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   Chapter 4 AND THE VISIT OF INSPECTION

The Terrible Twins By Edgar Jepson Characters: 31375

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Cats did not immediately flow in, though the Twins, riding round the countryside on their bicycles, spread the information that they were willing to afford a home to such of those necessary animals as their owners no longer needed. They had, indeed, one offer of a cat suffering from the mange; but the Terror rejected it, saying coldly to its owner that theirs was a home, not a hospital.

The impatient Erebus was somewhat vexed with him for rejecting it: she pointed out that even a mangy cat was a beginning.

Slowly they grew annoyed that the home on which they had lavished such strenuous labor remained empty; and at last the Terror said: "Look here: I'm going to begin with kittens."

"How will you get kittens, if you can't get cats? Everybody likes kittens. It's only when they grow up and stop playing that they don't want them," said Erebus with her coldest scorn.

"I'm going to buy them," said the Terror firmly. "I'm going to give threepence each for kittens that can just lap. We don't want kittens that can't lap. They'd be too much trouble."

"That's a good idea," said Erebus, brightening.

"It'll stop them drowning kittens all right. The only thing I'm not sure about is the accounts."

"You're always bothering about those silly old accounts!" said Erebus sharply.

She resented having had to enter in their penny ledger the items of their expenditure with conspicuous neatness under his critical eye.

"Well, I don't think the kittens ought to go down in the accounts. Aunt Amelia is so used to cats' homes that are given their cats. She's told me all about it: how people write and ask for their cats to be taken in."

"I don't want them to go down. It makes all the less accounts to keep," said Erebus readily.

"Well, that's settled," said the Terror cheerfully.

Once more the Twins rode round the countryside, spreading abroad the tidings of their munificent offer of threepence a head for kittens who could just lap.

But kittens did not immediately flow in; and the complaints of the impatient Erebus grew louder and louder. There was no doubt that she loved a grievance; and even more she loved making no secret of that grievance to those about her. Since she could only discuss this grievance with the Terror and Wiggins, they heard enough about it. Indeed, her complaints were at last no small factor in her patient brother's resolve to take action; and he called her and Wiggins to a council.

He opened the discussion by saying: "We've got to have kittens, or cats. We can't have any pocket-money for 'overseering' till there's something to overseer."

"And that splendid cats' home we've made stopping empty all the time," said Erebus in her most bitterly aggrieved tone.

"I don't mind that. I'm sick of hearing about it," said the Terror coldly. "But I do want pocket-money; and besides, Aunt Amelia will soon be wanting to know what's happening to the home; and she'll make a fuss if there aren't any cats in it. So we must have cats."

"Well, I tell you what it is: we must take cats. There are cats all over the country; and when we're out bicycling, a good way from home, we could easily pick up one or two at a time and bring them back with us. We ought to be able to get four a day, counting kittens; and in eight days the home would be full and two over."

"And we should be prosecuted for stealing them," said the Terror coldly.

"But they'd be ever so much better off in the home, properly looked after and fed," protested Erebus.

"That wouldn't make any difference. No; it's no good trying to get them that way," said the Terror in a tone of finality.

"Well, they won't come of themselves," said Erebus.

"They would with valerian," said Wiggins.

"Who's Valerian?" said Erebus.

"It isn't a who. It's a drug at the chemist's," said Wiggins. "I've been talking to my father about cats a good deal lately, and he says if you put valerian on a rag and drag it along the ground, cats will follow it for miles."

"Your father seems to know everything-such a lot of useful things as well as higher mathematics," said the Terror.

"That's why he has a European reputation," said Wiggins; and he spurned the earth.

That afternoon the Twins bicycled into Rowington and bought a bottle of the enchanting drug. Just before they reached the village, on their way home, the Terror produced a rag with a piece of string tied to it, poured some valerian on it and trailed it after his bicycle through the village to his garden gate.

The result demonstrated the accuracy of the scientific knowledge of the father of Wiggins. All that evening and far into the night twelve cats fought clamorously round the house of the Dangerfields.

The next day the Terror turned the cats' home into a cat-trap. He cut a hole in the bottom of its door large enough to admit a cat and fitted it with a hanging flap which a cat would readily push open from the outside, but lacked the intelligence to raise from the inside. He was late finishing it, and went from it to his dinner.

They had just come to the end of the simple meal when they heard a ring at the back door; and old Sarah came in to say that Polly Cotteril had come from the village with some kittens. The Twins excused themselves politely to their mother, and hurried to the kitchen to find that Polly had brought no less than five small kittens in a basket.

Forthwith the Terror filled a saucer with milk and applied the lapping test. Four of the kittens lapped the milk somewhat feebly, but they lapped. The fifth would not lap. It only mewed. Therefore the Terror took only four of the kittens, giving Polly a shilling for them. The fifth he returned to her, bidding her bring it back when it could lap.

They took the four kittens down to the cats' home; and since they were so small, they put them in one hutch for warmth, with a saucer of milk to satisfy their hunger during the night.

"Now we've got these kittens, we needn't bother about getting cats," said the Terror as they returned to the house. "And I'm glad it is kittens and not cats. Kittens eat less."

"Then you've had all the trouble of making that little door for nothing," said Erebus.

"It's an emergency exit-like the theaters have-only it's an entrance," said the Terror. "But thank goodness, we've begun at last; now we can have salaries for 'overseering'."

During the course of the next week they added seven more small kittens to their stock; and it seemed good to the Terror to inform Lady Ryehampton that the home was already constructed and in process of occupation. Accordingly Erebus wrote a letter, by no means devoid of enthusiasm, informing her that it already held eleven inmates, "saved from the awful death of drowning." Lady Ryehampton replied promptly in a spirit of warm gratification that they had been so quick starting it.

But with eleven inmates in the home the Twins presently found themselves grappling earnestly with the food problem and the account-book.

The Terror was not unfitted for financial operations. Till they were six years old the Twins had lived luxuriously at Dangerfield Hall, in Monmouth, with toys beyond the dreams of Alnaschar. Then their father had fallen into the hands of a firm of gambling stock-brokers, had along with them lost nearly all his money, and presently died, leaving Mrs. Dangerfield with a very small income indeed. All the while since his death it had been a hard struggle to make both ends meet; and the Twins had had many a lesson in learning to do without the desires of their hearts.

But their desires were strong; the wits of the Terror were not weak; and taking one month with another the Twins had as much pocket-money as the bulk of the children of the well-to-do. But it did not come in the way of a regular allowance; it had to be obtained by diplomacy or work; and the processes of getting it had given the Terror the liveliest interest in financial matters. He was resolved that the cats' home and the wages of "overseering" should last as long as possible.

But it soon grew clear to him that, with milk at threepence halfpenny a quart, the kittens would soon drink themselves out of house and home.

He discussed the matter with Erebus and Wiggins; and they agreed with him that milk spelled ruin. But they could see no way of reducing the price of milk; and they were sure that it was the necessary food for growing kittens.

Their faces were somewhat gloomy at the end of the discussion; and a heavy silence had fallen on them. Then of a sudden the face of the Terror brightened; and he said with a touch of triumph in his tone: "I've got it; we'll feed them on skim-milk."

"They feed pigs on skim-milk, not kittens," said Erebus scornfully.

That was indeed the practise at Little Deeping. Butter-making was its chief industry; and the skim-milk went to the pigs.

"If it fattens pigs, it will fatten kittens," said the Terror firmly.

"But how can we get it? They don't sell it about here," said Erebus. "And you know what they are: if Granfeytner didn't sell skim-milk, nobody's going to sell skim-milk to-day."

"Oh, yes: old Stubbs will sell it," said the Terror confidently.

"Old Stubbs! But he hates us worse than any one!" cried Erebus.

"Oh, yes; he doesn't like us. But he's awfully keen on money; every one says so. And he won't care whose money he gets so long as he gets it. Come on; we'll go and talk to him about it," said the Terror.

The Twins went firmly across the common to the house of farmer Stubbs and knocked resolutely. The maid, who was well aware that her master and the Twins were not on friendly terms, admitted them with some hesitation. The Twins had never entered the farmer's house before, though they had often entered his orchard; and they felt slightly uncomfortable. They found the parlor into which they were shown uncommonly musty.

Presently Mr. Stubbs came to them, pulling doubtfully at the Newgate fringe that ran bristling under his chin, with a look of deep suspicion in his small, ferrety, red-rimmed eyes. Even when he learned that they had come on business, his face did not brighten till the Terror incidentally dropped a sovereign on the floor and talked of cash payments. Then his face shone; he made the admission, cautiously, that he might be induced to sell skim-milk; and then they came to the discussion of prices. Mr. Stubbs wanted to see skim-milk in quarts; the Terror could only see it in pails; and this difference of point of view nearly brought the negotiations to an abrupt end twice. But the Terror's suavity prevented a complete break; and in the end they struck a bargain that he should have as much skim-milk as he required at threepence halfpenny the pailful.

In the course of the next fortnight they admitted twelve more kittens to the home; and the Terror had yet another idea. Milk alone seemed an insufficient diet for them; and he approached the village baker on the matter of stale bread. There were more negotiations; and in the end the Terror made a contract with the baker for a supply of it at nearly his own price. Now he fed the kittens on bread and milk; they throve on it; and it went further than plain milk.

The Twins enjoyed but little leisure. They had been busy filling certain shelves, which they had fixed up above the cat-hutches, with the best apples the more peaceful and sparsely populated parts of the countryside afforded. But what spare time he had the Terror devoted to a great feat of painting. He painted in white letters on a black board:-

LADY RYEHAMPTON'S CATS' HOME

The letters varied somewhat in size, and they were not everything that could be desired in the matter of shape; but both Erebus and Wiggins agreed that it was extraordinarily effective, and that if ever their aunt saw it she would be deeply gratified.

With this final open advertisement of their enterprise ready to be fixed up, they felt that the time had come to take their mother formally into their confidence. She had learned of the formation of the cats' home from old Sarah; and several of her neighbors had talked to her about it, and seemed surprised by her inability to give them details about its ultimate scope and purpose, for it had excited the interest of the neighborhood and was a frequent matter of discussion for fully a week. She had explained to them that she never interfered with the Twins when they were engaged in any harmless employment, and that she was only too pleased that they had found a harmless employment that filled as much of their time as did the cats' home. Moreover, the Terror had told her that they did not wish her to see it till it had been brought to its finished state and was in thorough working order. Therefore she had no idea of its size or of the cost of its construction. Like every one else she supposed it to be a ramshackle affair of makeshifts constructed from old planks and hen-coops.

Moreover she had not learned that the Twins possessed bicycles, for they were judicious in their use. They were careful to sally forth when she was taking her siesta after lunch; they went across the common and came back across the common and their neighbors saw them riding very little.

When at last she was invited to come to see their finished work, she accepted the invitation with becoming delight, and made her inspection of the home with a becoming seriousness and a growing surprise. She expressed her admiration of its convenience, its cleanliness, and the extensive scale on which it was being run. She agreed with the Terror that to have saved so many kittens from the awful death of drowning was a great work. But she asked no questions, not even how it was that the cats' home was fragrant with the scent of hidden apples. She knew that an explanation, probably of an admirable plausibility, was about to be given her.

Then at the end of her inspection, the Terror said carelessly: "The bicycles are for bringing kittens from a distance, of course."

"What? Are those your bicycles?" cried Mrs. Dangerfield. "But wherever did you get the money from to buy them?"

"Aunt Amelia found the money," said the Terror. "You know she's very keen-tremendously interested in cats' homes. She thinks we are doing a great work, as well as you."

Mrs. Dangerfield's beautiful eyes were very wide open; and she said rather breathlessly: "You got money out of your Aunt Amelia for a cats' home in Little Deeping?"

"Oh, yes," said the Terror carelessly.

Mrs. Dangerfield turned away hastily to hide her working face: she must not laugh at their great-aunt before the Twins. She bit her tongue with a firmness that filled her eyes with tears. It was painful; but it enabled her to complete her inspection with the required gravity.

The Terror fixed up the board above the door of the home; and it awoke a fresh interest among their neighbors in their enterprise. Several of them, including the squire and the vicar, made visits of inspection to it; and Wiggins brought his father. All of them expressed an admiration of the institution and of the methods on which it was conducted. To one another they expressed an unfavorable opinion of the intelligence of Lady Ryehampton.

The home was now working quite smoothly; and with a clear conscience the Twins drew their salary for "overseering." It provided them with many of the less expensive desires of their hearts. Now and again Erebus, mindful of the fact that they had still a little more than ten pounds left out of the original thirty, urged that it should be raised to a shilling a week. But the Terror would not consent: he said thei

r salaries for "overseeing" would naturally be much higher, and that they would have charged for their work in constructing the home, if it had not been for the bicycles. As it was, they were bound to work off the price of the bicycles. Besides, he added with a philosophical air, six-pence a week for a year was much better than a shilling a week for six months.

Lady Ryehampton was duly informed that the home now contained twenty-three inmates; and the children of Great Deeping, Muttle (probably a corruption of Middle) Deeping, and Little Deeping were informed that for the time being the home was full. Erebus clamored to have its full complement of thirty kittens made up; but the Terror maintained very firmly his contention that twenty-three was quite enough. Everything was working smoothly. Then one evening just before dinner there came a loud ringing at the front-door bell.

It was so loud and so importunate that with one accord the Twins dashed for the door; and Erebus opened it. On the steps stood their Uncle Maurice; and he wore a harried air.

"Why, it's Uncle Maurice!" cried Erebus springing upon him and embracing him warmly.

"It's Uncle Maurice, mother!" cried the Terror.

"It may be your Uncle Maurice, but I can tell you he's by no means sure of it himself! Is it my head or my heels I'm standing on?" said Sir Maurice faintly, and he wiped his burning brow.

On his words there came up the steps the porter of Little Deeping station, laden with wicker baskets. From the baskets came the sound of mewing.

"Whatever is it?" cried Mrs. Dangerfield, kissing her brother.

"Cats for the cats' home!" said Sir Maurice Falconer.

He waved his startled kinsfolk aside while the baskets were ranged in a neat row on the floor of the hall, then he paid the porter, feebly, and shut the door after him with an air of exhaustion. He leaned back against it and said:

"I had a sudden message-Aunt Amelia is going to pay a surprise visit to this inf-this cats' home these little friends are pretending to run for her. I saw that there was no time to lose-there must be a cats' home with cats in it-or she'd cut them both out of her will. I bought cats-all over London-they've been with me ever since-yowling-they yowled in the taxi-all over London-they traveled down as far as Rowington with me and an old gentleman-a high-spirited old gentleman-yowling-not only the cats but the old gentleman, too--and they traveled from Rowington to Little Deeping with me and two maiden ladies-timid maiden ladies!-yowling! But come on: we've got to make a cats' home at once!" And he picked up one of the plaintive baskets with the air of a man desperately resolved to act on the instant or perish.

"But we've got a cats' home-only it's full of kittens," said Erebus gently.

"Good heavens! Do you mean to say I've gone through this nightmare for nothing?" cried Sir Maurice, dropping the basket.

"Oh, no; it was awfully good of you!" said the Terror with swift politeness. "The cats will come in awfully useful."

"They'll make the home look so much more natural. All kittens isn't natural," said Erebus.

"And they'll be such a pleasant surprise for Aunt Amelia. She was only expecting kittens," said the Terror.

"What?" howled Sir Maurice. "Do you mean to say I've parleyed for hours with a high-spirited gentleman and two-two-timid maiden ladies, just to give your Aunt Amelia a pleasant surprise?"

He sank into a chair and wiped his beaded brow feebly. "I ought to have had more confidence in you," he said faintly. "I ought to know your powers by now. And I did. I know well that any people who have dealings with you are likely to get a surprise; but I thought your Aunt Amelia was going to get it; and I've got it myself."

"But you didn't think that we would humbug Aunt Amelia?" said the Terror in a pained tone and with the most virtuous air.

"Gracious, no!" cried Sir Maurice. "I only thought that you might possibly induce her to humbug herself."

The Twins looked at him doubtfully: there seemed to them more in his words than met the ear.

"You must be wanting your dinner dreadfully," said Mrs. Dangerfield. "And I'm afraid there's very little for you. But I'll make you an omelette."

"I can not dine amid this yowling," said Sir Maurice firmly, waving his hand over the vocal baskets. "These animals must be placed out of hearing, or I shan't be able to eat a morsel."

"We'll put them in the cats' home," said the Terror quickly. "I'll just put on a pair of thick gloves. Wiggins' father-he's a higher mathematician, you know, and understands all this kind of thing-says that hydrophobia is very rare among cats. But it's just as well to be careful with these London ones."

"Oh, lord, I never thought of that," said Sir Maurice with a shudder. "I've been risking my life as well!"

The Terror put on the gloves and lighted a lantern. He and Erebus helped carry the cats down to the home; and he put them into hutches. Their uncle was much impressed by the arrangement of the home.

The cats disposed of, Sir Maurice at last recovered his wonted self-possession-a self-possession as admirable as the serenity of the Terror, but not so durable. At dinner he reduced his appreciative kinsfolk to the last exhaustion by his entertaining account of his parleying with his excited fellow travelers. He could now view it with an impartial mind. After dinner he accompanied the Terror to the cats' home and helped him feed the newcomers with scraps. The rest of the evening passed peacefully and pleasantly.

If the Twins had a weakness, it was that their desire for thoroughness sometimes caused them to overdo things; and it was on the way to bed that the brilliant idea flashed into the mind of Erebus.

She stopped short on the stairs, and with an air of inspiration said: "We ought to have more cats."

The Terror stopped short too, pondering the suggestion; then he said: "By Jove, yes. This would be a good time to work that valerian dodge. And it would mean that we should have to use our bicycles again for the good of the home. The more we can say that we've used them for it, the less any one can grumble about them."

"Most cats are shut up now," said Erebus.

"Yes; we must catch the morning cats. They get out quite early-when people start out to work," said the Terror.

Among the possessions of the Twins was an American clock fitted with an alarm. The Terror set it for half past five. At that hour it awoke him with extreme difficulty. He awoke Erebus with extreme difficulty. Five minutes later they were munching bread and butter in the kitchen to stay themselves against the cold of the bitter November morning; then they sallied forth, equipped with rags, string and the bottle of valerian.

They bicycled to Muttle Deeping. There the Terror poured valerian on one of the rags and tied it to the bicycle of Erebus. Forthwith she started to trail it to the cats' home. He rode on to Great Deeping and trailed a rag from there through Little Deeping to the cats' home. When he reached it he found Erebus' bicycle in its corner; and when, after strengthening the trail through the little hanging door with a rag freshly wetted with the drug, he returned to the house, he found that she was already in bed again. He made haste back to bed himself.

It had been their intention to go down to the home before breakfast and put the cats they had attracted to it into hutches. But they slept on till breakfast was ready; and the fragrance of the coffee and bacon lured them straight into the dining-room. After all, as Erebus told the hesitating Terror, there was plenty of time to deal with the new cats, for Aunt Amelia could not reach Little Deeping before eleven o'clock. They could not escape from the home. The Twins therefore devoted their most careful attention to their breakfast with their minds quite at ease.

Then there came a ring at the front door; and still their minds were at ease, for they took it that it was a note or a message from a neighbor. Then Sarah threw open the dining-room door, said "Please, ma'am, it's Lady Ryehampton"; and their Aunt Amelia stood, large, round and formidable, on the threshold. Behind her stood Miss Hendersyde looking very anxious.

There was a heavy frown on Lady Ryehampton's stern face; and when they rose to welcome her, she greeted them with severe stiffness. To Erebus, the instructor of parrots, she gave only one finger.

Then in deep portentous tones she said: "I came down to pay a surprise visit to your cats' home. I always do. It's the only way I can make sure that the poor dear things are receiving proper treatment." The frown on her face grew rhadamanthine. "And last night I saw your Uncle Maurice at the station-he did not see me-with cats, London cats, in baskets. On the labels of two of the baskets I read the names of well-known London cat-dealers. I do not support a cats' home at Little Deeping for London cats bought at London dealers. Why have they been brought here?"

Sir Maurice opened his mouth to explain; but the Terror was before him:

"It was Uncle Maurice's idea," he said. "He didn't think that there ought only to be kittens in a cats' home. We didn't mind ourselves; and of course, if he puts cats in it, he'll have to subscribe to the home. What we have started it for was kittens-to save them from the awful death of drowning. We wrote and told you. And we've saved quite a lot."

His limpid blue eyes were wells of candor.

Lady Ryehampton uttered a short snort; and her eyes flashed.

"Do you mean to tell me that your Uncle Maurice is fond enough of cats to bring them all the way from London to a cats' home at Deeping? He hates cats, and always has!" she said fiercely.

"Of course, I hate cats," said Sir Maurice with cold severity. "But I hate children's being brought up to be careless a great deal more. A cats' home is not a cats' home unless it has cats in it; and you've been encouraging these children to grow up careless by calling a kittens' home a cats' home. If you will interfere in their up-bringing, you have no right to do your best to get them into careless ways."

Taken aback at suddenly finding herself on the defensive Lady Ryehampton blinked at him somewhat owlishly: "That's all very well," she said in a less severe tone. "But is there a kittens' home at all-a kittens' home with kittens in it? That's what I want to know."

"But we wrote and told you how many kittens we had in the cats' home. You don't think we'd deceive you, Aunt Amelia?" said the Terror in a deeply injured tone and with a deeply injured air.

"There! I told you that if he said he had kittens in it, there would be," said Miss Hendersyde with an air of relief.

"Of course there's a cats' home with kittens in it!" said Mrs. Dangerfield with some heat. "The Terror wouldn't lie to you!"

"Hyacinth is incapable of deceit!" cried Sir Maurice splendidly.

The Terror did his best to look incapable of deceit; and it was a very good best.

In some confusion Lady Ryehampton began to stammer: "Well, of c-c-c-course, if there's a c-c-cats' home-but Sir Maurice's senseless interference-"

"Senseless interference! Do you call saving children from careless habits senseless interference?" cried Sir Maurice indignantly.

"You had no business to interfere without consulting me," said Lady Ryehampton. Then, with a return of suspicion, she said: "But I want to see this cats' home-now!"

"I'll take you at once," said the Terror quickly, and politely he opened the door.

They all went, Mrs. Dangerfield snatching a hooded cloak, Sir Maurice his hat and coat from pegs in the hall as they went through it. When they came into the paddock their ears became aware of a distant high-pitched din; and the farther they went down it the louder and more horrible grew the din.

Over the broad round face of Lady Ryehampton spread an expression of suspicious bewilderment; Mrs. Dangerfield's beautiful eyes were wide open in an anxious wonder; the piquant face of Erebus was set in a defiant scowl; and Sir Maurice looked almost as anxious as Mrs. Dangerfield. Only the Terror was serene.

"Surely those brutes I brought haven't got out of their cages," said Sir Maurice.

"Oh, no; those must be visiting cats," said the Terror calmly.

"Visiting cats?" said Lady Ryehampton and Sir Maurice together.

"Yes: we encourage the cats about here to come to the home so that if ever they are left homeless they will know where to come," said the Terror, looking at Lady Ryehampton with eyes that were limpid wells of guilelessness.

"Now that's a very clever idea!" she exclaimed. "I must tell the managers of my other homes about it and see whether they can't do it, too. But what are these cats doing?"

"It sounds as if they were quarreling," said the Terror calmly.

It did sound as if they were quarreling; at the door of the home the din was ear-splitting, excruciating, fiendish. It was as if the voices of all the cats in the county were raised in one piercing battle-song.

The Terror bade his kinsfolk stand clear; then he threw open the door-wide. Cats did not come out.… A large ball of cats came out, gyrating swiftly in a haze of flying fur. Ten yards from the door it dissolved into its component parts, and some thirty cats tore, yelling, to the four quarters of the heavens.

After that stupendous battle-song the air seemed thick with silence.

The Terror broke it; he said in a tone of doubting sadness: "I sometimes think it sets a bad example to the kittens."

Sir Maurice turned livid in the grip of some powerful emotion. He walked hurriedly round to the back of the home to conceal it from human ken. There with his handkerchief stuffed into his mouth, he leaned against the wall, and shook and rocked and kicked the irresponsive bricks feebly.

But the serene Terror firmly ushered Lady Ryehampton into the home with an air of modest pride. A little dazed, she entered upon a scene of perfect, if highly-scented, peace. Twenty-three kittens and eight cats sat staring earnestly through bars of their hutches in a dead stillness. Their eyes were very bright. By a kindly provision of nature they had been able, in the darkness, to follow the fortunes of that vociferous fray.

In three minutes Lady Ryehampton had forgotten the battle-song. She was charmed, lost in admiration of the home, of the fatness and healthiness of the blinking kittens, the neatness and the cleanliness. She gushed enthusiastic approbation. "To think," she cried, "that you have done this yourself! A boy of thirteen!"

"Erebus did quite as much as I did," said the Terror quickly.

"And Wiggins helped a lot. He's a friend of ours," said Erebus no less quickly.

Lady Ryehampton's face softened to Erebus-to Erebus, the instructor of parrots.

Sir Maurice joined them. His eyes were red and moist, as if they had but now been full of tears.

"It's a very creditable piece of work," he said in a tone of warm approval.

Lady Ryehampton looked round the home once more; and her face fell. She said uneasily: "But you must be heavily in debt."

"In debt?" said the Terror. "Oh, no; we couldn't be. Mother would hate us to be in debt."

"I thought-a cats' home-oh, but I am glad I brought my check-book with me!" cried Lady Ryehampton.

She could not understand why Sir Maurice uttered a short sharp howl. She did not know that the Terror dug him sharply in the ribs as Erebus kicked him joyfully on the ankle-bone; that they had simultaneously realized that the future of the home, the wages of "overseering," were secure.

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