A VERY small, wet, and hungry Kitten pattered up and down a board walk one cold and rainy night. His fur was so soaked that it dripped water when he moved, and his poor little pink-cushioned paws splashed more water up from the puddly boards every time he stepped. His tail looked like a wet wisp of fur, and his little round face was very sad. "Meouw!" said he. "Meouw! Meouw!"
He heard somebody coming up the street. "I will follow that Gentleman," he thought, "and I will cry so that he will be sorry for me and give me a home."
When this person came nearer he saw that it was not a Gentleman at all, but a Lady who could hardly keep from being blown away. He could not have seen her except that Cat's eyes can see in the dark. "Meouw!" said the Kitten. "Meouw! Meouw!"
"Poor little Pussy!" said a voice above him. "Poor little Pussy! But you must not come with me."
"Meouw!" answered he, and trotted right along after her. He was a Kitten who was not easily discouraged. He rubbed up against her foot and made her stop for fear of stepping on him. Then he felt himself gently lifted up and put aside. He scrambled back and rubbed against her other foot. And so it was for more than two blocks. The Lady, as he always called her afterward, kept pushing him gently to one side and he kept scrambling back. Sometimes she even had to stand quite still for fear of stepping on him.
"Meouw!" said the Kitten, and he made up his mind that anybody who spoke so kindly to strange Kittens would be a good mistress. "I will stick to her," he said to himself. "I don't care how many times she pushes me away, I will scramble back."
When they turned in at the gate he saw a big house ahead of him with many windows brightly lighted and another light on the porch. "I like that home," he said to himself. "I will slip through the door when she opens it."
But after she had turned the key in the door she pushed him back and closed the screen between them. Then he heard her say: "Poor little Pussy! I want to take you in, but we have agreed not to adopt another Cat." Then she closed the door.
He wanted to explain that he was not really a Cat, only a little Kitten, but he had no chance to say anything, so he waited outside and thought and cried. He did not know that the Lady and her husband feared that Cats would eat the many birds who nested in the trees on the lawn. He thought it very hard luck for a tiny Kitten to be left out in the cold rain while the Lady was reading by a blazing grate fire. He did not know that as she sat by the fire she thought about him instead of her book, for she loved little Kittens, and found it hard to leave any out in the street alone.
While he was thinking and crying, a tall Gentleman with a black beard and twinkling brown eyes came striding up to the brightly lighted porch. "Well, Pussy-cat!" said the Gentleman, and took a bunch of shining, jingling things out of his pocket and stuck one of them into a little hole in the door and turned it. Then the door swung open, and the Gentleman, who was trying to close his umbrella and shake off the rain, called first to the Lady and then to the kitten. "O Clara!" he cried. "Come to see this poor little Kitten. Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty! I know you want to see him. Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty! I should have thought you would have heard him crying. Here, Kitty, Kitty, Kitty!"
The Lady came running out and was laughing. "Yes,
John," she said, "I have had the pleasure of meeting
him before. He was under my feet most of the way home
The Gentleman sat down upon the stairs and wiped the
Kitten off with his handkerchief.
"Not now," answered the Lady, "yet he will grow, if he is like most Kittens, and you know what we said. If we don't stick to it we will soon have as many Cats as we did a few years ago."
The Kitten saw that if he wanted to stay in this home he must insist upon it and be very firm indeed with these people. So he kept on crying and stuck his sharp claws into the Gentleman's sleeve. The Gentleman said "Ouch!" and lifted him to his coat lapel. There he clung and shook and cried.
"Well, I suppose we mustn't keep him then," said he; "but we will give him a warm supper anyway." So they got some milk and heated it, and set it in a shallow dish before the grate. How that Kitten did eat! The Lady sat on the floor beside him, and the Gentleman drew his chair up close, and they said that it seemed hard to turn him out, but that they would have to do it because they had promised each other.
The Kitten lapped up his milk with a soft click-clicking of his little pink tongue, and then turned his head this way and that until he had licked all the corners clean. He was so full of warm milk that his sides bulged out, and his fur had begun to dry and stuck up in pointed wisps all over him. He pretended to lap milk long after it was gone. This was partly to show them how well he could wash dishes, and partly to put off the time when he should be thrust out of doors.
The Kitten lapped up his milk.
When he really could not make believe any longer, his tongue being so tired, he began to cry and rub against these two people. The Gentleman was the first to speak. "I cannot stand this," he said. "If he has to go, I want to get if over." He picked up the Kitten and took him to the door. As fast as he loosened one of the Kitten's claws from his coat he stuck another one in, and at last the Lady had to help get him free. "He is a regular Rough Rider," said the Gentleman. "There is no shaking him off."
The Kitten didn't understand what a Rough Rider was, but it did not sound like finding a home, so he cried some more. Then the door was shut behind him and he was alone in the porch. "Well," he said, "I like that house and those people, even if they did put me out. I think I will make them adopt me." So he cuddled down in a sheltered, dry corner, put his four feet all close together, and curled his tail, as far as it would go, around them. And there he stayed all night.
In the morning, when the rain had stopped and the sun was shining brightly, he trotted around the house and cried. He went up on to another porch, rubbed against the door and cried. The Maid opened the door and put out some milk for him. He could see into the warm kitchen and smell the breakfast cooking on the range. When she came out to get the empty dish, he slipped in through the open door. She said "Whish!" and "Scat!" and "Shoo!" and tried to drive him out, but he pretended not to understand and cuddled quietly down in a corner where she could not easily reach him. Just then some food began to burn on the range and the Maid let him alone. The Kitten did not cry now. He had other work to do, and began licking himself all over and scratching his ears with his hind feet.
When he heard the Gentleman and the Lady talking in the dining-room, he watched his chance and slipped in. He decided to pay the most attention to the Gentleman, for he had been the first to take him up. They were laughing and talking and saying how glad they were that the rain had stopped falling. "I believe, John," the Lady said, "that if it had not been for me, you would really have kept that Kitten last night."
"Oh, no," answered the Gentleman, "We ought not to keep Cats. I think that if it had not been for me you would have kept him."
Just at that minute the Kitten began climbing up his trousers leg and crying. "Poor little Pussy," said the Gentleman. "Clara, can't we spare some of this cream?" He reached for the pitcher. The Kitten began to feel more sure of a home.
"O John, not here?" began the Lady, and the Maid came in to explain how it all happened. The Kitten stuck his claws into the Gentleman's coat and would not let go. Then he cried some more and waved his tail. He had a very beautiful tail, marked just like that of a Raccoon, and he turned it toward the Lady. He had heard somewhere about putting the best foot forward, and thought that a tail might do just as well. While he was waving his tail at the Lady he rubbed his head against the Gentleman's black beard.
"If we should keep him, John," said the Lady, "we ought to call him Silvertip, because he has such a pretty white tip to his tail." The Kitten waved it again and began to purr.
"If you knew what a strong and fearless fellow he is, you would call him Teddy," answered the Gentleman, turning over a paper which said in big black letters, "Our Teddy Wins."
"Call him Teddy Silvertip then," said the Lady, as she reached for the bell. When the Maid came in answer to her ring, she said, "Belle, please take our Kitten into the kitchen and feed him." Then the Kitten let go and was carried away happy, for he had found a home. He had also learned how to manage the Lady and the Gentleman, and he was always very firm with them after that.