Story by Richard Barnum.
That cat is a good jumper,” thought Blackie when her new friend had gone. “He went over that fence easily. I wonder if I could do it?”
Blackie tried, but she could not jump all the way to the top of the fence as Speckle had done.
“I suppose it must be because he ran away once or twice,” thought Blackie, as she again went back to rest in the shade, after having tried two or three times to leap to the top of the fence in one jump.
“It must be that running away makes one a good jumper. Yes, I certainly must run away, or walk away, as Speckle called it. I wonder what would happen to me? I suppose Mabel and Arthur would miss me, and I would miss them. But I need not run very far away, and, and I can run back when I want to.”
Blackie did not know much about things outside of her own nice home, you see. Running away never made a cat a good jumper that I ever heard of, though some cats, who have no homes, learn to jump fences easily because, I suppose, they are chased by dogs or boys so often that they just have to know how to make big jumps.
“Yes, I certainly must try what running away will teach me,” thought Blackie as she went in the house where, near the stove in the kitchen, set her saucer of milk. “Then I will have things to tell Speckle when I come back. I must ask him more about it the next time I see him.”
That afternoon, just before Arthur and Mabel came home from school, Blackie saw Speckle out on the fence again.
“Wait a minute, Speckle!” called the black cat. “I want to ask you about running away,” and she hurried out in the yard.
“Oh, I’m not going to run away for some time,” said the other cat. “I’ve just moved here and I want to see what sort of a place it is before I run away. Perhaps I shan’t run away at all. Anyhow I shall not for a long time. I never run away until I get tired of a place, and then I don’t often stay away more than a day or so.”
“Oh, I wasn’t going to ask you to run away,” said Blackie. “But I want to know if running away makes a cat a good fence-jumper?”
Speckle thought for a few seconds and then said, slowly: “Well, yes, I suppose it does. I know the first time I ran away I could not jump very well. And then a dog chased me. I ran into a yard, and in front of me was a fence. The only chance to get out of the dog’s way was by jumping the fence. I had never jumped so high a fence before, but I did that time, and the dog could not get me, so I got away.”
“My gracious!” exclaimed Blackie. “Something happened to you that time! Was that an adventure?”
“Yes,” answered Speckle, thinking a moment, “I suppose you could call that an adventure. But I had many more after that.”
“Do dogs always chase you when you run away?” Blackie wanted to know.
“Oh, no, not always,” answered the gray cat. “But that is one of the things that may happen when you run away.”
“I shan’t like that part of it,” spoke Blackie. “There is a dog in the house on the other side of ours, and the family that lived in the house into which your folks just moved also kept one. He used to chase me until I scratched his nose with my sharp claws one day, and after that he let me alone. I was sorry to scratch him, but it was the only thing to do.”
“Yes, of course,” agreed Speckle. “It is a good thing we have sharp claws. They are especially for scratching dogs that chase us.”
“I wonder if there is any other way of scaring a dog besides scratching him?” asked Blackie.
“Perhaps there may be,” said Speckle. “It would be nice if there was. I may learn how to do that if I run away to look for adventures.”
“Oh, so you are going to run away; are you, Blackie?”
“Well, I’m thinking of it. Will you come?”
“Not right away—at least I think I will not,” said the other cat. “Still you might call over the fence to me when you go, and perhaps I’ll come along. Hello, who are they?” asked Speckle quickly as he saw a boy and girl coming into the yard.
“Oh, that’s Arthur and Mabel, my little master and mistress,” explained Blackie, but Speckle did not stop to listen. With a jump he was on top of the fence.
“Excuse me!” called the gray cat to Blackie, “but that boy looks just like one who once tied a tin can to my tail!”
“The idea!” meowed Blackie. “Arthur is a good boy, and loves cats. He’d never do anything like that to me, nor to you or any other animal.”
“You never can tell,” said Speckle. “Safety first, as I hear they are teaching the children in school. I’ll just stay on my side of the fence until I see what kind of a boy he is,” and though Blackie kept saying that Arthur was a good boy, and would not plague cats, Speckle would not stay.
Of course Mabel and her brother did not understand what their cat said to the other one, for they did not know animal language, though Blackie and other cats know what boys and girls say to them, or a great deal of it, I think.
“Did you see that strange cat?” asked Mabel of her brother.
“Yes, I guess it belongs to the folks next door,” spoke Arthur. “Now I am going to teach Blackie to stand on her hind legs.”
Arthur picked Blackie up, and rubbed her under the ears. Cats like to be rubbed under the ears, and they will purr if you do it to them. And when a cat purrs it shows it is happy.
Just why cats like to be rubbed, or tickled, under the ears I do not know, any more than I know why a pig likes to be scratched on his back. I only know that this is so. A hoptoad likes to be scratched on his back, also. Many a time I have gone quietly up to a toad in the grass, and, with a little twig, have scratched his back. And Mr. Toad will sit there quietly, and will puff himself out like a little balloon, because he is so pleased to have his back scratched. But you must do it very gently.
Anyhow Arthur rubbed Blackie under her ears, and the black cat liked it and purred in the boy’s arms. “And now for your trick, Blackie,” said Arthur.
It is not easy to teach a cat to stand on her hind legs, as Arthur very soon found out. Cats do not learn tricks as easily as dogs do, though I have seen performing cats on the stage of a theater. They climbed ladders, walked a tightrope, and did many other little tricks.
Blackie did not know exactly what Arthur wanted her to do. The little boy put the black cat in a corner, so she could lean her back against the sides of the room, and not fall over. Then he lifted her front feet off the floor so that she was resting on her hind ones.
“Now stand up that way!” Arthur said, speaking kindly.
Blackie did it, for a few seconds, and then she got down on all four feet as she was in the habit of standing.
“No! Not that!” said Arthur, lifting her up again. “Stand on your hind legs, Blackie.”
But Blackie did not do it very well.
“Let me try,” said Mabel, who was watching her brother. “She will jump through my hands, and perhaps she will stand up for me.”
“I’ll try once more,” said Arthur, “and then you may have a turn, Mabel.”
But neither Arthur nor his sister could make Blackie stand up on her hind legs. Blackie just did not want to do it, or perhaps she could not.
“Maybe when I come back, after having run away, I’ll do it for them,” thought the black cat, as she rubbed up against Mabel’s legs.
“Now jump through my hands, Blackie!” called Mabel, and she made a loop of her arms in front of Blackie. This trick the black cat knew very well.
“If she would only do the standing on her hind legs trick as well as she does yours she would be a fine cat,” Arthur said.
“Blackie is a nice cat anyhow, and I love her,” spoke Mabel, cuddling the cat in her arms.
That night, when the children were studying their lessons, Blackie lay on a soft cushion at their feet, purring happily. And, all the while, the black cat was thinking about running away.
“I suppose Mabel and Arthur will feel badly at first,” thought Blackie, “but I won’t be away very long, at least not the first time. I think I’ll run off to-morrow.”
The next day came, and after breakfast, when Arthur and Mabel had gone to school, Blackie went out in the yard. She had made up her mind to run away, and she wanted to see if Speckle might not like to go along.
Blackie did not have to pack up any clothes, or take anything to eat with her, when she started to run away. Cats can’t do those things. The only clothes they need is their coat of fur, and that is always with them. I have seen dogs with little blankets on, and even a sort of overcoat, but cats are different and do not wear them.
And Blackie could not take with her anything to eat. She thought she would have no trouble in picking up what she wanted as she went along.
“I may even stop in a house some day, and get milk,” the black cat said to herself. Out in the yard she went, close to the fence.
“Meow!” called Blackie to Speckle. “Come on out; I want to speak to you.”
“What is it?” asked the gray cat, sticking his head up over the fence.
“I’m going to run away,” answered Blackie. “Don’t you want to come along?”
“My goodness! Run away!” exclaimed Speckle. “So you have made up your mind, have you?”
“Yes, I’m going. Will you come?”
“Hum! No, I think not,” Speckle said slowly. “I don’t believe I’ll run away to-day. You see I have hardly gotten to know all the cats around here yet. I’ll wait a while. But don’t let me keep you from running if you really want to go.”
“Yes, I do want to go,” Blackie said. “Perhaps when I come back I may be able to jump a fence as well as you, and I may do the standing on my hind legs trick that Arthur tried to teach me.”
“Perhaps,” said Speckle. “Well, good luck to you!”
“Thank you,” answered Blackie. Then she looked toward the house. No one was watching her. Blackie went slowly down the front walk to the street.
“I don’t need to run at first,” she thought. “I’ll begin to run when I get out of sight of the house. The children can’t see me, for they are at school, and I am glad of it, as they might cry if they saw me going. But I’ll soon be back, only I can’t tell them so.”
Blackie went slowly to the front gate. She went out in the street. Then she went slowly down the sidewalk, and when she was out of sight of her house she began to run.
“Now,” said Blackie to herself, “at last I am really running away!”