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   Chapter 19 No.19

What Timmy Did By Marie Belloc Lowndes Characters: 12025

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Two hours later Janet Tosswill, after having tried in vain to read herself to sleep, got out of bed and put on her dressing gown. Somehow she felt anxious about Timmy. She had gone to his room on her way up to bed; but, hearing no sound, she had crept away, hoping that he had already cried himself to sleep.

All sorts of curious theories and suspicions drifted through her mind as she lay, tossing this way and that, trying to fall asleep. She wondered uneasily why Timmy had brought Josephine at all into the drawing-room. Of course there had been nothing exactly wrong in his doing so, though, as Betty had justly remarked, it was a stupid thing to do so soon after the birth of the cat's kittens. And Timmy was not stupid.

Janet told herself crossly that it was almost as if Mrs. Crofton had the evil eye, as far as animals were concerned! There had come back to her the unpleasant scene which had occurred on the first evening their late guest had come to Old Place, when Flick, most cheerful and happy-minded of terriers, had behaved in such an extraordinary fashion. But disagreeable as that affair had been, it was nothing to what had happened to-night.

She felt she would never forget the scene which had followed on the white cat's attack on Mrs. Crofton. And yet, while concerned and sorry, she had been shocked at the poor young woman's utter lack of self-control.

It was quite true, as Betty had somewhat bitterly remarked, that she, Janet Tosswill, did not care for cats. Unfortunately there was a certain sentimental interest attached to Josephine, for she had been brought from France as a kitten, a present from Betty to Timmy, by an officer who had been George's closest pal. She was also ruefully aware that old Nanna would very much resent the disappearance of "French pussy," as she had always called Josephine. As for Timmy, Janet had never seen her boy look as he had looked to-night since the dreadful day that they had received the War Office telegram about George.

Leaving her room, she walked along the corridor till she came to Timmy's door. She tried the handle, and, finding with relief that the door was unlocked, walked in. At once there came a voice across the room, "Is that you, Mum?"

"Yes, Timmy, it's Mum."

Shutting the door, she felt her way across the room and came and sat down on Timmy's bed. He was sitting up, wide awake.

She put her arms round him. "I'm so sorry," she said feelingly; "so sorry, Timmy, about your poor cat! But you know, my dear, that if-if she were left alive, we could never feel comfortable for a single moment. You see, when an animal has done that sort of thing once, it may do it again."

"Josephine would never do it again," said Timmy obstinately, and he caught his breath with a sob.

"You can't possibly know that, my dear. She would of course have other kittens, and then some day, when some perfectly harmless person happened to come anywhere near her, she would fly at him or her, just as she did at Mrs. Crofton."

"No, she wouldn't-she didn't do anything like that when she had her last kittens."

"I know that, Timmy. But you heard what Dr. O'Farrell said."

"Dr. O'Farrell isn't God," said Timmy scornfully.

"No, my dear, Dr. O'Farrell is certainly not God; but he is a very sensible, humane human being-and the last man to condemn even an animal to death, without good reason."

There was a rather painful pause. Janet Tosswill felt as if the child were withdrawing himself from her, both in a physical and in a mental sense.

"Mum?" he said in a low, heart-broken voice.

"Yes, my dear?"

"I want to tell you something."

"Yes, Timmy?"

"It's I who ought to be shot, not Josephine. It was all my fault. It had nothing to do with her."

"I don't know what you mean, Timmy. You mustn't talk in that exaggerated way. Of course it was foolish of you to bring the cat into the drawing-room, but still, you couldn't possibly have known that she would fly at Mrs. Crofton, or you wouldn't have done it."

"I did think she'd fly at Mrs. Crofton," he whispered.

Janet felt disagreeably startled. "What d'you mean, Timmy? D'you mean that you saw the cat fly at her before it happened?"

She had known the boy to have such strange, vivid premonitions of events which had come to pass.

But Timmy answered slowly: "No, I don't mean that. I mean, Mum, that I wanted to try an experiment. I wanted to see if Josephine would see what Flick saw-I mean if she'd see the ghost of Colonel Crofton's dog. She did, for the dog was close to Mrs. Crofton's arm-the arm hanging over the side of the sofa, you know."

"Oh, Timmy! How very, very wrong of you to do such a thing!"

"I know it was wrong." Timmy twisted himself about. "But it's no good you saying that to me now-it only makes me more miserable."

"But I have to say so, my boy." Janet was not a Scotch mother for nothing. "I have to say so, Timmy, and I shall not be sorry this happened, if it makes you behave in a different way-as I hope it will-the whole of your life long."

"It won't-I won't let it-if anything is done to Josephine!"

But she went on, a little desperately, yet speaking in a quiet, collected way: "I believe the things you say, Timmy. I believe you do see things which other people are not allowed to see. But that ought to make you far, far more careful-not less careful. Try to be an instrument for good, not for evil, my dear, dear child."

Timmy did not answer at once, but at last he said in a queer, muffled voice: "If I were to tell Dr. O'Farrell what I did, do you think it would make any difference? Do you think that he'd let Josephine go on being alive?"

"No," his mother answered, sadly, "I don't think it would make any difference."

"I thought by what the doctor said at first that they were going to take Josephine somewhere to see if she was really mad," said Timmy in a choking voice, "just as they did to Captain Berner's dog last year."

Janet Tosswill got up from her litt

le boy's bed. She lit a candle. Poor Timmy! She had never seen the boy looking as he was looking now; he seemed utterly spent with misery.

"I'll tell you what I'll do, my dear. I'll speak to Dr. O'Farrell myself in the morning, and I'll ask him whether something can't be done in the way of a reprieve. I'll tell him we don't mind paying for Josephine to be sent away for a bit to a vet."

Hope, ecstatic hope, flashed into Timmy's tear-stained face. "You mean to a man like Trotman?"

"Yes, that's what I do mean. But I mustn't raise false hopes. I fear Dr. O'Farrell has made up his mind; he promised Mrs. Crofton the cat should be shot. Still, I'll do my very best."

Timmy put his skinny arms round his mother's neck.

"I'm glad you're my mother, Mum," he muttered, "and not my step-mother."

She smiled for the first time. "That's rather a double-edged compliment, if I may say so! But I suppose it's true that I would do a good deal more for you than I would for any of the others."

"I didn't mean that," exclaimed Timmy, shocked. "I only meant that I wouldn't love you as well. I don't mean ever to be a step-father-I shall start a lot of boys and girls of my own."

"All right," she said soothingly, "I'm sure you will. Lie down now, and try to go to sleep." She hoped with all her heart that the boy would sleep late the next morning, as he very often did when tired out, and that the execution, if execution there must be, would be over by the time he woke.

She bent down, tucked him up, kissed him, blew out the candle, and then went quickly out of the room.

* * *

As soon as his mother had shut the door, Timmy sat up in bed, and then he gave a smothered cry. It was as if he had seen flash out into the darkness his beloved cat's wistful face, her beautiful, big, china-blue eyes, gazing confidently at him, as if to say, "You'll save me, Master, won't you?"

He listened intently for a few minutes, then he slipped down and felt his way to the door. He opened it; but there came no sound from the sleeping house. Closing the door very, very softly, he lit his candle and rapidly dressed himself in his day clothes, finally putting on a thick pair of walking shoes, and over them goloshes. Timmy hated goloshes, and never wore them if he could help it, but he had read in some detective story that they deadened sound.

Then he blew his candle out, and again he went across to the door and listened. Opening it at last, he slithered along the familiar corridor till he reached the three shallow steps which led up to the comparatively new part of Old Place. There he felt his way with his fingers along the wall to the room which had always been called, as long as he could remember, "George's room." Turning the handle of the door slowly, he saw, to his great surprise and gladness, that his godfather was not asleep.

Radmore was sitting up in bed, reading luxuriously by the light of four candles which he had placed on a table by his bedside.

"Hello!" he exclaimed, as his godson's odd-looking little figure shuffled across the room. "Why, what's the matter?" He spoke very kindly, for Timmy's face was scared, his eyes red-rimmed with crying.

"Come to have a chat, old boy? Why, Timmy-" as he suddenly realised the boy was fully dressed, "whatever have you been doing? I thought you'd gone to bed ever so long ago!"

"I've been in bed a long time," answered Timmy, sidling up close to his bed, "but I've just had a talk with Mum. I've come to ask you, Godfrey, if you'll help me with something very important." He added: "Even if you won't help me, I trust you to keep my secret."

"Of course I'll keep your secret, old son."

"I'm going to take Josephine and her kittens to Trotman," Timmy announced solemnly. "I've been wondering, coming along the passage, if you would take us there in your motor. But if you don't feel you want to do that, I'm going to walk. It's not very far, only seven miles if one goes by footpaths, and I could get a lift back."

"Trotman?" repeated Radmore. "Who's Trotman?"

It was Timmy's turn to be surprised. "I thought everyone-I mean every man-in the world, knew about Trotman! Why, there was an account of him once in the London Magazine. He's the famous vet-he lives at Epsom."

Radmore lay back, and whistled thoughtfully.

Timmy went on eagerly. "Last year there was a man near here who thought he had a mad dog-and he took him to Trotman. Trotman kept him for ever so long, and it turned out that the dog was not mad at all. I know that Josephine isn't mad."

"I don't think she's mad," said Radmore frankly, "but she's a pretty vicious brute, Timmy. Is this the first time she's ever flown at anyone?" He looked searchingly at his godson.

"The very first time of all," answered the boy passionately. "I know why Josephine flew at Mrs. Crofton-at least she didn't fly at her-at Mrs. Crofton. She flew at the dog Mrs. Crofton always has with her."

Radmore gave the child a long, steady look.

"Come, Timmy, you know as well as I do that Mrs. Crofton had no dog with her."

"She had a dog with her," repeated Timmy obstinately. "It's not a dog you can see, but I see him and Flick sees him. I wanted to see if Josephine would see him too. That's why I took her in there. So if she's shot it will be all my fault." His voice broke, and, covering his face with his hands, he turned his back on the bed and its occupant.

Radmore stared at the small heaving back. There could be no doubt that Timmy was speaking the truth now. "All right," he said quickly. "I'll do what you want, Timmy. So cheer up! I suppose you've got a big basket in which you can put your cat and her kittens? While I put on some clothes, you can go and get her ready. But I advise you for your own sake to be quiet. Our game will be all up, if your mother wakes. I simply shouldn't dare to disobey her, you know." He smiled quizzically at the child, and, as he mentioned Janet, he lowered his voice instinctively.

* * *

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