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Authors: George Selden

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BOOK: Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
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By that afternoon he was tired out and had to lie down. It didn't help. It only transferred all the useless activity inside his head.

He was so preoccupied—like a stretched rubber band, he lay on the papers in Huppy's house—that he didn't hear Harry Cat slip in. “I'm back.”


“Who first?”

“You first.”

“Okay,” said Harry. “I almost lost Smedley on the IRT platform, but I found him and followed.”

“Just wait till you hear what's happened to Huppy!”

“All right,” sighed the cat. “You first.”

Tucker's story burst out of him. “I waited till midnight, then went down to the park, a forlorn and lonely figure, creeping his way through ice and snow—”

“Just skip the poetry and get to the point.”

“—a forlorn and lonely figure!” Tucker glared at his friend. A day's waiting, he thought, entitled him to tell it his way. “And what do I find in Bryant Park? A pack of dogs going sliding! You know, at the back of the park is the New York Public Library. The wind blew a big drift up against it, and the sun today melted just enough snow to make ice tonight—and there were all these dogs going sliding! And you know what they were sliding on?” The mouse paused dramatically. “Their bottoms!”

“I didn't
they had toboggans,” said Harry.

Tucker ignored the dig. “So up I marched, very fearlessly, expecting that I would be chewed up. Which I almost was!—by those hoodlum mutts. Excuse the word, but that's what they were. They mauled me something awful, till the head hooligan—that's Max!—came sliding down on his fanny and said, ‘Lay off the rodent.' Meaning
—Tucker Mouse!”

In a fit of outrage Tucker became completely tongue-tied. Harry waited patiently till he'd spluttered himself into mere indigation. “For the rest of the time I was down there he called me ‘Tucker baby,' too!”

“Insult to injury,” murmured the cat. “But what about Huppy?”

“Oh, he came sliding down, too—and knocked me flat on my back, he did. That made Lulu Pigeon—she was up in a tree, enjoying my discomfiture—laugh even louder.
‘Oo! oo! oo!'
—you know how that kookoo bird laughs.”

“Get on with the story!” said Harry Cat, whose patience, about now, was running out.

“All right, all right. So Huppy knocks me down, I get up, and—oh, Harry, he's grown! He's huge! In less than a week he's almost twice his size. No wonder, with what he's been eating. So after I get up, the first thing I notice, besides his size, is this stain on the whiskers around his mouth. I say, ‘Huppy, what is that stain around your mouth?' He licks at it and says, ‘Oh, that's just blood.'”


“Exactly what I meant to say myself—‘Blood!'—but before I could scream my anguish out, Huppy says, ‘Come on, Tucker baby.' He too, by the way, is now calling me ‘Tucker baby'!—‘come on, Tucker baby! Take a slide yourself!' And before I knew what was happening, he had grabbed the back of my neck in his teeth, dragged me up to the top of this mountainous drift, sat me down, pushed me off. And Harry, I have to admit—
hic! hic! hic!
” Tucker squeaked his raspy little laugh. “It's quite a lot of fun! I had four slides and nearly wore off all my fur you-know-where. You should try it yourself some—”

“I'm going to

So I had four slides and then I said, ‘Huppy, enough of this childishness. What blood?' ‘From the butcher shop!' he happily announced, and launched himself down the slope again. You see, Harrykins, we needn't have wasted our worry on Huppy. While we were down here in this drainpipe freezing our noses off, little Huppy was off carousing with Max and the other mutts. And
Tucker Mouse, am here to tell
Harry Cat, that Max knows this city even better than you do! They spent the blizzard in the toasty-warm cellar of an office building on Madison Avenue. Because Max knows
the buildings with sleepy night watchmen who sometimes leave the door unlocked or with watchmen frightened of snarling dogs—”

“Huppy snarls?”

“He's learning fast!” said Tucker. “He gave me a very convincing snarl, to show. Just give him a couple weeks more, he'll have added growling, barking, howling, all kinds of lovely doggy things to his repertory.”

“I don't like that.” Harry shook his head.

“You'll like what comes next even less. Just listen. The storm being over, Max leads the pack to the Upper East Side, where, on Lexington Avenue now, is located an especially expensive butcher shop—with a conveniently broken back window! Friend Max is also an expert on broken windows, broken doors, broken anything, where a dog can get in. And if nothing is broken, they've even got a big part-Saint Bernard named Louie—very small in the brains, however—whose specialty is rearing up on his hind legs and pressing down on door handles. At Max's direction, of course. So anyway, for two whole days the dogs gorged themselves on top round ground, lamb chops, and prime rib roasts.” Tucker licked his lips at the thought of it all. “Which, despite how delicious the meat may have been, and despite that the place where they put the treasure was their own bulging bellies—is what you'd call stealing.”

“You've been known to pilfer from the lunch stand yourself.”

Tucker glared at the cat. “And since when did
turn down—”

“Oh, forget it.” Harry flicked his tail around his forelegs impatiently. “Is that all?”

“That is
all. All came at the end of my visit to dogsville. I managed to drag Huppy off to one side and talk to him privately. And I told him we'd found a place for him.”

“Did you tell him where?” Harry interrupted.

“I don't
where yet. That was up to you. Why?”

“You'll see. Go on.”

“So I told him we'd probably found him a home, and
said that what with the tasty raw meat he'd been eating and what with the fun of sliding down snowdrifts, he wasn't at all sure he wanted to split from the gang! His very words: ‘split from the gang.'”

“All right. I get it.”

“So that is my story,” concluded Tucker. “We've got to hurry! Now what is yours?”

“Sit down,” said the cat. “You're in for a shock.”


Miss Catherine

“He lives way uptown,” began Harry, “on the West Side, in the Sixties. It wasn't too hard to follow him. I rode between the cars on the subway, away from the human beings, but where I could see him when he got off. The first problem came when we got to the apartment house.”

“In a slum?” guessed Tucker.

“Just the opposite. A nice street—big old buildings—and Mr. Smedley's apartment house is the best on the block.”

“No pets?” Tucker guessed again.

Harry shook his head. “A man went in ahead of Mr. Smedley with an Afghan hound on a leash.”

“And they're big!” the mouse chortled gleefully. “Even bigger than Huppy'll probably get. So what was the problem?”

“The problem was me. Afghans on leashes, yes—stray alley cats, no. The doorman shooed me away.”

“The snob!”

“I sat across the street and watched Mr. Smedley go into the lobby, then into the elevator—the doors closed—he was gone. And somewhere, I thought, inside that building there might be a home for Huppy. But it was at least twenty stories tall. So what was I to do?”

“Claw the doorman, and while he's running away you read Mr. Smedley's apartment number on the mailboxes, then find the emergency staircase and—”

“I promise not to ask any more rhetorical questions, if you promise to shut up,” said Harry.

“Okay,” sulked Tucker, who still liked his plan. “What
you do?”

“I decided the place for an alley cat was an alley. So I sneaked through the one beside the building, and in back of it I found what I was looking for: a fire escape.”

“That's the boy!” burst in Tucker enthusiastically. “That Max may think he knows the ins and outs of the city, but he can't beat Harry Cat! Go, man!”

“I went,” said Harry. “First onto the top of a trash can, then, with a big jump, all the way up to the very last rung of the ladder at the bottom of the fire escape. And a long trip began. I didn't mind the fire escape—they're great for cats—but where was Mr. Smedley? And how was I going to get in? The escape was on the hall of each floor, and the window into the hall was not only shut but locked.”


“I was counting on luck,” the cat continued. “Cats
have luck.”

“A little should rub off on me,” Tucker muttered.

“And when I'm out prowling on an adventure like this I have found I can count on at least one good-sized chunk of luck. And I got it! On the seventeenth floor. I crept up all those metal stairs, and then I heard it—piano playing! That wasn't the luck, though. Anybody could have heard the piano playing. The luck was, the window into the hall was broken. One pane of glass was completely out. In I jumped and listened my way to Apartment G. That's where the sound was coming from. 'Course, there might have been other human beings with pianos in that apartment house—but this
to be Mr. Smedley! I recognized the piece he was playing. It was one of those things Chester Cricket played when he gave his concerts over at the newsstand. And it
like Mr. Smedley, too. Kind of finicky and nervous, but nice. So the next problem was how to get in.”

“More luck?”

“No. Only frustration. I sat in that hall for an hour, just wondering what to do. I'd about decided to start miaowing pitifully and pretend I had a broken leg—then he'd open the door to see what all the racket was—but it didn't come to that. The piano playing stopped, and I heard him say, ‘Ah, lovely! Such a charming piece!'”

“That's great!” laughed Tucker. “The guy talks to himself. He must
be lonely.”

“Just hold your horses,” warned Harry Cat. “‘Lovely, lovely,' he said. I heard him walk from one room to another, the sound of dishes rattling—he was in the kitchen, making supper. The refrigerator door opened. ‘Oh, drat!' he said. ‘No milk. Well, we have to have milk.' Now a rustling sound, right inside the door—he was putting on his overcoat. And I knew in an instant what to do. I flattened myself against the floor, squinched up against the wall, and as soon as that apartment door opened, I was in like a flash—before he could even look down.”

“Whoopee!” shouted Tucker. “Alone in Mr. Smedley's apartment! A perfect chance to case the joint. As Max would say. What's it like?”

“Beautiful—in a kind of old-fashioned way. He'd left the light on in the hall, and with that, plus my cat's eyes, I got a good look at everything. I could tell right away that Mr. Smedley must come from a long line of somebodies or other. Almost every stick of furniture in the place is antique. And
antiques, too! I've prowled through enough antique shops in the city to recognize quality when I see it. Except in Mr. Smedley's apartment there may be too many of them.”

“But how many rooms?” interrupted Tucker.

“Well—” Harry counted on his paws. “The kitchen, the dining room, living room, the music room, Mr. Smedley's bedroom—he has a big brass bedstead—the guest bedroom, those rooms at the back—at least eight or nine, I guess.”

“Eight or nine!” Tucker rubbed his claws together in glee. “That means Huppy can have one all to himself. We could maybe even set up a little summer place for ourselves.”

“The most interesting one is the music room. There's a big piano there, a grand, and a second, littler one. I guess for teaching he sometimes plays along with his students. And the walls are lined with bookshelves full of books of music and opera librettos—and records. The one new thing in the whole apartment is a beautiful hi-fi set, with four speakers. But even there—”

“What even there?” Tucker heard the change come in Harry's voice, as the cat stopped to think.

“I mean, even with the hi-fi set there's a feeling of oldness. I don't mean oldness—I like old things—but mustiness. And a sicklish sweetness in the air. It's especially strong in the living room. Not dust or dirt—everything's all clean—but you
that the sofa has not been moved for years. And the glass candlesticks on the mantelpiece—they have
to be in exactly the spot where Mr. Smedley's mother left them.”

“Fresh air!” diagnosed Tucker Mouse. “That's all Mr. Smedley needs. And fresh life.” He poked his friend in the ribs. “That's something that we can provide—eh, Harry?”

BOOK: Harry Cat's Pet Puppy
10.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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