Story by Richard Barnum.
Blackie was lapping up the water from the little puddle, when all at once, from behind her, she heard a boy’s voice shouting in eager tones:
“There she is! There’s that lady’s black cat! She said she’d give a dollar to whoever found her! I’m going to get that dollar! Whoop!”
Blackie gave one quick glance behind her. She saw a red-haired boy running toward her with hands held out ready to grab her.
“My! What’s going to happen now?” thought Blackie. “Another adventure, I’m sure. Going to get a dollar to catch me, is he? Well, we’ll see about that!”
Blackie gave such a sudden spring to get away that her red ribbon, with the tinkling bell, caught on a piece of the fountain and was pulled off.
“Oh, dear!” thought Blackie. “There goes my nice ribbon! Mabel will be sorry when she sees that it is lost. And I’m sorry too. But I can’t stop to get it now. No indeed! I must get away from that boy!”
Blackie thought all this in a flash, as she sprang away from the fountain, leaving the red ribbon and bell behind her. She had not had half enough water to drink, but going thirsty was better than being caught by a boy.
Blackie had not heard all the boy said, nor did the black cat stop to think that perhaps the boy was only going to catch her so he could take her to Mrs. Thompson. That was really what the boy was going to do. He did not mean to hurt Blackie.
But all the cat thought of was that a boy was chasing her and wanted to catch her, and Blackie did not want to be caught. So she ran as fast as she could.
Across the street, under a wagon, between the legs of a horse, and under an automobile, sprang the black cat. After her ran the red-haired boy. He stopped to pick up the red ribbon and bell.
“Maybe if I can’t catch the cat the lady will give me ten cents for the ribbon and bell,” said the boy to himself. “Ten cents is better than nothing, and maybe I won’t get the cat. She runs very fast.”
The boy was one who had been around the railroad station when Mrs. Thompson missed Blackie, and when she had offered a dollar reward to get back her pet.
On and on ran the black cat through the streets of the country town. In and out she dodged among the men and women who were hurrying along the street.
A woman saw the running cat, and she saw the boy chasing after her.
“Here, little boy, why are you chasing that poor cat?” asked the woman. “Don’t you know it isn’t right to chase cats?”
“Yes’mam—I—I know,” said the red-haired boy, who was breathing quite fast. “But I’m not chasing this cat to do her any harm. I want to catch her for a lady who’ll give me a dollar for her. The cat got out of her basket.”
“Humph!” said the woman, looking over the tops of her glasses at the red-haired boy. “I’ve heard of folks letting the cat out of the bag, but I never heard of anybody letting one out of a basket.”
“This lady was at the railroad station,” said the boy, as he ran on after Blackie. “She is Mrs. Thompson.”
“Oh, I know her,” said the woman who had spoken about letting cats out of bags. “She lives out near me. So she has come to the country for her summer vacation again, has she? And brought a cat with her. She always did like cats.”
The boy did not stay to hear all this. He was again running on after Blackie, for he wanted to earn that dollar. And Blackie, not knowing anything about the boy, nor that he would be kind to her, ran on as fast as she could.
Pretty soon some other boys saw the red-haired lad running after the black cat, and they shouted to him.
“Hi, there, Carrots!” they called, naming him Carrots in fun because his hair was the color of carrots. “Hi, there, Carrots! What you chasin’ that cat for?”
“For a dollar,” answered the red-haired boy, with a grin.
“We’ll help you!” said the other boys, quickly.
“All right,” invited the red-haired boy. “Come along!”
There were three boys now chasing after poor Blackie, and the cat was getting tired.
“I must get away from them, somehow,” she thought. “I wonder what Speckle did when he was chased like this? I ought to have asked him before I came away. Next time I run off I’ll know more about it. And maybe I won’t run off again.”
Blackie turned around the corner so quickly that she ran right between the legs of an old gentleman who was walking along.
“Oh, my! Scat! What’s this? A black cat!” cried the old gentleman, and he stumbled so, trying not to step on Blackie, that his silk hat fell off and rolled into the gutter.
Then around the corner came the three boys after the cat. The old gentleman saw them and cried:
“Boys! Boys! You mustn’t chase cats that way. Look what she did to me—knocked off my hat!”
“We’re chasing the cat to get a dollar,” said the red-haired boy, and then he and his friends ran on.
Blackie was getting very tired now. She looked back and saw the old gentleman picking up his silk hat, from which he brushed the dust.
“I’m sorry about his hat,” thought Blackie. “But it was not my fault. I did not mean to run between his legs.”
“Come on, fellows! We’ll get her now!” cried the red-haired boy, as he ran on faster than before.
Blackie looked ahead of her. She saw near the sidewalk an open cellar door of a store.
“That will be a good place to hide,” thought Blackie. “The boys can’t find me down there in the dark,” and down the outside cellar stairs she ran.
“Now we’ve got her!” said another boy. “She can’t get out of the cellar.”
There were many boxes and barrels in the store cellar. Blackie crept away back in a far corner, crouched down, and kept as still as a mouse. She heard the boys coming down, and she heard them talking and moving about among the boxes and barrels. But the cellar was dark, and Blackie had a good hiding place. Not even when the boys borrowed a lantern from the store-keeper and searched in the cellar with that, could they find the cat.
“We’ll come to-morrow and get her,” said the red-haired boy. “I want that dollar.”
Pretty soon the boys went away, leaving Blackie down in the cellar. She did not come out for a long time, and when she did it was getting dark. Blackie had found a little piece of meat in the cellar, and she ate that. She was very thirsty but she thought she would wait until it was a little darker before she went out to look for some water, as there was none in the store cellar.
A little later it grew very dark, and Blackie crept out into the street again through a hole under the cellar door, for it had been shut when the store was closed. Blackie found a little brook near the edge of the country town, and there she had a good drink.
“Well, at last I can have some peace and quietness,” thought Blackie. “But what am I going to do to-night? Where shall I stay? I can’t find Mrs. Thompson’s house at night. I shall have to wait until morning. Oh, dear! This is the bad part of having adventures.”
Blackie did not know what to do. Never before had she been without a good place in which to sleep at night.
She looked about her. She could see lights in houses here and there along the country road, but she did not know whether or not it was best to go prying around the back door of any of them.
“They might take me in and feed me and keep me,” thought Blackie, “but I could not tell which house has a dog living in it too, and dogs do not like cats. At least very few dogs do. And in those houses there may be bad boys, like those who chased me to-day. I guess I had better look for some other place to stay.”
Blackie wandered on until she found a barn with some hay in it. This made a warm place for her to sleep, since it was Summer.
“I’ll stay here tonight,” thought Blackie, and she did.
In the morning she got a drink at the place where the farm horses were watered and then, without anyone seeing her, Blackie went on again, down the country road. For she was in the country now, though just where she did not know.
“I must look for Mrs. Thompson,” thought the black cat. “I like her.”
All that day Blackie wandered around the country. She went to house after house, but when she saw no one who looked like the kind lady she ran away again. Sometimes people would call to her, and offer her things to eat, but Blackie was afraid. She managed to find a little to eat and water to drink. She wanted milk, but did not know where to get it.
The next night Blackie slept in another barn, and she asked the cows and horses if they knew where Mrs. Thompson lived. But none of them did.
“The farmer’s name here is Jones,” said a cow, as she chewed her cud.
“And he doesn’t like cats; I heard him say so,” spoke a brown horse as he munched his oats. “Besides, he has two dogs.”
“Then this is no place for me,” Blackie replied.
In the morning she hurried off again, and that day she had a strange adventure. She had come to another country town, and in a big green field she saw what she thought was a big white house. Flags were fluttering on top of it, and Blackie could hear music playing. Going into the white house were many persons, boys and girls among them.
All at once a boy saw Blackie and he called to some other boys:
“Oh, look at the black cat! Let’s catch her and tie a tin can to her tail!”
“Come on!” cried another boy.
They ran toward Blackie, but the black cat ran away from them, and under the edge of the white house, which Blackie found was made of cloth. Inside it were many strange animals, some in cages, and in one cage Blackie saw some straw.
“I’ll jump in there and hide,” she said, and down in the straw nestled the cat. And then, from the other end of the cage, there rose up a big black bear.
“Who are you, and what are you doing in my cage?” the bear asked.
“Oh, please excuse me!” cried Blackie. “I ran in here to get away from some bad boys who were going to tie a tin can to my tail. I want to hide here.”
“Oh, that’s all right,” said the bear kindly. “Hide as much as you like. What is your name, and where do you live?”
“My name is Blackie,” was the answer, “and I guess I don’t live anywhere now. I am a lost cat.”
“That’s too bad,” said the big shaggy animal.
“My name is Dido, and I am a dancing bear. I dance in this circus.”
“Is this a circus?” asked Blackie.
“That’s what it is,” answered Dido. “Don’t you see Tum Tum, the jolly elephant over there?” and Dido pointed his paw at the big creature. “Whenever you see an elephant that is a circus or a menagerie.”
“Is he an elephant?” Blackie asked, looking at the big animal.
“Yes, and his name is Tum Tum. He is the most jolly elephant you ever knew, always laughing and eating peanuts. He’s in a book, too.”
“What do you mean—in a book?”
“I mean somebody wrote a story-book about Tum Tum, who had many adventures. I think I’m going to be in a book someday.”
“That will be nice,” said Blackie, who was not quite so frightened now. “Did you ever hear of a cat being in a book? I have had some adventures that might do for a book,” and she told Dido, the dancing bear, about them.
“I don’t know,” answered Dido. “I once knew a dog, named Don, who was in a story book. He was a runaway dog, too, he told me. So he must be something like you. If somebody wrote a book about a runaway dog I don’t see why he couldn’t write one about a lost cat.”
“I don’t either,” said Blackie, looking at Tum Tum, who was eating a bag of peanuts given him by a little girl.
Then Dido told about some of his adventures, which I have already set down in a book with his name on it, just as those about Don, the runaway dog, are in his book. Dido told Blackie many things about the circus, too. And finally the black cat said:
“Well, Dido, I am very glad to have met you, and I thank you for letting me hide in the straw of your cage. But now I think I will go on, if those bad boys are not around. I’ll look out and see.”