The Wonderful Bed
Part 1 out of 2
THE WONDERFUL BED
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY EMILY HALL CHAMBERLIN
[Illustration: Ann was ready to cry and Rudolf had drawn his sword.]
I AUNT JANE'S OLD TOYS
II THE ANGRY WARMING-PAN
III A VISIT TO THE GOOSE
IV THE FALSE HARE
V REAL LIVE PIRATES
VI ABOARD THE MERRY MOUSER
VII CATNIP ISLAND
VIII MUTINY ON BOARD
IX CAPTAIN JINKS
X MEETING A QUEEN
XI THE GOOD DREAMS
XII ENTER THE KNIGHT-MARE
XIII THE BAD DREAMS
XIV IN THE HOLLOW TREE
AUNT JANE'S OLD TOYS
It was beginning to get dark in the big nursery. Outside the wind
howled and the rain beat steadily against the window-pane. Rudolf and
Ann sat as close to the fire as they could get, waiting for Betsy to
bring the lamp. Peter had built himself a comfortable den beneath the
table and was having a quiet game of Bears with Mittens, the cat, for
his cub--quiet, that is, except for an angry mew now and then from
Mittens, who had not enjoyed an easy moment since the arrival of the
three children that morning.
"Rudolf," Ann was saying, as she looked uneasily over her shoulder,
"I almost wish we hadn't come to stay at Aunt Jane's alone without
mother. I don't believe I like this room, it's so big and creepy. I
don't want to go to bed. Especially"--she added, turning about and
pointing into the shadows behind her--"especially I don't want to go
to bed in that!"
The big bed in Aunt Jane's old nursery was the biggest and queerest
the children had ever seen. It was the very opposite of the little
white enameled beds they were used to sleeping in at their apartment
in New York, being a great old-fashioned four-poster with a canopy
almost touching the ceiling. It was hung with faded chintz, and
instead of a mattress it had a billowy feather bed over which were
tucked grandmother's hand-spun sheets and blankets covered by the
gayest of quilts in an elaborate pattern of sprigged and spotted
calico patches. The two front posts of the bed were of dark shiny
wood carved in a strange design of twisted leaves and branches, and to
Ann, as she looked at them by the leaping flickering firelight, it
seemed as if from between these leaves and branches odd little faces
peered and winked at her, vanished, and came again and yet again.
"Bother!" exclaimed Rudolf so loud that his little sister started.
"It's just a bed, that's all. It'll be jolly fun getting into it. I
believe I'll ask if I can't sleep there, too, instead of in the cot. I
wanted to take a running jump at it when we first came this morning,
but Aunt Jane wouldn't let me with my boots on. She said she made that
quilt herself, when she was a little girl. We'll all climb in together
to-night as soon as Betsy goes, and have a game of something--I dare
say we'll feel just like raisins in a pudding!"
"All the same," said Ann, "I don't think I like it, Rudolf. I wish
Betsy would bring the lamp!"
It was almost dark now, and they could not see, but only hear, Peter
as he came shuffling out of his den, dragging his unhappy cub, and
prowled around the darkest corners of the room. Being a bear, he was
not at all afraid, but made himself very happy for a while with
pouncing and growling, searching for honey, and eating imaginary
travelers. Then the cub escaped, and Peter tired of his game. Rudolf
and Ann heard him tugging at the door of an old-fashioned cupboard in
a far corner of the room, and presently he came over to the fire,
carrying a wooden box in his arms.
"Oh, Peter, you naughty boy!" cried Ann. "You've been at the cupboard,
and Aunt Jane said expressly we were not to take anything out of it!"
"You are just like Bluebeard's wife," began Rudolf, but Peter--as was
his way--paid no attention to either of them. He put the box down on
the hearth-rug, and got on his hands and knees to open it. Then, of
course, the other two thought they might as well see what there was to
see, and all three heads bent over the box. After all it contained
nothing very wonderful, the cover itself being the prettiest part, Ann
thought, for on it was painted a bright-colored picture of a little
girl in a funny, high-waisted, old-fashioned dress, making a curtsy to
a little boy dressed like an old gentleman and carrying a toy ship in
his hand. The box was filled with old toys, most of them chipped or
broken. There was a very small tea-set with at least half of the cups
missing, a wooden horse which only possessed three legs, and the
remains of a regiment of battered tin soldiers.
"How funny the box smells--and the toys, too!" Ann said. "Sort of
queer and yet sweet, like mother's glove case. I think she said it was
sandal-wood. That set must have been a darling when it was new, but
there's only just a speck of blue left and the gilt is every bit gone.
These must be Aunt Jane's toys that she had when she was little."
"That was a long time ago," remarked Rudolf thoughtfully. "I don't see
why Aunt Jane didn't throw 'em away, they're awful trash, I think.
Those soldiers aren't bad, but--"
Just then Ann's sharp eyes caught Peter as he was about to slip away
with a little parcel done up in silver paper that had lain all by
itself at the very bottom of the box. By this time she and Rudolf had
both forgotten that they had no more right than Peter to any of the
things in the box, and both threw themselves on their little brother.
Peter fought and kicked, but was at last forced to surrender the
little parcel. Under the silver paper which Rudolf hurriedly tore
off, was layer after layer of pink tissue infolding something which
the boy, when he came to it at last, tossed on the floor in his
"Pshaw," he exclaimed, "it's nothing in the world but an old
"Yes, it is, too," said Ann, picking it up. "It's a doll, the funniest
old doll I ever saw!"
And a strange little doll she was, made out of nothing more or less
than a withered corn-cob, her face--such a queer little face--painted
on it, and her hair and dress made very cleverly out of the corn
shucks. Ann burst out laughing as she looked at the old doll, and
turning to her new children, Marie-Louise and Angelina-Elfrida, which
her mother had given her for Christmas, she placed the two beauties on
the hearth-rug, one on each side of the corn-cob, just to see the
difference. This seemed to make Peter very cross. He tried his best
to snatch away the old doll, but Rudolf, to tease him, held him off
with one hand while with the other he seized the poor creature by her
long braids and swung her slowly over the fire.
"Wouldn't it be fun, Ann," said he, "to see how quick she'd burn?"
"Oh, you mustn't, Rudolf," Ann cried, "Aunt Jane mightn't like it. I
shouldn't be surprised if she'd punish you."
At that Rudolf lowered the old doll almost into the blaze, and she
would most certainly have burned up, she was so very dry and crackly,
if at that very moment Aunt Jane had not come into the room and
snatched her out of his hand. Rudolf never remembered to have seen
Aunt Jane so vexed before. Her blue eyes flashed, and her cheeks were
quite pink under her silver-colored hair. He expected she would
scold, but she didn't, she only said--"Oh, Rudolf!" in a rather
unpleasant way, and then, after she had carefully restored the
corn-cob doll to her wrappings, she knelt down and began to gather up
the old toys which the children had scattered over the hearth-rug. Ann
and Rudolf helped her, and Peter who, though a very mischievous little
boy, was always honest, confessed that he had been the one to open the
old cupboard and take out the box. He seemed to feel rather
uncomfortable about it, and after the things had been put away, he
climbed upon Aunt Jane's lap and hid his head upon her shoulder.
"Never mind, Peter, dear," she said, holding him very tight, "I always
meant to show you my old toys some day. I dare say you children think
it strange that I have kept such shabby things so long, but when I was
a little girl I did not have such beautiful toys as you have now, and
the few I had I loved very dearly."
"Was this your nursery, Aunt Jane," Ann asked.
"Yes, dear. I slept all alone in the big bed, and I kept my toys
always in the old cupboard. I spent many and many an hour curled up on
that window-seat, playing with my doll. Yes, I did have others, Ann,
but I think I loved the corn-cob doll best of all, perhaps because she
was the least beautiful."
"Didn't you have any little boys to play with?" Rudolf asked. "Other
boys beside father and Uncle Jim, I mean."
"There was one little boy who came sometimes," Aunt Jane said. "He
lived in the nearest house to ours, though that was a mile away. Those
were his tin soldiers you saw in the box. He gave them to me to keep
for him when he went away to school, and thought himself too big to
play at soldiers any more."
"And when he came back from school, did he used to come and see you?"
"Yes, he used to come every summer till he got big."
"And what did the little boy do when he got big, Aunt Jane?"
"When he got big," said Aunt Jane slowly, looking very hard into the
fire, "he went away to sea."
"O-ho!" cried Rudolf. "And when he came back what did he bring you?"
"He never did come back," said Aunt Jane, and she bent her head low
over Peter's so that the children should not see how shiny wet her
eyes were. Ann and Rudolf did see, however, and politely forced back
the dozen questions trembling on the tips of their tongues about the
different ways there were of being lost at sea. Rudolf in particular
would have liked to know whether it was a hurricane or sharks or
pirates or a nice desert island that had been the end of that little
boy, and he was about to begin his questioning in a roundabout manner
by asking whether sea serpents had often been known to swallow ships
whole, when the door opened, and in came Betsy, Aunt Jane's old
servant. She had the lamp in one hand and the great brass warming-pan,
with which she always warmed the big bed, in the other.
Her arrival disturbed the pleasant group by the nursery fire, and
reminded Aunt Jane that it was the children's bedtime. She kissed them
good night, heard them say their prayers, and then went quickly away,
leaving Betsy to help them undress. Now this was rather unwise of Aunt
Jane, for Betsy and the children did not get on. She was one of those
uncomfortable persons who refuse to understand how a little
conversation makes undressing so much less unpleasant. She was not
inclined to give Rudolf any information on the subject of sea
serpents, nor would she listen to Ann's remarks on how much more
fashionable hot-water bottles were than warming-pans. She had even no
sympathy for Peter when he wished to be considered a diver going down
to the bottom of the sea after gold, instead of a little boy being
bathed in a tin tub.
Betsy had a horrid way of scrubbing, being none too careful about soap
in people's eyes, and Peter came out dreadfully clean. Feeling that he
needed comforting of some sort, he looked about for Mittens and
discovered him at last, taking a much needed nap behind the sofa.
Squeezing the weary cat carefully under one arm, Peter began to climb
by the aid of a chair into the big bed. Betsy caught sight of him and
guessed his plan. Poor little Peter's hopes were dashed.
"No you don't, Master Peter," she snapped at him. "Ye don't take no
cats to bed with ye--not in this house!" And she grabbed Mittens away
very roughly, set him outside the door, and shut it with a bang. After
she had tucked the bedclothes firmly about the little boy, she turned
her attention to Rudolf and Ann, evidently thinking Peter was settled
for the night--which shows just how much Betsy knew about him. Peter
waited patiently till she was in the depths of an argument with Rudolf
who was trying vainly to make her understand that the dirt upon his
face was merely the effect of his dark complexion. Then Peter slipped
out of bed, darted out of the door, and returned in a moment or two
with the unhappy Mittens once more a prisoner beneath his arm. This
time he managed to conceal the cat from Betsy's sharp eyes.
At last all three children were in the big bed, Rudolf having refused
to consider sleeping in the cot, and Betsy, after a gruff good night,
departed, carrying the lamp with her. Now that the room was in
darkness except for the flickering light of the dying fire, Ann's
fears began to come back to her. She sat up in bed and peered round
her into the dark corners.
"I--I wish Betsy had left the light," she said. "But it would have
been no use asking her."
"Not a scrap," said Rudolf. "Not that _I_ mind the dark," he added
hastily, "_I_ rather like it, only don't let's lie still
and--and--listen for things. Let's play something."
"Shall we try who can keep their eyes shut longest," suggested Ann.
"Oh, that's a stupid game! Beside Peter would beat anyway, for he's
half asleep now. Shake him up, Ann."
When shaken up Peter refused to admit that, he was even sleepy. He was
very cross, and immediately began to accuse Rudolf of having taken his
cat. This Rudolf--and also Ann--denied. They had seen Peter smuggle
Mittens into bed the second time, but had supposed he must have
escaped and followed Betsy out.
"No, he didn't neither," Peter insisted. "I had him after she went. He
was 'most tamed."
"Then," said Ann, "he must be in the room and we might as well have
him to play with. Rudolf, I dare you to get up and look for him!"
And Rudolf got up--just to show he was not afraid. Before stepping
into those dark shadows, however, he armed himself with his tin
sword, a weapon he was in the habit of taking to bed with him in case
of burglars, and with this he poked bravely under the bed and in all
the dark corners, calling and coaxing Mittens to come forth. At last
both he and Ann felt sure the cat could not be in the room.
"He _must_ have got out somehow," said Rudolf. "Anyway, I sha'n't
bother any more looking for him." Still grasping his sword, he climbed
back into the big bed between his brother and sister. Peter was still
cross and grumbly. He kept insisting that Mittens might have
disappeared _inside_ the bed--which was a piece of nonsense neither of
the others would listen to.
After some discussion Rudolf and Ann agreed that the very nicest thing
to do would be to make a tent out of the bedclothes, and seeing Peter
was again inclined to nod, they shook him awake and sternly insisted
on his joining in the game. By tying the two upper corners of the
covers to the posts at the head of the great bed a splendid tent was
quickly made, bigger than any the children had ever played in before,
so big that Rudolf, who was to lead the procession into its white
depths, began to feel just the least little bit afraid,--of what he
hardly knew. How high the white walls rose! Not like a snuggly
bed-tent, but like--like a real white-walled cave. Being a brave boy,
he quickly put these unpleasant thoughts out of his mind, and grasping
his sword, crawled on his hands and knees into the dark opening.
Behind him came Ann, and behind Ann, Peter.
"Are you ready?" asked Rudolf. "Then in we go!"
THE ANGRY WARMING-PAN
It was not surprising that the big bed should be different from any
other bed the children had ever played in, yet it was certainly taking
them a long, long time to crawl to the foot!
"It must have a foot," thought the brave captain of the band, as he
plunged farther and farther into the depths of the white cave. "All
beds have." Then he stopped suddenly as a loud squeal of mingled
surprise and terror came from just behind him.
"Oh, Rudolf," Ann cried, "I don't want to play this game any
longer--let's go back!" In the half-darkness Rudolf felt her turn
round on Peter, who was close behind her. "Go back, Peter," she
"I can't," came a little voice out of the gloom.
"You must--oh, Peter, hurry!"
"I can't go back," said Peter calmly, "because there isn't any back.
Put your hand behind me and feel."
It was true. Just how or when it had happened none of them could tell,
but the soft drooping bedcovers had suddenly, mysteriously risen and
spread into firm white walls behind and on either side, leaving only a
narrow passageway open in front. It was nonsense to go on their hands
and knees any longer, for even Rudolf, who was tallest, could not
touch the arched white roof when he stood up and stretched his arm
above his head. He could not see Ann's face clearly, but he could hear
her beginning to sniff.
"Now, Ann," said he sternly, though in rather a weak voice, "don't you
know what this is? This is an adventure."
"I don't care," sniffed Ann, "I don't want an adventure. I want to go
back--back to Aunt Jane!" And the sniff developed into a flood of
"Peter is not crying, and he is only six."
This rebuke told on Ann, for she was almost eight. "But what are we
go--going to do?" she asked, her sobs decreasing into sniffs again.
"We'll just have to go on, I suppose, and see what happens."
"Well, I think--I think Aunt Jane ought to be ashamed of herself to
put us in such a big bed we could get lost in it!"
"Maybe"--came the voice of Peter cheerfully from behind them--"maybe
she _wanted_ to lose us, like bad people does kittens."
"Peter, don't be silly," ordered Rudolf sternly. "There isn't really
anything that can happen to us," he went on, speaking slowly and
thoughtfully, "because we all know that we really are in bed. We know
we didn't get _out_, so of course we must be _in_."
This was good sense, yet somehow it was not so comforting as it ought
to have been, not even to Rudolf himself who now began to be troubled
by a disagreeable kind of lump in his throat. Luckily he remembered,
in time to save himself from the disgrace of tears, how his father had
once told him that whistling was an excellent remedy for boys who did
not feel quite happy in their minds. He began to whistle now, a poor,
weak, little whistle at first, but growing stronger as he began to
feel more cheerful. Grasping his sword, he started ahead, calling to
the others to follow him.
The white passage was so narrow that the children had to walk along it
one behind another in Indian file. The floor was no longer soft and
yielding but firm and hard under their feet, and by stretching out
their hands they could almost touch the smooth white walls on either
side of them. At first the way was perfectly straight ahead, but after
they had walked what seemed to them a long, long time, the passage
curved sharply and widened a little. The children noticed, much to
their relief, that it was growing lighter around them.
"I'm getting tired," Ann announced at last. "See, Ruddy, there is a
nice flat black rock. Let's sit down and rest on it."
There was room for them all on the large flat rock, and when they were
settled on it, Peter remarked: "I'm hungry!" Now this was a thing
Peter was used to saying at all times and on all occasions, so it was
just like him to bring it out now as cheerfully and confidently as if
Betsy had been at his elbow with a plate of bread and butter.
"Oh, dear," Ann exclaimed, "what a long, long while it seems since we
had our tea! I suppose it will soon be time to think about starving."
And she took her little handkerchief out of the pocket of her nighty
and began to wipe her eyes with it.
"Not yet," said Rudolf hastily. "I put some candy into my pajamas
pocket when I went to bed, because the time I like to eat it best is
just before breakfast--if people only wouldn't row so about my doing
it. Let me see--it was two chocolate mice I had--I hope they didn't
get squashed when we were playing! No, here they are." The chocolate
mice were a little the worse for wear, in fact there were white
streaks on them where the chocolate had rubbed off on the inside of
Rudolf's pocket, but the children didn't mind that. They thought they
had never seen anything that looked more delicious.
"I will cut them in three pieces with my sword," said Rudolf. "You may
have the heads, Ann, and me the middle parts, and Peter the tails
because he is the youngest."
This arrangement did not suit Peter. "I will _not_ eat the tails," he
screamed, kicking his heels angrily against the rock,--"the tails is
made out of nassy old string!" And, I am sorry to say, Peter made a
snatch at both chocolate mice and knocked them out of Rudolf's hand.
This, of course, made it necessary for Rudolf to box Peter's ears, and
a tussle quickly followed, in the middle of which something dreadful
happened. The large flat rock they were sitting on gave several queer
shakes and heaves and then suddenly rose right up under the three
children and threw them head over heels into the air. They were not a
bit hurt, but they were very, very much surprised when they scrambled
to their feet and saw the rock erect on a long kind of tail it had,
glaring at them out of one red angry eye.
Ann was the first to recognize it. "Oh, oh," she cried, "it's not a
rock at all--it's Betsy's Warming-pan!"
The Pan, giving a deep throaty kind of growl, began to shuffle toward
them. "I'd like to have the warming of _you_ three," he snarled. "I'll
teach you to come sitting on top of me playing your tricks on my
rheumatic bones--waking me out of the first good nap I've had in
weeks!--I'll fix you--"
"We're really very sorry," Ann began. "We didn't mean to sit on you,
But the Warming-pan did not want to hear what Ann thought. He turned
round on her fiercely. "_You're_ the young person," he snapped, "who
made the polite remarks about my figure this evening? Eh, didn't you?
Can you deny it? Called me old-fashioned and 'country'--said nobody
ever used _me_ any more!--I'll teach you to talk about hot-water
bottles when _I'm_ through with you!" As he spoke he came closer and
closer to Ann, snorting and puffing and glaring at her out of his one
terrible eye. Although he was so round and waddled so clumsily,
dragging his long tail behind him, his appearance was quite dreadful.
He reminded Rudolf of the dragon in Peter's picture-book, and he
hastily tried to imagine how Saint George must have felt when
defending his princess. Clutching his sword, he thrust himself in
front of Ann and bravely faced the Warming-pan. "Run!" he called to
the others, "Fly!--and I will fight this monster to the death."
Ann, dragging Peter by the hand, made off as fast as she could go, and
the Pan tried his best to dodge Rudolf and rush after her. Again and
again Rudolf's sword struck him, but it only rattled on his
brassiness, and making a horrible face, he popped three live coals out
of his mouth which rolled on the ground unpleasantly close to Rudolf's
bare toes. Then they had it hot and heavy until at last the knight
managed to get his blade entangled with the dragon's long tail, and
tripped the creature up. Then, without waiting for his enemy to get
himself together again and heartily tired of playing Saint George,
Rudolf turned and ran after Ann and Peter. Long before he caught up to
them, however, he heard the Pan behind him, snorting and scolding.
Luckily it did not seem able to stop talking, so that it lost what
little breath it had and was soon obliged to halt. For some time
Rudolf caught snatches of its unpleasant remarks, such as--"Children
nowadays--wish he had 'em--he'd show 'em--bread and water--good thick
stick!--" Rudolf was obliged to run with his fingers in his ears
before that disagreeable voice died away in the distance.
At last he saw Peter and Ann waiting for him at a turn in the passage
just ahead, and in another moment he flung himself panting on the
ground beside them. "What a beast he was!" Rudolf exclaimed.
"Dreadful!" said Ann. "I shall tell Aunt Jane never, never to let
Betsy put him in our bed again." And then, after she had thanked
Rudolf very prettily for saving her life, and that hero had recovered
his breath and rested a little after the excitement of the battle,
they all felt ready to start on their way again.
No sooner had they turned the corner ahead of them than they found
themselves in broad daylight. The passage was now so wide that all
three could walk abreast, holding hands; a moment more and they stood
at the mouth of the long white cave or tunnel they had been walking
through. There was open country beyond them, and just opposite to
where the children stood was the queerest little house that they had
ever seen. It was long and very low, hardly more than one story high,
and was painted blue and white in stripes running lengthwise. In the
middle was a little front door with a window on either side of it and
three square blue and white striped steps leading up to it. From the
chimney a trail of thick white smoke poured out. As the three children
stood staring at the house, Peter cried out: "It's snowing!"
Sure enough the air was full of thick white flakes.
"Oh, dear, oh, dear!" Ann wailed, "what shall we do now? We can't go
back in the cave because the Warming-pan might catch us, and if we
stay here Peter will catch his death of cold out in the snow in his
night drawers--and so will we all. Oh, what _would_ mother say!"
"But we are not out in the snow, Ann," began Rudolf in his arguing
voice. "We are _in_ in the snow."
"And it is not wet," added Peter who was trying to roll a snowball out
of the white flakes that were piling themselves on the ground with
"I don't care," said Ann. "I know mother wouldn't like us to be in in
it or out in it. I'm going to knock at the door of that house this
minute and ask if they won't let us stay there till the storm's over."
"All right," said Rudolf, "only I hope the people who live there don't
happen to be any relation of the Warming-pan."
It was a dreadful thought. The three children looked at the house and
hesitated. Then Rudolf laughed, drew his precious sword, which he had
fastened into the belt of his pajamas, and mounted the steps, the
others following behind him.
"You be all ready to run," he whispered, "if you don't like the looks
of the person who comes. Now!" And he knocked long and loud upon the
blue and white striped door.
A VISIT TO THE GOOSE
The door flew open almost before Rudolf had stopped knocking, but
there was nothing very alarming about the person who stood on the
threshold. Ann said afterward she had thought at first it was a Miss
Spriggins who came sometimes to sew for her mother, but it was not; it
was only a very large gray goose neatly dressed in blue and white
bed-ticking, with a large white apron tied round her waist and wearing
big spectacles with black rims to them.
"Nothing to-day, thank you," said the Goose.
"But please--" began Rudolf.
"No soap, no baking powder, no lightning rods, no hearth-brooms, no
cake tins, no life insurance--" rattled the Goose so rapidly that the
children could hardly understand her--"nothing at all to-day, _thank_
"But _we_ want something," Ann cried, "we want to come in!"
"I never let in peddlers," said the Goose, and she slammed the door in
their faces. As she slammed it one of her broad apron-strings caught
in the crack, and Rudolf seized the end of it. When the Goose opened
the door an inch or so to free herself he held on firmly and said:
"Tell us, please, are you the Warming-pan's aunt?"
The Gray Goose looked immensely pleased, but shook her head.
"Nothing so simple," said she, "nor, so to speak, commonplace, since
the relationship or connection if you will have it, is, though
perfectly to be distinguished, not always, as it were, entirely
clear, through his great-grandfather who, as I hope you are aware, was
a Dutch-Oven, having run away with a cousin of my mother's uncle's
stepfather, who was three times married, numbers one, two and three
all having children but none of 'em resembling one another in the
slightest, which, as you may have perceived, is only the beginning of
the story, but if you will now come in, not forgetting to wipe your
feet, and try to follow me very carefully, I'll be delighted to
explain all particulars."
The children were glad to follow the Lady Goose into the house, though
they thought she had been quite particular enough. They found it
impossible to wipe their feet upon the mat because it was thick with
snow, and when the door was closed behind them, they were surprised to
feel that it was snowing even harder inside the house than it was
out. For a moment they stood half blinded by the storm, unable to see
clearly what kind of room they were in or to tell whose were the
voices they heard so plainly. A great fluttering, cackling, and
complaining was going on close to them, and a hoarse voice cried out:
"One hundred and seventeen and three-quarters feathers to be
multiplied by two-sevenths of a pound. That's a sweet one! Do that if
you can, Squealer."
"You can't do it yourself," a whining voice replied. "I've tried the
back and the corners and the edges--there's no more room--"
Then came the sound of a sudden smack, as if some one's ears had been
boxed when he least expected it, and this was followed by a loud angry
squawk. Now the flakes, which had been gradually thinning, died away
entirely, and the children suddenly discovered that they had not been
snowflakes at all but only a cloud of white feathers sent whirling
through the house, out of the windows, and up the chimney by some
disturbance in the midst of a great heap in one corner of the room as
high as a haystack. From the middle of this heap of feathers stuck up
two very thin yellow legs with shabby boots that gave one last
despairing kick and then were still. Near by at a counter a Gentleman
Goose in a long apron was weighing feathers on a very small pair of
scales, and at his elbow stood a little duck apprentice with the tears
running down his cheeks. He was doing sums in a greasy sort of
butcher's book that seemed quite full already of funny scratchy
"That must be Squealer, the one who got his ears boxed," whispered Ann
to Rudolf, "but what do you suppose is the matter with the other
duck, the one in the heap? He will be smothered, I know he will!"
Rudolf thought so, too, yet it didn't seem polite to mention it. The
Lady Goose had been busily helping the children to brush off the
feathers that were sticking to them, and patting Peter on the back
with her bill because he said he was sure he had swallowed at least a
pound. She now brought forward chairs for them all. As the children
looked around more closely they saw that the room they were in was a
very cozy sort of place, long and low and neatly furnished with a
white deal table, a shiny black cook-stove, a great many bright copper
saucepans, and a red geranium in the window. A large iron pot was
boiling merrily on the stove and from time to time the Gray Goose
stirred its contents with a wooden spoon. It smelled rather good, and
Peter, sniffing, began to put on his hungry expression.
"No, not even a family resemblance," went on the Gray Goose, waving
her spoon, "although, as is generally known, a Roman nose is
characteristic in our family, having developed in fact at the time of
that little affair when we repelled the Gauls in the year--"
But Rudolf felt he could not stand much more of this. "I beg your
pardon," he interrupted, "but would you mind if we helped the little
one out of the heap, the--the--duck who is getting so thoroughly
"Not at all, if you care about it," said the Gray Goose kindly.
"Squawker'll be good now, won't he, Father?"
"Oh, I'm sure he'll be good," Ann cried, and she ran ahead of Rudolf
to catch hold of one of the thin yellow legs and give it a mighty
"He'll be good," said the Gentleman Goose gravely, speaking for the
first time, "when he's roasted. Very good indeed'll Squawker be--with
apple sauce!" And he smacked his lips and winked at Peter who was
standing close beside him, looking up earnestly into his face.
Peter thought a moment. Then he said: "_I_ likes currant jelly on my
duck. I eats apple sauce on goose."
The Gentleman Goose appeared suddenly uncomfortable. He began
nervously stuffing little parcels of the feathers he had been weighing
into small blue and white striped bags, which he threw one after the
other to Squealer, who never by any chance caught them as he turned
his back at every throw. "I suppose," said the Gentleman Goose to
Peter in a hesitating, anxious sort of voice, "you believe along with
all the rest, what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander,
don't you? I suppose there's nothing sauce-y about yourself now, is
there?" And apparently comforted by his miserable little joke he went
on with his weighing.
By this time the other little duck had been hauled out of the heap of
feathers by Ann and Rudolf, and stood coughing and sneezing and
gasping in the middle of the floor. As soon as he had breath enough he
began calling pitifully for some one to brush the down off his Sunday
trousers. The Gray Goose came good-naturedly to his assistance, but as
she brushed him all the wrong way, the children couldn't see that she
improved him very much. Squawker seemed quite pleased, however, and
turned himself round and round for their approval.
"What kind of birds are these new ones?" he asked the Lady Goose when
she had finished with him.
"Why just three more of us, Squawker, dear," she answered.
This remark made all three children open their eyes very wide.
"Nonsense," began Rudolf angrily, "_we_ aren't geese!"
From the other end of the room came the voice of the Gentleman Goose,
who spoke without turning round. "What makes you think that?" he
"Because we aren't--we--"
--"You're molting pretty badly, of course, now you mention it,"
interrupted the Lady Goose, "you and the little one. But this one's
feathers seem in nice condition." As she spoke she laid a long claw
lovingly on Ann's head. "How much would you say a pound, father?"
"Can't say till I get 'em in the scales, of course," and, smoothing
down his apron, the Gentleman Goose advanced toward Ann in a
businesslike fashion. The two little apprentices, carrying bags,
followed at his heels.
Ann clung to Rudolf. "I haven't any feathers," she screamed. "They're
curls. I'm not a nasty bird--I'm a little girl with hair!"
"She doesn't want to be plucked!" exclaimed the Gray Goose who had
returned to the stove to stir the contents of the iron pot. "Well,
now, did you ever! Maybe it goes in her family. I had a great-aunt
once on my father's side who--"
"They're feathers, all right," chuckled Squawker. "You're a perfect
little duck, that's what I think."
"Me, too," chimed in Squealer.
The Gentleman Goose reached over the Lady Goose's shoulder, snatched
the spectacles off her nose without so much as by your leave, set them
crookedly on his own, and looked over them long and earnestly at Ann.
"So you want to call 'em hair, do you?" he snapped. "I suppose you
think you belong in a hair mattress!"
Ann was ready to cry, and Rudolf had drawn his sword with the
intention of doing his best to protect her, when at that moment a new
voice was heard. Looking in at the little window over the top of the
red geranium the children saw a good-humored furry face with long
bristly whiskers and bright twinkly eyes.
"Anybody mention my name?" said the voice, and a large Belgian Hare
leaped lightly into the room. He was handsomely dressed in a light
overcoat and checked trousers, and wore gaiters over his
patent-leather boots. He had a thick gold watch-chain, gold studs and
cuff buttons besides other jewelry, and in one hand he carried a high
hat, in the other a small dress-suit case and a tightly rolled
"What's the matter here?" he inquired cheerfully.
"Why, this bird," explained the Gentleman Goose, pointing his claw
disdainfully at Ann, "says it has no feathers, which you can see for
yourself is not the case. It has feathers, therefore it is a bird.
Birds of a feather flock together. That settles it, I think! Come
along, boys. To work!"
At his command the two duck apprentices, who were standing one on
either side of Ann, made feeble dashes at the two long curls nearest
them. Rudolf stepped forward but the Hare was before him. He only
needed to stare at the two ducks through a single eye-glass he had
screwed into one of his eyes to make them turn pale and drop their
claws to their sides.
"Now once more," said the Hare to Ann. "What did you say you call
those unpleasantly long whiskers of yours?"
"Hair," Ann answered meekly, for she was too frightened to be
"Hair!" echoed Rudolf and Peter loudly.
"Bless me," said their new friend, "that's not at all _my_ business,
is it? Not at all in my line--oh, no!" He gathered up his hat,
dress-suit case, and little umbrella from the floor where he had
dropped them. "Be sure you don't follow me," he said, nodding
pleasantly and winking at the children. Then he stepped to the door
without so much as a look at the Gentleman Goose who called out
"Stop, stop! Catch 'em, Squealer--at 'em, Squawker--hold 'em, boys!"
It was too late. The boys were too much afraid of the Hare to do more
than flutter and squawk a little, and as the Gentleman Goose did not
seem inclined to make an attack single-handed, the Hare, with the
children behind him, got to the door in safety. Peter, however, had
to be dragged along by Ann and Rudolf, for the Lady Goose had just
removed the great pot from the stove in time to prevent its contents
from boiling over, and the little boy was sniffing hungrily at the
steam. Now she came after the children carrying a large spoonful of
the bubbling stuff. "All done, all done," she cried. "Don't go without
a taste, dears."
"What's done?" asked Peter, eagerly turning back to her.
"Worms, dear; red ones and brown ones," answered the Lady
Goose,--"boiled in vinegar, you know--just like mother used to
make--with a wee bit of a grasshopper here and there for flavoring.
Mother had the recipe handed down in her family--her side--you know,
from my great-great-grandmother's half-sister who was a De l'Oie but
married a Mr. Gans and was potted in the year--"
They got Peter through the door by main force, Ann and Rudolf pushing
behind and the Hare pulling in front. Even then, I am ashamed to say,
Peter kept calling out that he would like "just a taste", and he
didn't see why the Goose's worms wouldn't be just as good as the white
kind cook sent up with cheese on the top!
THE FALSE HARE
As they hurried away from the Goose's house, the children cast one
last look behind them. There at the window was the Lady Goose waving
in farewell the spoon she had stirred the hot worms with. Suddenly a
whirl of white feathers flew out of the chimney, the window and the
door, which the children in their haste had left open behind them, and
hid her completely from their sight. At the same instant two feeble
shrieks came from within the house.
"Squealer and Squawker both went into the heap that time, I guess,"
"I'm glad of it!" Ann cried. "_I'd_ never help either of the horrid
little things out again. Would you, sir?" she asked, turning politely
to the Hare.
"I dare say not," he answered, yawning. "That is, of course, unless I
had particularly promised _not_ to. In that case I suppose I'd have
All three children looked very much puzzled.
"Would you mind telling us," asked Ann timidly, "what you meant when
you said _this_"--and she touched her hair--"was not your business?"
"Not at all," said the Hare cheerfully. "I meant that it was."
"But you said--"
"Oh, what I _said_ was, of course, untrue."
"Do you mean you tell stories?" Ann looked very much shocked, and so
did the others.
"Certainly," said the Hare, "that's my business, I'm a False Hare, you
know. Oh, dear, yes, I tell heaps and heaps of stories, as many as I
possibly can, only sometimes I forget and then something true will
slip out of me. Oh, it's a hard life, it is, to be thoroughly
untruthful every single day from the time you get up in the morning
till the time you go to bed at night--round and round the clock, you
know! No eight-hour day for me. Ah, it's a sad, sad life!" He sighed
very mournfully, at the same time winking at Rudolf in such a funny
way that the boy burst out laughing. "Take warning by me, young man,"
he continued solemnly, "and inquire very, _very_ carefully concerning
whatever business you go into. If I had known what the life of a False
Hare really was, I doubt if I should have ever--But, dear me, this
will never do--you're getting me into mischief! I've hardly done so
much as a fib since we met."
"Oh, you mustn't mind _us_," said Rudolf, trying hard not to laugh,
as he and Ann and Peter marched along beside the False Hare. "You
mustn't let us interfere with your--your business, you know. We
sha'n't mind, at least we'll try not to. Whatever you say we'll
believe just the opposite. It'll be as if he were a kind of game," he
added to Ann who was still looking very doubtful. She looked happier
at once, for Ann was quick at games and knew it.
"I think," said she to the False Hare, "that I heard something about
you the other day--at least I suppose it must have been you. It was at
a tea-party given by a friend of mine,"--here Ann put on her most
grown-up manner and made her voice sound as much like her mother's as
possible--"a Mrs. Mackenzie who lives in the city. One lady said to
another lady, 'How fashionable false hair is getting!'"
The False Hare stroked his whiskers to hide a pleased smile. "Bless
me," said he, "I should think so! Keeps a fellow on the jump, I can
tell you--this social whirl. And then, when bedtime comes along and a
chap ought to get a bit of rest after a day's hard fibbing, why
then--there's the dream business. I can't neglect that."
The children did not understand and said so.
"Well," said the False Hare, "I'll just explain, and then I really
must get back to business. Now then, suppose a hound dreams about a
hare? It's a dream hare, isn't it?"
"Yes, of course," they cried.
"And a dream hare is not a real hare, is it? And a hare that's not a
real hare is a false hare, isn't it? So there _I_ am. That's where I
come in. Simple, isn't it?"
"You make it sound simple," said Rudolf politely. "We're much obliged.
And now would you mind telling us where we are coming to, and what is
beyond this steep hill just ahead of us?"
The Hare screwed his glass into his eye and looked thoughtfully at the
country round about. "I can tell you, of course," he said, "but it
won't be the truth. I really _must_ get back to business."
"Oh, never mind telling us at all, then," said Rudolf, who was
becoming rather vexed, "I see there's no use asking _you_ any
During their conversation with the False Hare, the children had been
hurrying along over a stretch of open level country. Now the ground
began to slope gradually upward and soon they were climbing a very
steep hill. It was hard traveling, for the hill was covered with
thick, fuzzy, whitish-yellow grass which tangled itself round their
feet, and gave them more than one fall. Ann and Rudolf had to stop
often to pick up Peter, for he was rather fat and his legs were too
short to carry him along as fast as theirs did. The False Hare hurried
ahead by leaps and bounds that would soon have carried him out of
sight of his companions if he had not stopped now and then to wait for
them. When the children caught up to him, they would find him sitting
on his little dress-suit case, smoking a chocolate cigarette, and
laughing at them.
"Oh, don't mention it," he would say when they apologized for keeping
him waiting. "_I_ don't mind. I like waiting for slow-pokes! It's
nothing to me if I miss a dozen appointments and get driven out of the
dream business by that old what's-his-name--Welsh Rabbit!"
This sort of talk was rather annoying, and after a while the children
decided not to heed it any longer. Indeed they were all three tired
with their climb, and were glad to sink down on the soft fuzzy grass
and rest a while. The False Hare bounded ahead, calling back to them
"Not to hurry", but when he found he could not tease them into
following, he sauntered back to meet them, looking as cool and fresh
and neat as when he started. Peter had been rather in the dumps ever
since he had been refused a taste of the Lady Goose's dinner, and now
he looked thoughtfully at the Hare's suit case.
"Has you got anything to eat in there?" he asked, his little face
"Gracious, yes," said the False Hare lightly. "Lemme see! What do
little boys like best? Cinnamon buns an' chocolate cake an'
butterscotch an' lemon pie an' soda-water an' gingerbread an' jujubes
an' hokey-pokey an 'popcorn balls an'--" He might have gone on
forever, but Ann and Rudolf would not stand any more of it. They rose
angrily and dragging Peter after them, continued their climb. Just as
they had almost reached the top of the hill, the False Hare bounded
past them with a laughing salute and a wave of his paw, and dropped
out of sight over the brink of the ridge. A moment more and they all
stood on the edge of a cliff so steep that they were in danger of
tumbling over. From beneath the Hare's voice called up to them,
"Nobody ever thought of a sheet of water--_oh_, no!"
Before their eyes lay the last thing the children had expected to see,
a large piece of water quite calm and smooth, without a sign of a sail
on it, nor were there any bathers or children playing on the narrow
strip of beach directly beneath them. At first it seemed as if it
would be impossible for them to climb down the face of that steep
cliff to the water, but the False Hare had done it, and they
determined that they must manage it somehow. After looking about
carefully, they found a set of rude steps cut in the side of the
cliff. They were very far apart, to be sure, for climbers whose legs
were not of the longest, but Rudolf helped Ann and Ann helped Peter
and at last they were all safely down and standing beside the False
Hare, who was strolling along the edge of the water.
"Hullo," said he, sticking his glass in his eye and looking at Ann.
"What makes the whiskerless one so cheerful?"
Rudolf and Peter were not surprised when they turned to look at Ann to
see that she was ready to cry.
"What's the matter, Ann?" they asked.
"Oh, dear, dear!" sighed Ann. "Whatever will become of us now? We
can't go back. Even if we could climb up the cliff, I'd never pass
that dreadful Goose's house again, no, not for anything! But how are
we going to get any farther without a boat?"
The False Hare pretended to wipe away a tear with the back of his paw.
"No boat," he groaned. "Oh, dear, dear, dear--no boat!"
The faces of the three children brightened immediately, for they were
beginning to understand his ways. "Hurrah!" cried Rudolf, waving his
Sure enough, coming round a bend in the shore where the bushes had
hidden it from their sight, was a small boat rowed by two white candy
REAL LIVE PIRATES
After neatly and carefully turning up the bottoms of his trousers so
that they should not get wet, the False Hare bounded on a rock that
rose out of the water a few feet from shore, and stood ready to direct
the landing of the boat. There was some sense in this, for certainly
neither of the two mice was what could be called good oarsmen. One of
them had just unshipped the little sail, and--not seeming to know what
else to do with it--had cut it loose from the oar that served as a
mast and wrapped it round and round his body, tying himself tightly
with a piece of string.
Rudolf thought he had never in his life seen people in a boat do so
many queer and unnecessary things in so short a time as those two
mice did. They would stop rowing every few minutes and begin sweeping
out the floor of their boat with a small broom, dusting seats,
cushions, and oar-locks with a little feather duster tied with a pink
ribbon. Then, after a few, rapid, nervous strokes at the oars, one or
the other of them would pull his blade out of the water and polish it
anxiously with his handkerchief, as if the important thing was to keep
it dry. They would probably never have reached land that day if this
had depended on their own efforts, but luckily the breeze was blowing
them in the right direction.
All this time the False Hare had been waiting on the rock, and now as
the boat was almost within reach, he began leaping up and down,
clapping his paws and calling out in the heartiest tones: "Go it, my
dear old Salts! Hurrah, my fine Jack Tars! You're a pair of swell old
sea-dogs, you are. Only don't _hurt_ yourselves, you know. We wouldn't
like to see you _work_!"
It seemed as if the white mice knew the False Hare and the value of
his remarks, for they made no attempt to answer him, but only looked
more and more frightened and uncomfortable. When their boat was at
last beached, they jumped out of it, turned their backs to the rest of
the party, and standing as close together as they could get, gazed
anxiously out over the water. Seen close by there was something
familiar about the look of these mice to the three children, yes, even
though they _had_ grown a great deal, and had disguised themselves by
the simple method of licking the chocolate off each other! Rudolf and
Ann hoped Peter would not notice it, but nothing of the sort ever
escaped him. He walked around in front of the two mice, who tried
vainly not to meet his eye, looked at them long and earnestly, and
"I say, Mr. Mouses, was you always white?"
The mice turned a pale greenish color in their embarrassment and
looked nervously at each other, but answered never a word.
"I thought," continued Peter, staring steadily at them, "that last
time I saw you you was choc'late. Did you wash it off--on purpose?" he
"Excuse me, sir, we don't believe in washing," muttered one of the
poor things hastily.
Ann shook her head at Peter. "Hush!" she whispered. "You mustn't be
rude to them when they are going to lend us their boat so kindly."
Then she asked in a loud voice, hoping to change the subject: "Who is
going to row? Will you, Mr. False Hare?"
"Why certainly, dearie, I adore rowing," said the False Hare sweetly.
"Then you will have to, Rudolf, and I will look after Peter. 'He is
always _so_ apt to fall out of a boat. I dare say the mice will be
glad of a rest."
They all got into the boat, Rudolf took the oars, Ann sat in the bow
with Peter beside her, and the False Hare settled himself comfortably
in the stern with a mouse squeezed on either side of him. He wanted to
pet them a little, so he said, but from the strained expressions on
their faces and the startled squeaks they gave from time to time, it
seemed as if they were hardly enjoying his attentions. The children
loved being on the water better than anything else, and they would
have been perfectly happy now, if the False Hare had not had quite so
many nice compliments to make to Rudolf on his rowing, and if the
white mice had not complained so bitterly of them all for "sitting all
over the boat cushions," and "wetting the nice dry oars!" They were
enjoying themselves very much, in spite of this, when suddenly Ann,
who had very sharp eyes, called out:
At first Rudolf thought she had said this just because it sounded
well, but on turning his head he saw for himself a small boat heading
toward them as fast as it could come. A moment more and the children
could see the black flag floating at its masthead.
"Oh, oh!" screamed Ann, "that's a skull and cross-bones. It's a pirate
"Hurrah!" Rudolf shouted. "How awfully jolly! Just like a book."
"Dee-lightful!" the False Hare exclaimed, shuddering all over to the
tips of his whiskers. "If there's one thing I do dote on it is
pirates--dear old things!"
As for the two white mice, after one glance at the ship, they gave
two little shrieks and hid their faces in their paws.
Rudolf shipped his oars while he loosened his sword. "I shall be
prepared to fight," said he, "though I am afraid we must make up our
minds to being captured. Our enemy's boat is not so large--it's not
much more than a catboat--but there are only four of us, as the mice
don't count, and I suppose there must be at least a dozen of the
The False Hare smiled a sickly sort of smile. "And such nice ones," he
murmured. "Such gentle, well-behaved, well-brought-up, _polite_
pirates! Just the sort your dear parents would like to have you meet.
_Those_ fellows don't know anything about shooting, stabbing,
mast-heading or plank-walking; _oh_, no! _They_ don't do such things."
Ann turned pale at the False Hare's words, but Rudolf only laughed.
"What luck!" he exclaimed. "I'm nine years old and I've never seen a
real live pirate, and goodness knows when I ever will again--I
wouldn't miss this for anything." Then, as he saw how really worried
his little sister looked, he added cheerfully. "They may sail right
past without speaking to us, you know."
But this was not to be the case. Nearer and nearer came the pirate
craft until at last the children could see, painted in black letters
on her side, her name, _The Merry Mouser_. A group of pirates was
gathered at the rail, staring at the rowboat through their glasses.
There was no mistake about these fellows being pirates--that was easy
enough to see from their queer bright-colored clothes and the number
of weapons they carried, even if the ugly black flag had not been
floating over their heads. At the bow stood he who was evidently the
Pirate Chief. He was dressed in some kind of tight gray and white
striped suit with a red sash tied round his waist stuck full of
shiny-barreled pistols and long bright-bladed knives. A red turban
decorated his head and under it his brows met in the fiercest kind of
frown. His arms were folded on his breast. As Rudolf looked at this
fellow, he began to have the queerest feeling that somewhere--
somehow--under very different conditions--he had seen the Pirate
Just at that instant he heard the sound of a struggle behind him, and
turning round he saw that Peter had become terribly excited. "Mittens!
Mittens!" he screamed, and breaking loose from Ann's hold, he stood up
and leaned so far over the side of the boat that he lost his balance
and fell into the water. Ann screamed, the False Hare--I am ashamed to
say--merely yawned and kept his paws in his pockets. Rudolf had kicked
off his shoes and was ready to jump in after Peter, when he saw that
quick as a flash, on an order from their Chief, the pirates had
lowered a long rope with something bobbing at the end of it. Peter
when he came to the surface, seized this rope and was rapidly hauled
on board the pirate ship.
Ann came near falling overboard herself in her excitement. "Oh, Ruddy,
Ruddy!" she begged, "let's surrender right away quick. We can't leave
poor darling Peter to be carried off by those terrible cats."
"Cats?" said Rudolf, staring stupidly at the pirates. "Why so they are
cats, Ann! Somehow I hadn't noticed that before. But, look, they are
sending a boat to us now."
In a small boat which had been towed behind the catboat, a couple of
pirates--big, rough-looking fellows--were sculling rapidly toward the
children. Cats indeed they were, but such cats as Ann and Rudolf had
never seen before, so big and black and bold were they, their teeth so
sharp and white, their eyes so round and yellow! One had a red sash
and one a green, and each carried knives and pistols enough to set up
"Surrender!" they cried in a businesslike kind of way as they laid
hold of the bow of the rowboat, "or have your throats cut--just as you
like, you know."
Of course the children didn't like, and then, as Ann said, they had to
remember Peter. Much against his will, Rudolf was now forced
to surrender his beloved sword. The False Hare handed over all
his belongings--his jewelry, his suit case, and his little
umbrella--without the slightest hesitation, humming a tune as he did
so, but his voice cracked, and Ann and Rudolf noticed that the tip of
his nose had turned quite pale. The prisoners were quickly
transferred to the other boat, and the pirate with the green sash took
the oars. Just as all was ready for the start the cat in red cried:
"Hold on a minute, Growler! I'll just jump back into their old tub to
see if we've left any vallybles behind!"
"All right, Prowler."
It was then and only then that Rudolf and Ann remembered the two white
mice! The last time they had noticed them was at the moment of Peter's
ducking when in their excitement, the foolish creatures had hidden
their faces on each other's shoulders, rolled themselves into a kind
of ball, and stowed themselves under a seat. Prowler leaped into the
little boat which the pirates had fastened by a tow-rope to their own,
and during his search he kept his back turned to his companions. He
was gone but a moment, and when he returned his whiskers were very
shiny, and he was looking extremely jolly as he hummed a snatch of a
"Find anything?" asked Growler, eying him suspiciously. "If you did,
and don't fork it out before the Chief, _you'll_ catch it. 'Twill be
as much as your nine lives are worth!"
"Oh, 'twas nothing--nothing of any importance," answered Prowler
Rudolf and Ann looked at each other, but neither of them spoke. Both
the pirate cats now settled to the oars and the boat skimmed along the
water in the direction of the _Merry Mouser_. As they drew alongside,
Growler muttered in a not unfriendly whisper:
"Look here, youngsters, here's a word of advice that may save you your
skins. Don't show any cheek--not to me or Prowler, we're the
mates--and above all, not to the Chief!"
"What is your Chief's name, Mr. Growler, dear sir?" asked Ann
Growler flashed his white teeth at her. Then he looked at Prowler and
both mates repeated together as if they were saying a lesson: "The
name of our illustrious Chief is Captain Mittens--Mittens, the
Pitiless Pirate--Mittens, the Monster of the Main!"
"Why--why--my Aunt Jane had a tiger cat once with white paws--" Ann
began, but then she stopped suddenly, for Rudolf had given her a sharp
pinch. A terrible frown had spread over the faces of both Growler and
Prowler. "Above _all_," whispered the mate in low and earnest tones,
"none of that! If you don't want to be keel-hauled, don't recall his
ABOARD THE MERRY MOUSER
When Rudolf and Ann and the False Hare, under guard of Growler and
Prowler, reached the deck of the _Merry Mouser_, they found Peter,
dressed in a dry suit of pirate clothing and looking none the worse
for his wetting. He was being closely watched by a big Maltese pirate
whose strong paw with its sharp claws outspread rested on his
shoulder, but as Rudolf and Ann were led past him, he managed to
whisper, "Look out! Mittens is awful cross at us!"
Foolish Ann paid no attention to this warning. She was so glad to see
her Aunt Jane's pet again that she snatched her hand out of Prowler's
paw, and ran toward the Pirate Chief. "Kitty, Kitty, don't you know
me?" she cried. "Oh, Puss, Puss!"
For a moment Captain Mittens stood perfectly silent, bristling to the
very points of his whiskers with passion. Then he ordered in a hoarse
kind of growl: "Bring the bags."
Instantly two ugly black and white spotted cats dived into the little
cabin and brought out an armful of neat, black, cloth bags with
drawing strings in them. "One moment," commanded Mittens in a very
stern voice, "any plunder?"
Growler, the mate, bowed low before his chief. "'Ere's a werry
'andsome weapon, sir," said he, handing over Rudolf's sword. "Nothing
else on the little ones, sir, but _this_ 'ere gentleman"--pointing to
the False Hare--"was loaded down with jools."
Hearty cheers sprang from the furry throats of the crew, while broad
grins spread over their whiskered faces as they listened to this
"Silence," snarled Mittens--and every cat was still. "Now then," he
commanded Growler, "hand 'em over."
Very much against his will, Growler emptied his pockets of the False
Hare's jewelry and handed it over to his Chief. Mittens took the gold
watch and chain, the flashing pin and studs, the beautiful diamond
ring and put them all on, glaring defiantly at his crew as he did so.
So fierce was that scowl of his, so sharp and white the teeth he
flashed at them, so round and terrible his gleaming yellow eyes that
not a cat dared object, though the faces of all plainly showed their
anger and disappointment at this unfair division of the spoils.
"Now, what's in _there_," demanded Mittens, as he gave a contemptuous
kick to the False Hare's dress-suit case. Growler opened it and took
out a dozen paper collars, a little pair of pink paper pajamas, and a
small black bottle labeled "Hare Restorer."
"All of 'em worth about two cents retail," snorted Mittens with a
bitter look at the False Hare. "And that umbrella, I see, is not made
to go up! Huh! Drowning's too good for _you_!"
"I feel so myself, sir," said the False Hare humbly. "You see," he
added, wiping away a tear with the back of his paw, "I'm so _fond_ of
Mittens thought a moment, keeping his eye firmly fastened on the Hare.
"I'll fix you," he cried, "I'll tie you up in one of those bags!"
The False Hare put his paw behind his ear. "Bags?" said he. "Excuse
me, sir, but did you say bags?"
"Yes, I did," roared the Pirate Chief. "Bags! Bags! Bags!"
"Oh, _thank_ you!" cried the False Hare cheerily. "Just my favorite
resting-place--a nice snug bag. Mind you have them draw the string
_tight_, won't you?"
Mittens flew into a terrible passion. "I have it," he roared, "I'll
send you adrift! Here, boys, get that boat ready!"
Then the Hare began to cry, to sob, to beg for mercy, till the
children felt actually ashamed of him. "Look here, Mittens," Rudolf
"_Captain_ Mittens," corrected the pirate coldly.
It was hard for Rudolf, but he dared not anger the pirate cat any
further. "Don't hurt him, please, Captain Mittens," he begged. "He's
only a--" Then he stopped, for the False Hare was making a terrible
face at him behind the handkerchief with which he was pretending to
wipe his eyes.
"Tie his paws!" commanded Mittens, without so much as a look at
Rudolf. "There--that's a nice bit of string hanging out of his
pocket--take that. Now--chuck him in the boat!"
In a trice the black and white spotted cats, who seemed to be common
sailors, had tied the False Hare's paws behind him with his own
string, lowered him into the mice's little boat from which they had
already removed the oars, gave it a push, and sent him cruelly adrift!
"Oh, Rudolf," cried tender-hearted Ann, "what will become of him? Poor
"Po-o-o-r old Hare," came back a dismal echo from the little boat
already some distance away. Then they saw that the False Hare had
freed his paws--that string must have been made of paper like his
clothes and his umbrella--and was standing up in his boat waving a
gay farewell to all aboard the _Merry Mouser_.
"Good-by, kidlets!" he called in mocking tones. "Hope you have a good
time with the tabbies!" And then to Mittens, "Good-by, old Whiskers!"
At this insult to their Chief all the pirate cats began firing their
revolvers, but their aim must have been very poor indeed, as none of
their shots came anywhere near the Hare's boat. Indeed, a great many
of the cats had forgotten to load their weapons, though they kept
snapping away at their triggers as if that did not matter in the
slightest. The False Hare merely bowed, kissed his paw to Captain
Mittens, and then began using his silk hat as a paddle so skilfully
that in a few moments he was far beyond their range.
Growler edged up to Prowler. "I say, old chap," he chuckled, "I
s'pose that's what they mean by a hare-breadth escape?"
Prowler grinned. "It's one on the Chief, anyway," said he joyfully.
"Not a breath of wind, ye know, not so much as a cats-paw--no chance
of a chase."
"What's that?" Captain Mittens had crept up behind the two mates and
bawled in Prowler's ear. "What's that? No wind? Why not, I'd like to
know? What d'ye mean by running out o' wind? Head her for Catnip
Island this instant, or I'll have ye skinned!"
"Yes, sir, I'll do my best, sir," answered Prowler meekly. "But you
see, sir, the breeze havin' died, sir, it'll be a tough job to get the
"Prowler!" The chief, who had been standing close beside the unlucky
mate while he spoke, now came closer yet and fixed his terrible eye
on Prowler's shining whiskers. "How long," he asked, speaking very
slowly and distinctly, "is--it--since--you--have--tasted mouse?"
Prowler trembled all over. "A--a--week, sir," he mumbled, "that is, I
couldn't _swear_ to the date, sir, but 'twas at my aunt's and she
never has us to tea on a Monday, for that's wash-day, nor on a
Tuesday, for that's missionary, so it must 'a' been--"
"No use, 't won't work, Prowler." The Chief grinned and waved a paw to
one of the spotted sailors. "Here, you, bring along the
At this the children were immediately very much interested, for they
had never in their lives seen a cat with more than one tail.
"It would take nine times as much pulling--" Rudolf was whispering to
Peter, when he noticed a new commotion among the sailors. The black
and white sea-cat had turned to carry out the Chief's order when
suddenly some one called out "A breeze, a breeze!" and in the
excitement of getting the _Merry Mouser_ under way, the captain's
attention was turned, and Prowler and his crime were forgotten.
All this time Ann and Rudolf and Peter had been standing a little
apart from the rest under guard of the Maltese pirate at whose feet
lay the dreadful black bags all ready for use. In the confusion Rudolf
turned to Ann and whispered, "Do you suppose we could possibly stir up
a mutiny? Prowler must be pretty sore against the Chief! If we could
only get him and Growler on our side and make them help us seize
Mittens and drop him overboard."
But Ann shook her head, and as for Peter he doubled up his little
fists and cried out loud: "Nobody sha'n't touch my Mittens! I don't
care if he _is_ a pirate cat. I'm going to ask my Aunt Jane if I
can't take him home with me to Thirty-fourth Street!"
"Sh--sh!" Ann whispered, putting her hand over his mouth, but it was
too late! Mittens had crept stealthily up behind Peter and now he
popped one of the black bags over his head. At the same instant, Ann,
kicking and struggling, vanished into another held open by two of the
spotted cats, and before Rudolf could rush to her rescue a third bag
descended over his own head. It was no use struggling, yet struggle
they did, till Mittens sent three of the spotted sailors to sit on
them, and _then_ they soon quieted down. There were one or two small
breathing holes in each bag, or else the children would surely have
suffocated, so stout and heavy were those spotted cats. After what
seemed to them a very long time a cry of "Land ho!" was raised, and
the cats got up and rushed away to join in the general fuss and
confusion of getting the _Merry Mouser_ ready for her landing.
Rudolf had been working his hardest at one of the holes in his bag and
soon he was able to get a good view of his immediate surroundings.
"Cheer up!" he called to Ann and Peter. "We're coming close to the
"Has it got coral reefs and palm-trees and cocoanuts and savages,
friendly ones, I mean?" came in muffled tones from Ann's bag.
"Has it got monkeys and serpents an' turtles an'--an'--shell-fish?"
demanded Peter from his.
"N-no," said Rudolf, "I don't see any of those things _yet_. There are
a great many trees, some of 'em coming most down to the edge of the
water, but they're not palm-trees, they're willows, the kind you pick
the little furry gray things off in early spring--"
"Pussy-willows, of course, stupid!" interrupted Ann.
"Yes, and back of that there are fields with tall reeds or grasses
with brown tips to them."
"Cattails!" giggled Ann.
"And there's a big high cliff, too, with a little stream of water
running down, and--" But here Rudolf stopped, for Growler and Prowler
rushed up, cut the strings of the three bags, and released the
children from their imprisonment. Hardly did they have time to stretch
themselves before the _Merry Mouser_ brought up alongside her
landing-place, and in a moment more the children were being led
ashore, each under guard of a cat pirate to prevent escape.
Little cats, big cats, black, white, gray, yellow, striped, spotted,
Maltese, tortoise-shell, calico, and tiger cats! Cats of all sizes and
all kinds, cats of all ages, from tiny furry babies wheeled in
perambulators by their mamas to gray old grandpas hobbling along by
the aid of canes or crutches--all the cats of Catnip Island had
trooped down to the shore to watch the landing of the _Merry Mouser_.
Captain Mittens, decked out in the False Hare's jewelry, was the first
to leave the pirate ship. He stepped along jauntily, nose in the air
and the haughtiest kind of expression on his whiskered face. After him
came Growler leading Rudolf, then Prowler with Ann, then the Maltese
pirate with Peter by the hand. The spotted sailors brought up the
rear, all but two who had been left to guard the ship. As soon as the
shore cats saw that their Chief had brought home three prisoners from
his cruise, they set up a great yowl of joy, and began to dance,
prancing and bounding in the air and whirling round and round upon
their hind legs.
[Illustration: Captain Mittens was the first to leave the pirate
"Oh, my eye!" exclaimed Rudolf, quite forgetting where he was and
standing still to watch their antics. "Don't I wish I had my
"Hush! Silence--'nless ye want to be skinned!" It was the voice of
Prowler just behind him.
"If you think I'm afraid of a lot of silly cats--" began Rudolf, but
his voice was drowned by the angry yowls that burst from a hundred
furry throats as the islanders pressed closer and closer.
"Oh, Rudolf, do be quiet!" Ann begged, and Rudolf, remembering that he
was not only a long way from his sling shot, but that even his sword
had been taken away from him, was obliged to submit. By this time the
pirates had cleared a way through the crowd and the procession left
the beach and entered the pussy-willow grove which Rudolf had
described from the deck of the _Merry Mouser_. Half hidden among the
trees were a number of pretty little houses, each with a neat door
yard and a high back fence. Each had its name, too, on a small door
plate, and it amused Ann and Peter to spell out as they went
along--"Furryfield," "Mousetail Manor," "Kitten-cote," etc.
"Oh, look," Ann whispered, "see the darling, little, front doors,
Peter! Just like the cat-hole in Aunt Jane's big door. The chimneys
are shaped something like ears and the roofs are all covered with
"Yes," answered Peter, "and they've got little gardens to 'em, Ann. I
guess that must be the catnip we smell so strong. I don't see any flowers,
though, only big tall weeds, rows and rows of 'em--milkweed--that's what
it is! What do you suppose they planted that for?"
Prowler, who was walking just ahead of Peter, overheard this last
remark, and turning, fixed his large, round, yellow eyes on the little
boy. "Don't you like milk, young man?" he asked.
"Why, yes," said Peter, very puzzled, "but not _that_ kind, you know."
"Well, milk's milk these hard times," said Prowler, wagging his head.
"It don't do to be too particerler. You like mice, don't you?" he
"Why, _I_ like candy mice," said Peter grinning, "but I never knew
before that cats did!"
"Sh-sh!" Poor Prowler began to tremble all over and look anxiously
about him. "Not a word of that," he murmured, "or I'm a dead cat! You
keep mum about that little affair, young'un, and I'll do you a good
turn yet, see if I don't!"
"All right; don't you forget!" whispered Peter.
The procession was now approaching a house considerably larger than
any of the others and which had "The Pirattery" written in large
letters over its door. Mittens led the way inside, the mates with the
children and all the other pirates followed, together with as many of
the island cats as could squeeze themselves in. The Pirattery, so the
children were informed by Growler and Prowler, was an assembly hall or
general meeting-place for the pirates when on shore. Its floor and
the little platform at one end were strewn with rat-skin rugs of the
finest quality, and its walls were adorned with handsomely stuffed and
mounted mouse and fish heads, snake skins, and other trophies of the
Mittens now took up his position on the platform and began a long and
eloquent speech in which he related the story of the capture of his
prisoners, making the most absurd boasts of the terrible risks he had
run, and dwelling most particularly on the awful fate of the False
Hare--while quite forgetting to mention his escape. This speech was
interrupted by tremendous cheers from the island cats which were only
faintly joined in by the pirates. Mittens finished by saying that a
concert in celebration of the victory would now be given, after which
there would be refreshments--Peter pricked up his ears at the word!
--and then the plunder taken from the prisoners would be distributed
among the officers and crew of the _Merry Mouser_. This last
announcement was greeted by a volley of shrill and joyful yowls from
the younger cat pirates, but Growler, frowning, whispered in Rudolf's
"Don't you believe a word of that, about whacking up on the treasure!
He'll never give up so much as a single shirt stud, he won't."
"I would 'a' liked them pink pajamas, I would," sighed Prowler.
"They'd just suit my dark complexion."
"I can't understand," said Ann, "what it is that has made such a
change in Mittens! Why, just yesterday when we got to Aunt Jane's he
was asleep before the fire with a little red bow on his collar--just
as soft and nice as anything, and he let us all take turns holding
"He never scratched really _deep_ all day," said Peter mournfully,
"only when we dressed him up in the doll's clothes--he didn't seem to
'preciate that--an'--an' when I pulled his tail--he didn't _like_
"He's a bad old thief, that's what he is!" exclaimed Rudolf,
forgetting in his excitement to lower his voice. "And if we ever get
back to Aunt Jane's and he's there, _I'll_ fix him--"
A general warning hiss went up from the pirate cats who stood nearest
to the children. "Be quiet," muttered Growler, "unless you want your
ears bitten off? Don't you see the Chief is going to sing?"
Mittens had stepped to the front of the platform and was fixing an
angry scowl upon the three children who stood between Growler and
Prowler directly beneath him. When all was so quiet in the hall you
could have heard a pin drop, the Chief cleared his throat and nodded
to the Maltese pirate who stood ready to accompany him upon the
tambourine. In the background a semicircle of other singers clutched
their music and shuffled their feet rather nervously as they waited to
come in at the chorus.
Mittens sang in a high plaintive voice:
"When I was young, you know,
Not very long ago,
I was a mild, a happy Pussy-cat!
My fur was soft as silk,
I lived on bread and milk,
And I dozed away my days upon the mat!"
("He was then a happy, happy Pussy-cat!")
"I really blush to say
How idly I would play
With my tail or silly spool upon the floor--
Till one unlucky day
Three children came to stay--
After that I wasn't happy any more."
("No, _indeed_, he wasn't happy any more!")
"They drove me nearly wild,
My temper, once so mild,
They spoiled--the truth of that you'll say is plain--
So I ran away to sea--
'Tis a pirate's life for me,
And I'll never be a Pussy-cat again!"
("No, _he'll_ never be a Pussy-cat again!")
You may be sure that Rudolf and Ann did not join in the burst of
applause which greeted the end of Captain Mittens' song. Peter would
have been glad to, for he was too young and foolish to understand how
really impertinent Mittens had been, but his brother and sister
quickly stopped that. As for Growler and Prowler, they merely yawned,
as if they had heard this song more than once before, only faintly
clapping their paws together in order not to attract the tyrant's
attention to themselves. The next piece on the program, so Mittens
announced, would be a duet between himself and Miss Tabitha Tortoise,
entitled _Moonbeams on the Back Fence_. This selection proved so very
noisy, so full of quavers, trills, and loud and piercing yowls, that
the children decided it would be safe to attempt a little
"Oh, Rudolf," whispered Ann, "how shall we ever get away from here?"
"Don't want to get away," grumbled Peter. "We're going to have
refreshments; Mittens said so."
"Nonsense; you'll have to go if we do," answered Rudolf. "But listen,
what are the mates saying?"
The two black cat pirates were conversing excitedly under cover of the
music, and presently the children heard what Prowler was whispering
to Growler: "Look here, Matey, where's the rest of the swag, the suit
case and _his_ sword, you know?"
"On board ship, stowed away in Cap'n's cabin," answered Growler. "You
don't mean to--"
"Yes, I do--I'm no 'fraid-cat--I mean to have them pink pajamas, or--"
"And where do _I_ come in, eh?" exclaimed Growler indignantly.
"Oh, you can have the shirts and collars, Matey. Share and share
alike, you know. We'll just slip off to the ship, and--"
"And take us with you," broke in Rudolf. "Do!"
"You know you promised to do us a good turn," whispered Ann. "And if
you don't take us we'll tell, and we'll tell about what happened to
the white mice, too--"
"And while you're about it," went on Rudolf, "you'd better take
possession of the vessel. Between us we can easily manage those old
spotties that were left on board. Then, don't you see, when you
fellows are masters of the _Merry Mouser_, you'll have Mittens in your
power and you can make him whack up on all the treasure!"
At this brilliant suggestion the two mates gave a smothered cheer,
gazing at each other with their round yellow eyes full of joy and
their whiskered mouths grinning so widely that the children could see
their little red tongues and all their sharp white teeth.
"But how shall we get away without being seen?" Ann asked.
"Oh, that'll be all right," said Prowler, looking about him nervously.
"Just wait till you hear 'em announce the refreshments--that always
means a rush, you know. Then slip through the crowd and out by that
door behind the curtain, and hustle down to the ship just as fast as
ever you can lay your paws to the ground!"
Prowler had hardly finished speaking before, with a final long-drawn
piercing yowl, the duet of the Pirate Chief and Miss Tabitha Tortoise
came to an end, and an intermission of ten minutes for refreshments
was announced. From an inner room at the back of the hall a dozen or
so white cats in caps and aprons trotted forth bearing large trays
loaded with very curious-looking cat-eatables.
Rudolf and Ann had now their usual trouble with Peter who at first
absolutely refused to budge until he had tasted at least "one of
each". When at last he was made to understand that the trays around
which the cats were so greedily thronging contained nothing more
inviting than roasted rats and pickled fish fins, and that these
delicacies would probably not be offered to prisoners anyway, he
regretfully allowed himself to be pushed through a door at the side of
the hall and hurried off in the direction of the shore. Although the
children, followed closely by the two mates, had managed to slip away
almost unnoticed in the general excitement, yet they knew their escape
must soon be discovered and they ran as fast as ever they could go.
At last they reached the wharf and scrambled up the side of the _Merry
Mouser_, expecting each instant to receive some kind of challenge from
the two spotted cats on guard. Much to their surprise they received
none. This was soon explained, for the two common sailors were found
in the cabin, curled up in the Captain's bunk, fast asleep.
"A nice mess they'd be in if the Chief caught 'em!" cried Growler.
Prowler said nothing, but winked at his friend, and taking a piece of
strong string from his pocket, he bound the poor spotted cats' eight
paws all in a bunch together and left them to continue their nap. This
little matter attended to, all hands now turned their attention to
raising the sail, and by the time the advance-guard of cat pirates
came rushing down through the pussy-willow grove in their pursuit, the
_Merry Mouser_, borne along by a breeze that was something more than a
catspaw, was fast leaving the shores of Catnip Island behind her.
MUTINY ON BOARD
For some time the children leaned over the rail looking back at the
group of cats gathered at the water's edge. The form of the Pirate
Chief towered above them all as he ran up and down the beach yowling
out all sorts of commands to which was paid very little attention by
any one, and stopping every little while to flourish an angry paw in
the direction of the _Merry Mouser_.
Peter regarded him sadly. "Poor old Mitts," he sighed, "it was an
awful mean trick to play on him! He hasn't got any other boat and he
looks so mad, I b'lieve he'd swim after us if he could."
"He could, all right," said Prowler gravely, "but he'd get his paws
wet, and that's a serious thing, you know."
Rudolf and Ann burst out laughing, and even Peter smiled, for it
seemed to them a funny thing for a pirate to fuss about.
"Now," exclaimed Rudolf, as the breeze freshened and the forms of the
cat pirates began to fade from sight, "there's a great deal to be
attended to. What do you think we'd better get at first?"
"My pink pajamas!" cried Prowler, leaping in the air and turning a
double somersault in his delight.
"My paper collars!" shouted Growler, following his example.
Rudolf was disgusted with the two mates for thinking of such nonsense
at a time like this, but it was no use trying to do anything with
them. They left the _Merry Mouser_ to his management, and rushed below
to bring up the False Hare's suit case. When they returned they were
followed by the two spotted sailors whom they introduced to the
children as Toddles and Towser. Toddles and Towser were still very
sleepy. They had managed to free themselves by chewing the string that
bound their paws, but they did not seem at all disturbed by the change
in affairs or inclined to make any trouble.
Rudolf placed them both at the wheel with stern directions to keep
each other awake if possible. He then went below to see if he could
find his sword before either Growler or Prowler should take a fancy to
it. It was hanging up over Captain Mittens' berth, and under the
Chief's pillow, neatly folded ready for the night, Rudolf found
Peter's pajamas. As they were quite dry now, he called Peter and
insisted on his putting them on, much against the little boy's
wishes, for hot and tight and furry as his borrowed suit had been,
Peter had felt gloriously like a pirate in it! Very sulkily he
followed his brother out of the cabin, but when the two had mounted to
the deck Peter's sulks gave way to a burst of giggles at the sight of
Growler and Prowler.
Ann was sitting on the deck quite weak with laughter, while the two
mates, dressed in their stolen finery, paraded up and down in front of
her. Prowler's pink pajamas were a better fit for him than Growler's
paper collar which nearly concealed his pirate's nose, only the points
of his whiskers and the tips of his black ears showing. Ann had added
to his costume by the loan of her blue hair-ribbon which she had tied
in a nice bow on the tip of his tail. But Prowler, if possible, looked
even more silly than Growler, for he copied the actions of Captain
Mittens as closely as he could, folding his paws on his chest and
scowling gloomily about him. He seemed extremely vexed when the
children laughed, but they really could not help it, since a pirate in
pink pajamas is not particularly dreadful. At last, after much
coaxing, Rudolf got the whole party to sit down in a circle on the
deck and consult with him on some plan of action.
"We _must_ make up our minds," said he firmly, "on where we are going,
and what is the nearest land, and what we are going to do when we get
there, and who is in command of the _Merry Mouser_, anyway, and--"
Here he was interrupted by Prowler who said would he please go a
little slower, for Rudolf was making his head ache and it reminded him
of going to his aunt's to say his catechism.
"The thing ter do," drawled Growler sleepily, "is ter do nothin' 'tall
till ye git somewheres where somethin's gotter be did, an' then
like's not it's too late ter do anything an' all yer trouble's saved
Rudolf did not think much of this as advice, but Prowler seemed
delighted. "Hurrah, my hearties!" he shouted, and up he jumped, stood
on his furry head on the deck, and waved his pink pajamaed legs in the
air. "Now we can have our tea!" he cried.
The faces of the three children brightened at the pleasant thought of
tea, and when the tray arrived, carried by Towser, Ann asked if she
"Paw away!" cried Prowler, grinning widely as he fixed his round
yellow eyes on a small covered dish that Toddles had just set before
Ann lifted the cover of the tea-pot to peep inside but as she sniffed
the steam an expression of disgust wrinkled up her little nose.
"Ugh!" she cried, "it's catnip tea."
"Course it is," answered Prowler calmly. "Catnip tea and stewed
mouses' tails--an' I asks what could anybody want nicer?"
"Little girls that don't like what's put before 'em can go without.
Ever hear anything like that before?" asked Growler sweetly, and as he
spoke he reached over and took the covered dish away from Prowler and
helped himself to it largely.
"But we don't any of us like this kind of a tea!" cried Rudolf
"Then all the more for us that does," said Prowler, and he snatched
the dish in his turn away from Growler and emptied all that was left
of it on his own plate. Since there was nothing else for the children
to do, they sat and watched the two mates eat, all of them feeling
decidedly cross, especially Peter. When every drop was finished and
every crumb licked up, Growler said to Prowler, "Time for a nap, old
boy," and without so much as a look in the children's direction the
two rude fellows turned tail and marched off arm in arm to their
"Well, they _are_ nice!" cried Ann. "And what are _we_ going to do, I
would like to know?"
"What we are going to do," said Rudolf thoughtfully, "is probably to
be shipwrecked. Oh, not _right_ away," he added quickly as he saw how
frightened his little sister looked. "But there's land close ahead, as
sure as sure can be, and, if I'm not much mistaken, Toddles and Towser
have both gone to sleep at the wheel."
It was true. The two common sea-cats had left the wheel to take care
of itself and had curled themselves up in a soft round ball on the
deck for a nap from which the children found it impossible to arouse
"I will try to steer and also mind the sheet, I think that's what it's
called," said Rudolf, "but as I don't know _much_ about sailing a boat
except what I've read in books, and you and Peter don't know
_anything_, I think the least we'll do will be to run her aground."
"Let's try to wake Growler and Prowler up," Ann begged. "They can't be
sound asleep yet."
The two mates were not only sound asleep but snoring loudly. Ann and
Peter tried shaking them, spanking them, even drenching them with the
cold remains of the catnip tea, but it was all no use, they could not
get them to stir. Meanwhile the _Merry Mouser_ was drifting
dangerously near land, in spite of all Rudolf could do to prevent her.
He did several things and he ordered Peter and Ann to do a good many
others, but all of them felt glad the False Hare was not there to
compliment them on their seamanship. At last there came a dull shock
and a jar, and the _Merry Mouser_ ran her nose into a sand-bar,
quivered all over, and then stood still.
"The thing to do _now_" said Rudolf easily, just as if he had planned
it all, "is for us to get into the little boat we are towing and row
ourselves ashore. Of course we must wake up the mates and the crew and
take them with us."
It was simply astonishing the things those children had to do to
Growler and Prowler before they could get either of them so much as to
open an eye! When they were at last able to understand what had
happened, they merely turned over and growled out: "Oh, is _that_ all?
Aground, are we? Ye needn't have waked us up for _that_! Be off as
soon as ye like and give us some rest--do!" They had hardly left off
speaking before they were sound asleep again. As for Toddles and
Towser they refused to wake at all.
The children left them where they lay and climbed Over the side of the
_Merry Mouser_ into the little rowboat which Rudolf had brought
alongside. When all were safely aboard, he cut loose the tow-rope,
took the oars, and pulled away from the pirate ship. After a short and
pleasant row they reached a gently shelving beach where it was not
difficult to make a landing.
Ann stood and stared at the line of low hills that fringed the edge of
the water. "What funny, funny country!" she exclaimed. "It's like a
checker-board going up-hill."
"No, it isn't either," said Rudolf, who loved to disagree, "because
the squares are not square, they're all different shapes and sizes and
they're not just red and black but ever and ever so many different
"It's something like the countries in the geography maps, anyway,"
"It's like patchwork," said Peter, and he came nearest the truth.
As it did not seem likely they would need the little boat again, the
children left it to float away if it liked, and crossed the strip of
gray sand to where they saw a little pink and white striped path
winding up the side of a crimson hill. This path they began to follow,
and it took them by so many twists and turns that they hardly noticed
the climb. When the last loop brought them to the top of the slope
they stood still and looked about them, surprised and delighted at the
beauty of the bare bright hills that sloped away in front of them.
The ground under their feet was now a bright beautiful yellow,
powdered all over with little white dots that proved to be daisies.
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