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   Chapter 9 GEORGE W. AND MARTHA.

Cricket at the Seashore By Elizabeth Weston Timlow Characters: 13187

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


A rattling, banging, clattering sound, like a small army of tin pans on a rampage, suddenly woke the echoes one still, sultry afternoon. Auntie Jean thought it was the circus, and sighed as she wondered if they were going to keep it up long enough to make it worth while for her to leave her cool room and her afternoon nap, to go and stop them. Grandma heard it, and supposed it was Cricket, trying some new experiment as a tinware merchant, and hoped she would soon turn her attention to some different employment. Cricket heard it, and promptly started for the scene of action, meeting, in the hall, Eunice and Edna, who came running down-stairs, as well as the boys, who appeared from the kitchen, where they had been foraging for a mid-afternoon lunch.

The disturbance came from the front piazza, but when they went out there nothing, for a moment, was visible, though the same mysterious whacking and banging went on, under the table.

"What is it?" they all exclaimed, but straightway the question was solved, for out from under the table-cover backed a half-grown black kitten, with its head firmly wedged into a tin tomato can. Backing and scratching, as a cat will when its head is covered, the poor little thing, evidently half frantic, tumbled up against the chairs and the side of the house, mewing most frightfully and banging its inconvenient headdress against the piazza floor.

"You poor little cat! Has some horrid boy been abusing you?" cried Cricket, making a dive for it, but dropping it, when she caught it, with equal promptness, as its sharp claws tore her hands. "Why, stop! you dreadful little thing! How you hurt me!"

"Pick it up, boys," begged Edna, as the cat resumed its backward way. "Do get that can off. How did any one ever get it on, do you suppose? Here, kitty! kitty!"

"Curiosity killed a cat, they say," said Will, watching his chance at it. "I suppose it wanted to see the inside of that can, and now that it has seen it, it isn't satisfied. There's no suiting some people. There you are, sir!" and Will, having caught the table-cloth from the table, sending the magazines and papers in a shower to the floor, threw it over the poor little black thing, so that, in picking it up, he could muffle its claws, so that it could not scratch. Its neck was torn a little, with the sharp, rough edges of the tin can, and a redoubled chorus of frightened meows greeted his first attempt to remove it.

"Should think a whole orchestra of cats was shut up in here," Will observed, trying another direction. "Arch, get out your knife, and see if you can rip up this can a little. Jove, but it's snug! We can dispense with a little of that music, my fine fellow. There-you-are," as Archie, with a final careful twist, drew off the can. Once out of its tin bondage, the little creature seemed too frightened to move, and suddenly curled down under the protecting table-cover, to restore its ruffled fur, with many a piteous mew.

The girls gathered around to pet and soothe it.

"Keep away, girls. Don't touch it yet with your hands. It's so frightened still it might scratch you. Here, Cricket, take it in the table-cloth, there. Better give it something to eat. It's a stray cat, and probably half starved, and that's why it tried to eat tomato cans, like a goat."

Cricket bore off her charge to the kitchen, where she fed and soothed it with such good effect that, when she came back, half an hour later, the little black cat cuddled down on her arm, purring like a teakettle in spite of its wounded neck.

"Isn't it a dear?" she said, admiringly. "I think grandma will let me keep it. We haven't any cat in the house since Wallops died, and I love them."

Grandma was entirely willing that the little waif should be added to the family, and so it was legally adopted by Cricket, with all sorts of solemn ceremonies. Then came the naming it, always a serious difficulty.

"I want a very appropriate name," meditated Cricket, aloud.

"The Cat in the Iron Mask," suggested Will.

"Too long. Think of calling all that out when I want him in a hurry."

"Cantankerous," said Archie.

"No, I want a regular name."

"Can-on Farrar, then. That's a regular name, and it's a very appropriate one."

"I don't like that, either. I want just a plain, common, every-day sort of name, like George Washington."

"Very well, take George Washington, then. That is very appropriate indeed. He couldn't tell a lie, and probably your cat can't either."

"Do you think he's dignified enough to be called George Washington!" asked Cricket, doubtfully, watching the Nameless jump around after his tail. She had had him for two days now, and he had quite recovered from his tinny imprisonment. He proved to be a most well-bred and entertaining little cat, for he came when he was called and went when he was bid, in orthodox fashion, and made himself entirely at home.

"Probably George was frisky in his youth," said Will. "Especially when he was courting Martha."

"Then I'll do this: I'll call him George Washington as far as his tail, and I'll call that Martha, because he runs after it. Come here, George W., you've run after Martha long enough now. Come here, and be christened."

FEEDING GEORGE WASHINGTON-"CRICKET BORE OFF HER CHARGE TO THE KITCHEN"

And so George Washington he remained to the end of the chapter. He soon learned his name, and would come flying at the first sound of it. He proved to be a pet that required considerable attention. He was of an especially sociable nature, and, if left alone in any room, he would howl in mournful and prolonged meows, that speedily brought some one to the rescue. He tagged the girls like a little dog, and would stand on the shore crying like a child if they went off in the boat and would not take him. He slept in Cricket's bed at night, and if by any chance he was shut out when the family went to bed, and the house was locked up, he would make night hideous with lamentations, to an extent that would soon bring some one down to let him in.

One day the familiar meow sounded, and Cricket, who was curled up in the hammock, reading, instantly sprang up.

"There's George W.," for so his name was generally abbreviated, "and he's shut up somewhere, and I let him out myself only a few minutes ago. I believe he gets into places through the keyholes, and I don't see why he doesn't get out through 'em."

But George was not to be found in any of his usual haunts, and his meows ceasing, Cricket went back to her book. Presently, a prolonged cry was heard again, and agai

n Cricket started in quest of him. She looked and called everywhere, but George W. was nowhere to be found, though his meow, with a quality peculiar to himself, seemed to come from no particular place, but to pervade the air generally.

"Come and help me find George W.," she called to Eunice and Edna, who were also on the piazza. "He's mewing dreadfully, and I can't find him."

"He's worse than a baby," said Eunice, unwinding herself from the comfortable, twisted-up position in the steamer chair, which she loved. "Couldn't you let him cry a little while and give him a lesson?"

"I wouldn't mind giving him a lesson, but I'm afraid he'd give me one in patience," returned Cricket, laughing. "I'm sure I don't want to listen to that music long. There, he's stopped again, now."

But five minutes later, George W. renewed his complaints.

"Now I'm going to let him cry!" said Cricket, returning in despair from another search. So down she sat, shutting her ears to outside sounds in her comfortable fashion.

Presently grandma appeared at the hall door.

"Cricket, my dear, George Washington seems to want something. Don't you think you'd better try and find him?"

"Grandma, he's been crying and weeping for an hour at least, and I just can't find him. But I'll look again."

But wherever George W. was, he was certainly securely hidden. He cried now and then at intervals, but it was impossible to locate the sound, since it came first from one side, then from another.

"He's between the floors somewhere," said Will, who had joined the search. "The question is, where?"

"We'll have to decide that question at once," said auntie, "because we can scarcely have all the floors in the house taken up. How could he have gotten in?"

"Perhaps through some small hole in the garret floor. He's probably forgotten the way back. Or, perhaps there's some hole down cellar where he got inside, and ran up after the mice."

"Perhaps the mice have gotten the best of him, and are tearing him limb from limb," suggested Archie, making such a horrible face that Helen retreated behind Aunt Jean in terror.

All the afternoon they followed the sounds at intervals, listening at the floor, and calling over and over. George W. seemed to be exploring the entire interior of the house. Late in the afternoon, the cries came more constantly from the floor of the trunkroom, a small apartment off the garret, and directly over Eunice's room. There was a small knot-hole in the floor, and the light from a window fell directly on it, probably attracting George W. there. Saws and hatchets were brought, and the boys soon had a piece of the floor up, making a hole large enough for several cats the size of George to come up.

"George evidently likes this sort of thing," said Archie, hacking away. "First the tin can, then the floor. Come out here, old fellow." But he was evidently frightened away by the noise, and could not be induced to come up.

"Bring a saucer of milk, Edna," said Mrs. Somers. "Stand it at one side, and then we will all go away and he will soon come up." So the milk was brought, and as it was supper-time, they all went down and left George W. to his own devices. Cricket was much disposed to stay and make sure that he came up, but she was finally persuaded to come down with the rest.

"Isn't it funny how his voice came from all over?" she said, at the supper-table. "Probably he was right there under the trunkroom floor all the time. He was a regular philanthropist."

"A regular what?" asked grandma and Auntie Jean, together.

"A philanthropist. Don't you know? a man who-who talks where he isn't?"

"A ventriloquist!" said Will. "That's what you mean."

"Do I? Auntie, what is a philanthropist, then?"

"A philanthropist is one who loves man, dear, and who-"

"Then when a girl's engaged, is she a philanthropist?" broke in Cricket, with her glass of milk half raised. The others all laughed.

"She is, very often," said grandma.

"I know the man she is engaged to is called her financé, but I never knew she was called a philanthropist," went on Cricket, thoughtfully.

There was another shout.

"Fiancé, dear," said auntie, as soon as she could speak, "and the girl isn't often called a philanthropist, though she often is one."

"Dear me," sighed Cricket. "Words are very puzzling. They seem to be made to say what you don't think."

"Oftentimes, my little Talleyrand," said grandma.

After supper, Cricket ran up to see if George W. had made his appearance yet. A few moments later, the household, assembled on the front piazza, was startled by a crash and a scream in Cricket's voice. With one accord, everybody rushed up-stairs. The sounds seemed to come from Eunice's room. As they opened the door, a cloud of dust poured out, from a mass of plaster that lay on the floor, while from a hole in the ceiling a length of black-stockinged leg kicked wildly. Above, a pair of fists beat a tattoo on the floor, while Cricket called, loudly:

"For goodness' sake, somebody come and pull me up; I'm breaking my other leg off."

Will sprang for the garret stairs, stumbling headlong, at the top, over George W., who took the opportunity to spring over his head, alighting right in the midst of the group of eager children, each of whom was trying to get up-stairs first, and in a moment everybody lay on top of everybody else, at the foot of the staircase.

Will, meantime, found his feet, and went to Cricket's rescue. It was dark in the trunkroom, under the eaves, but there was light enough to see Cricket, with one leg stretched out straight, and the other one so firmly wedged into the hole in the floor that she could not move.

"My leg feels as George W.'s head must have when he was caught in the tomato can," said Cricket, as Will drew up. "It's a pretty tight squeeze. I don't believe there's any skin left on it. I just came up quickly, and I couldn't see very well, and the first thing I knew my foot slipped into a hole, and there was not any floor there, and I slumped through."

"Are you hurt? Is Cricket hurt?" cried everybody, scrambling in, in hot haste.

"Not much," said Cricket, ruefully, feeling her barked knee. "I came down pretty hard on my elbow, and I nearly knocked it up to the top of my head, and my back feels funny, but I'm not hurt, not a bit!"

"What a mercy the child didn't fall all the way through, and go down on the lower floor," said grandma, who had just arrived on the scene.

"Why, I couldn't," said Cricket, surprised. "My other leg stopped me."

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