"D EAR me," said mother, "I can't think of having four cats in the house all winter."
"I should say you couldn't," laughed father; "you will have to give them away."
But there was the old kitty—father himself couldn't think of giving her away. She had been in the house ever since it was built, and there was not a better mouser anywhere. Then there were Toots and Jingle—it did seem a pity to part them, mother could but admit to herself.
They were black and white, and so near alike that you couldn't tell them apart unless you looked at their noses. Toots's nose was black, and Jingle's nose was white.
And then there was Timothy Titus. He was black and white, too, but a good deal more white than black.
"He is an odd one," laughed mother. "We might give him away first."
But Caroline made a grieved lip, and caught up Timothy Titus. "O-oh," said she, cuddling him close to her neck; "he is so cunning and sweet, mother, I can't bear to part with him."
By and by, when the kittens were taking their after-dinner nap by the fire, in came Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis lived on the other side of the river and peddled apples. He looked down at the little furry heap, and laughed. "Seems to me you have more than your share of cats," said he. "We haven't got any."
"Caroline may give you one of hers," said mother.
Caroline looked down at her shoes. Mr. Davis could tell which way the wind blew.
"Suppose we make a trade," he said to Caroline. "I'll give you a peck of sweet apples for one of these," and he picked up Timothy Titus.
Caroline looked up. A peck of sweet apples did not grow on every bush. Besides, maybe four cats were too many.
"I—I will, if mother will let me keep Toots and Jingle," she said.
Mother laughed; she did not like to promise. "We will see about it," she said; "three cats are less than four, anyway."
So Mr. Davis measured out a peck of sweet apples, and gave them to Caroline. And Caroline hugged and kissed and cried over Timothy Titus, and gave him to Mr. Davis, who put him in a basket and tied a bag over him.
"I guess he'll be all right," said Mr. Davis. "Good day," and away rumbled the apple cart.
But as soon as the apple cart was out of sight, Caroline began to mourn. She stood at the window with a very doleful face, looking across the river at Mr. Davis's big, white house. The sky had all at once grown cloudy, and the wind began to blow. And, as if to make a bad matter worse, Toots woke up and flew around the room in a fit.
"It is all because he knows that Timothy Titus is gone," sobbed Caroline, running to hide her head in her mother's lap. "How would I feel if Teddy were given away, where I'd never see him any more? And the apples are bitterish, too, and I don't like them. Oh, dear!"
But mother said that perhaps Timothy Titus would come home again. "I've heard of such things," she said. And then she told Caroline a story about a cat who traveled forty miles back to her old home.
"But I don't believe Timothy Titus can," sighed Caroline, but brightening up a little, "because he's over the river, and there isn't any bridge—only the ferry-boat. I 'most know he can't."
"Oh, stranger things than that have happened," said mother, hopefully.
But she was as surprised as Caroline was the next morning. When the kitchen door was opened—what do you think? In walked Timothy Titus, as large as life, if he were a little bit draggled as to his fur and muddy around his paws!
"Hello!" said father.
"Well, well!" said mother. "Why, Timothy Titus!"
Just at that minute Caroline came running out in her nightgown. She gave one look, and then she snatched Timothy Titus up in her arms.
"Oh, oh!" she screamed, too full of joy to do anything else for a minute. "Oh, you darling cat! How did he get here, mother?"
"I am sure I can't tell," said mother.
Neither could any one else, unless it was the ferryman, who, when father questioned him, said he did think he remembered seeing a little black and white cat sitting under the seat the night before. But he wasn't sure of it, and so Caroline couldn't be.
"Well, Timothy Titus has come back," she said, "and he is going to stay, isn't he, mother?" We can give Mr. Davis back his apples."
But Mr. Davis said a trade was a trade, and he wasn't going to take back the apples. And Timothy Titus stayed!
|— "The Youth's Companion"|