Story by Richard Barnum.
Blackie was quite a wise cat in her way. When she had been a little kitten in the country, with her mother, her brothers and her sisters, she had learned many country things, such as all cats must learn. And when she had been brought to the city she learned some city things. So you see she had been educated, you might say, to country life and city life.
“But what am I going to do now I don’t know,” thought Blackie. “Here I am, locked in a house that has no one in it, though maybe if I wait long enough a new family may move in. But if they don’t come very soon I’ll starve, unless I can get out. It’s a good thing it is summer, for I won’t get cold. The weather is nice and warm.”
Blackie walked slowly through the different rooms of the empty house. She thought perhaps she might find a window open, though when she had first looked she saw none.
“But there might be a pantry, or a cupboard, with an open window,” thought the black cat. “I might not have seen it at first.”
So she went carefully all over the first floor. Not a window was open. The man who owned the house had made sure all were closed, for he did not want the rain to come in during a storm. So there was no way Blackie could get out from the first floor.
Of course she might have jumped against a pane of glass and broken it, for she was a heavy cat. But if she did that she might cut herself.
“Well, if I can’t find a window open down here, I may find one open upstairs,” thought Blackie. “I guess it wouldn’t be too far to jump from there. Or I may be able to jump in a tree and if a tree is near enough to an open window, I could jump and climb down.”
Blackie went upstairs and looked for an open window. But alas! there was none. True, the black cat did find a tree growing close to a window, but there was no way of getting out in it.
“Oh, dear!” thought poor Blackie. “I certainly am in a lot of trouble. I should never have gone in this house without knowing more about it. I suppose I should not have run away. But no, I must not say that. I want to become a good fence-jumper, and running away seems to be the only way to do it. I guess I’ll be alright. Someone may come and let me out.”
Blackie was not so frightened as another cat might have been who had not lived in both the country and the city. She knew how to think, and she remembered how she had once been shut in the barn before she was taken away from the farm.
That time Blackie had been locked up a whole day and a night, but finally some one heard her mewing and let her out. And oh! how hungry and thirsty she had been!
“I guess I’ll try crying now,” thought Blackie. “Some one may hear me out in the street.”
Blackie did not mean that she was going to “cry” real tears, but that she was going to meow. Some folks call that crying for a cat.
“Yup, that’s what I’ll do,” said Blackie to herself. “I’ll get up on the window sill, and meow as loudly as I can.”
Up jumped Blackie to the sill of the window and, looking out in the street, she opened her mouth and let out a loud:
“They ought to hear that,” thought the black cat. But no one seemed to hear her. She could see people passing along the street, boys and girls being among them, for school was now out. But though once in a while some one did look at the cat in the window, no one came to let Blackie out.
“Oh, if only Arthur or Mabel would pass along the street on their way home from school, they might let me out,” thought Blackie. “I wonder if this is the street by which they come home?”
This was something Blackie could not tell, smart as she was. She could only hope, and call, which last she did every minute or two.
But everyone on the street seemed to be in a great hurry. Men and women walked quickly past, with only a glance, now and then, at the black cat in the window. Perhaps they did not stop to think it was strange for a cat to be alone in an empty house. Perhaps the people did not even stop to think that the house was empty. And they might have thought that if Blackie got in the house she could also get out.
But she could not, as we know, for every door and window was tightly fastened. And another thing was that only the man who owned the house had a key to it. So if any one did try to let Blackie out how could they do it? Blackie did not know all this though. She just knew that she wanted to be let out, and so she kept on meowing.
“Well, this doesn’t seem to be doing any good,” thought Blackie at last. “I’m only wasting my time crying this way, and making myself tired, too. Oh! how thirsty I am! I’d like even a good drink of water, though of course milk would be much better.
“Still I must not find fault. I ran away on purpose and I must put up with what I meet with. I should have asked Speckle how he found things to eat and drink when he ran away. But I forgot all about that. I wish he had come with me, for he would know what to do now. And I guess he would not have let me come in this house to get locked up.
“Oh, well, it isn’t night yet, and before dark some one may come. The man whom I saw going away may come back. I’ll just wait a bit.”
So Blackie waited and waited, but no one came. It was late afternoon now, and the shadows were getting longer and longer, as the sun went farther and farther down in the west. No more children passed the house, for they were all home from school now, and were playing their games, and having fun.
“I guess Mabel and Arthur are playing, too,” thought Blackie. “I wonder if they miss me?”
The two children did indeed look for the black cat when they came home from school, but not finding her they thought little about it at the time.
“I guess she has gone over to play with the cat next door,” said Arthur.
“I guess so, too,” said his sister. “Come on down the street and we’ll play with the Blake children. Tommie Blake asked me to come over after school.
So Arthur and Mabel ran off to play, not thinking any more about Blackie for a while, though afterwards, when she did not come home, the children did not know what to think, and they looked all over for their pet.
But this story is just about Blackie, and not so much about Arthur and Mabel, though I may mention them once in a while. Now I must tell you what happened to the black cat.
She wandered all over the house once more, now and then jumping up on a window sill that fronted on the street, to give her meowing cry. But if anyone heard her no one tried to get her out of the locked and vacant house.
“I must do something. I really must!” said Blackie to herself at last. “Otherwise I shall have to stay in this house all night with nothing to eat. I’ll go upstairs again and see if there is something to eat up there. The family may have left something when they moved out.”
Upstairs went Blackie once more, and she hurried through the different rooms, for it was getting dark now. Not a thing to eat could poor Blackie find.
At last she came to another flight of stairs that seemed to lead up to the roof.
“Why, that’s strange,” said the black cat. “I did not notice them before. I wonder what they are for? I must go up and find out.”
Blackie walked up these other stairs. They were narrow and quite steep, and when the cat reached the top she could look up and see the sky through a crack. “Ha! This isn’t so bad,” thought Blackie. “Perhaps I can squeeze through that crack and get out. I’ll try.”
Blackie went up to the highest step. Over her head was a square piece of wood that seemed to cover a hole in the roof. The wood was really a cover to what is called a “scuttle,” or hole, in the roof of the house, which roof was flat, and of tin.
When the men built the house, which was in a long row with many others, they left a hole in the roof, with stairs leading to it, so when the roof needed painting, or mending, men could get on it without bringing ladders and putting them against the building on the outside. Then so the rain would not come in through the hole, the men made a cover for it.
This cover could be lifted up, whenever anyone wanted to get out on the roof, and the cover could be fastened down, by hooks inside, when the hole was to be closed.
But now, as it happened, the cover was only partly over the hole, and it was not fastened down. There was a little crack, as when a door is only partly closed, and Blackie put her nose to this crack. She could sniff the fresh air.
“Oh, how good that smells!” she said. “If I could only get out!”
Blackie again put her nose in the crack, and, bracing her legs on the top step, she began to push with her head. Blackie was a strong cat, as I have said, and soon she began to feel the cover slipping and moving to one side.
“Oh, I believe I can push it away from over the hole!” said Blackie. “If I do I can get out! I must push harder!”
Blackie pushed as hard as she could and the scuttle cover moved more. The crack was wider now. Blackie could put out one paw. Soon she had pushed the cover far enough away so she could put out two paws.
“I’ll soon have it all the way off now!” thought the black cat.
She gave one more hard shove and then, to her delight, the cover slid away from the hole. There was room for Blackie to jump out.
She found herself on the flat tin roof of the house. On either side were the tin roofs of other houses in the brick row. It was like one long, big roof.
“Well, I’m out, anyhow!” said Blackie to herself. “That is something. It’s an adventure, a real, true adventure!
I wonder what will happen to me next?”