nice as I.”
Blackie was sure of this, for a number of times she had seen, on the back fence, other cats, whose fur was all scraggly and rough; who looked poor and thin and who seemed scared almost to death. Once Blackie had spoken to one of these cats and the cat had told Blackie how hungry he was.
“Why don’t you go home and eat?” asked Blackie.
“Home? I have no home!” sadly exclaimed the strange cat. “I had one once but the people moved away, leaving me behind, and since then I have eaten as best I can. You are very lucky to have such a nice home. Excuse me, I see a piece of meat!” And with that the strange cat jumped down off the fence and grabbed a bit of meat out of the ash can.
“I’m glad I don’t have to eat that way,” thought Blackie.
As Blackie went to sleep on the soft cushion she thought of the time when she had been a little kitten, and had lived with her mother, and her brothers and sisters, in a barn in the country. For Blackie’s early days were spent on a farm, though she did not now remember very much about that part of it.
Arthur and Mabel’s father and mother had taken the children on a visit to the farm, and it was there the children saw the black cat, which they liked very much. So the farmer gave her to them, and they named her Blackie and brought her home to the city with them.
Since then Blackie had lived in the fine house with her little master and mistress, and, as I say, she had a very easy time of it, never wanting for anything to eat, or for a warm, cozy place to sleep.
For several hours Blackie slept on the cushion, now and then turning around to get more in the sunlight, and when she did this the little brass bell on the red ribbon on her neck would go “tinkle-inkle.”
“Well, I think I’ll take a walk out in the yard, and perhaps I may see another cat to talk to,” said Blackie, as she awakened and stretched first one leg, and then the other, opening her mouth as wide as she could to stretch that too. Blackie was a bit lonesome without the children.
Out in the yard went the black cat. The sun was shining down through the leaves of the grape vine, making dancing shadows on the walk below. Blackie pretended that these shadows were mice, and that she was chasing them. As she was doing this the black cat heard a voice calling to her.
“What are you doing?” the voice asked.
Blackie looked up, and saw another cat looking at her over the back fence. This cat was mixed gray and white in color.
“Oh, I’m just having a little game by myself,” answered Blackie. “I do this to amuse myself when the children are at school, and I am alone. Excuse me, but I think you must be a strange cat around here.”
“I am,” meowed the other. “My folks have just moved in the house next door.”
“I saw loads of furniture going in there yesterday,” said Blackie, “but I did not see you.”
“No, I was shut up in a box,” the new cat said. “They were afraid I would get lost, I guess. They kept me down cellar until a little while ago.”
“Oh, that’s too bad!” exclaimed Blackie. “I guess you are glad to be out again; aren’t you?”
“Indeed I am! But they kept me down cellar so I would not be hurt when the furniture was being set around, I guess.”
“Won’t you come over and have a game of shadow tag?” asked the black cat. “My name is Blackie,” she went on.
“And mine is Speckle,” said the other. “I suppose you are called Blackie because you are so black.”
“Yes,” answered Blackie, “and I think you must be called Speckle because you are speckled gray and white.”
“That’s it,” Speckle answered, as he jumped down off the fence.
Then the two cats had a nice time playing shadow tag under the grape arbor. After a bit, as they lay down to rest on the grass, Speckle asked: “Did you ever run away?”
“Run away!” exclaimed Blackie. “What’s that?”
“Why, don’t you know?” went on Speckle in some surprise. “To run away is to leave your home, and go off to have adventures.”
“What are adventures?” Blackie wanted to know.
“Oh, things that happen to you,” replied Speckle.
“Did you ever run away and have adventures?” Blackie wanted to know.
“Indeed I did,” Speckle said, somewhat proudly. “I have run away more than once, and many things happened to me. It was fun, only I got hungry sometimes.”
“How do you run away?” asked Blackie.
“Why, you just run,” Speckle said. “You walk out of the house, just as if you were going out in the yard to play as we did now, and, when no one is looking, you walk off down the street as far as you like.”
“Oh, I thought you said run!” exclaimed Blackie. “Now you are talking about walking away.”
“It’s all the same thing,” Speckle explained. “You can’t run all the time you are running away; you have to walk part of the time or you would get very tired. You just try it some day.”
“Perhaps I shall,” Blackie said. “I’ll think about it. I have certainly learned something to-day. Arthur spoke about teaching me a new trick when he came home from school, but I have learned something all by myself, and that is how to run away. I believe I’ll try it!”
“Do,” said Speckle. “Let me know when you are going and perhaps I’ll go with you.
Excuse me!” said the mixed-color cat, “but I hear them calling me. I guess my dinner is ready,” and with that the other cat jumped back over the fence.