Story by Richard Barnum.
Blackie was now out of the vacant house, it is true, but, for a time, she did not feel much better off. She was up on a high roof, and as she went to the edge to look down she saw that it was too far for her to jump, even down into a tree.
“As soon as I get through with one adventure I find another,” sadly said Blackie. “I had an empty-house adventure, and now I am having a roof adventure. I wonder how it will end? I must get down some way. I can’t stay up here all night, for it might rain, and I don’t like to get wet.”
Cats do dislike getting wet, you know. They are not like dogs in that way. A dog loves to jump in the water and swim, or at least most dogs do. But you never saw a cat in swimming—at least I never did.
Blackie walked up and down the roof for a while. She could look down to the street from in front, and she saw people walking along, as well as many wagons, automobiles and trolley cars. Blackie gave two or three loud meows, but she soon stopped.
“There is so much noise down there in the street, and I am up here so high, that I don’t believe they can hear me,” thought the black cat. “I may as well keep still.”
Then she went to the other side of the roof, to where she could look down in the backyards of the houses. She saw no one there, in any of them, and after she had meowed several times she also gave that up.
“Oh, dear!” thought Blackie. “I don’t know what I shall do. Suppose it rains during the night? Well, of course I could go down in the empty house again, so I would be dry, anyhow. But I want something to eat. Oh, dear! Running away, even to learn how to jump high fences, is not half as nice as I thought it would be. Speckle did not tell me I would have bad adventures. I thought they would all be nice ones.”
Blackie walked over toward one of the end houses in the row. She was wondering what she would do, when, all at once, another and the same kind of a scuttle cover as the one she had pushed to one side, was opened in the roof in front of her, and up popped the head of a gray-haired lady, who had a kind, pleasant face, and who looked at Blackie through large glasses.
“Why, it’s a cat—I do believe!” exclaimed the lady, whose name, as Blackie learned later, was Mrs. Thompson. “I was wondering what was making that noise, walking around on the roof. I’m glad I came up to see. It’s a cat!”
“Of course I’m a cat,” said Blackie to herself. “I hope I don’t look like a dog.”
Of course Mrs. Thompson did not hear Blackie say this, for the cat only thought it to herself, just as we often think things without speaking them out loud.
“What a fine big black cat!” went on Mrs. Thompson. “Come to me, kitty! How did you get up here?”
“Pur-r-r-r-r!” said Blackie out loud. That, and meowing, was the only way she had of talking to real folks. But to those who understand, cats can say several things in just those two ways. Sometimes you can tell by the way a cat mews, whether it is hungry, or whether it wants to go out doors. And when it cries in another way you know it is in pain. And when it says “pur-r-r-r-r!” like that, sort of softly and slowly, and rubs up against you, why then you know the cat is happy.
Blackie was beginning to feel happy again, for she saw the lady looking out through the hole in the roof, and the black cat thought the lady would take her down and feed her.
“Why, you’re a nice cat,” said the lady, speaking to Blackie in a way the cat liked. “You certainly are a nice kitty. I wonder how you got up on this roof?”
Then, as she rubbed Blackie under the cat’s ears, in a way that Blackie liked, the lady looked along the roofs, and she saw on the roof the cover, or scuttle, which Blackie had pushed to one way to get out.
“Oh, I see! That’s how you got up here, through the hole in the roof,” said the lady. “Well, I must close it, or the rain might come in Mr. Smith’s house. I see how it is. The family there moved out, and you were left behind, Blackie. It’s too bad they forgot you. But never mind, I’ll take care of you.”
Of course Mrs. Thompson was not right in thinking Blackie had been left behind by the family that had moved away. But Mrs. Thompson did not know that Blackie had run away, and had wandered in the vacant house by herself. And Blackie could not tell.
“Now I’ll just close that scuttle over the roof for Mr. Smith,” went on Mrs. Thompson. “He doesn’t know it is open, I dare say. Then, after that, I’ll take you down in my house, Blackie.”
You might wonder how the lady knew Blackie’s name, never having seen her before.
But when a cat is all black, as this one was, it seems natural for every one who meets her for the first time to call her Blackie.
“Just a minute now, Blackie,” said Mrs. Thompson. “Then I’ll give you something to eat. I know you’re hungry.”
Blackie was mewing her hungry cry, and the lady knew enough about cats to know it.
“I’ll give you some nice milk, and a bit of meat in a minute,” the lady went on. “Just wait until I close Mr. Smith’s scuttle.”
She climbed out on the roof to do this, and Blackie rubbed against her skirts and purred. Blackie had found a new friend.
“Go on down my stairs now,” said Mrs. Thompson as she walked back to the hole in her roof, followed by Blackie. “Go on down and then I’ll close my scuttle, and get your supper and my own too.”
Blackie knew enough to run down. She waited at the foot of the stairs while Mrs. Thompson fastened her scuttle with hooks, and then Blackie waited for the lady to go ahead and show the way.
Blackie found herself in a house just like the empty one she had first entered, but someone lived here, for there was furniture in all the rooms, and carpets on the floors. In the other house the floors were of bare boards.
“Come on down to the kitchen,” invited Mrs. Thompson. “I’ll feed you there.”
Blackie understood this talk, and how she did hurry to that kitchen, for she was very hungry! The lady poured out a saucer of nice milk, and you can just imagine how fast Blackie put her red tongue in it to lap it up, for she was thirsty as well as hungry, and milk to a cat is both food and drink.
When the saucer was empty the lady brought Blackie some bits of chicken, leftover from dinner.
“Now then, let me see you eat that,” said Mrs. Thompson. She talked to Blackie almost as if the black cat were a real person and could understand. I know many men and women who do that. I do it myself to my pets. I know they don’t understand all I say, but I like to think that they do.
Mrs. Thompson lived all alone in her house, and when a lady lives alone, and has a cat, a dog, a bird, or a parrot, she gets in the habit of talking to her pets.
“Yes, you are a nice cat,” went on Mrs. Thompson, as she once more stroked Blackie’s smooth fur. “You came from a good home, I can tell that, and why the folks moved away, and left you behind, I can’t see. I’ll keep you for a while, and perhaps they may remember about you and come to get you. If they don’t come I’ll take you to the country with me, for I will soon be going there.”
After her meal Blackie washed herself carefully, as her mother had taught her to do. Then she curled up in a black ball at the feet of the kind lady.
It was now dark, and the lady lit the light.
“I’m glad I didn’t have to stay up on the roof, or in the vacant house all night,” thought Blackie, purring away and beginning to feel a bit sleepy. “My running away is turning out all right after all. I am in a nice house, though I may not stay. I have not run far enough away yet. I must go a bit farther before I go back to Arthur and Mabel.”
The old lady sat reading, now and then speaking to Blackie, who answered with a purr.
“I once had a white cat,” said the lady, “but you are just as nice, though you are black. I shall keep you a long time, I hope.”
Presently the doorbell rang. Up jumped the nice old lady.
“Someone to see me!” she exclaimed. “Perhaps it is someone who has come after Blackie.”
She went to the front door, and Blackie waited.
“I wonder if that can be Arthur or Mabel after me?” thought the black cat.