Jack and Jill
17. Down at Molly's
"Now, my dears, I've something very curious to tell you, so listen quietly and then I'll
give you your dinners," said Molly, addressing the nine cats who came trooping after her
as she went into the shed-chamber with a bowl of milk and a plate of scraps in her
hands. She had taught them to behave well at meals, so, though their eyes glared and
their tails quivered with impatience, they obeyed; and when she put the food on a high
shelf and retired to the big basket, the four old cats sat demurely down before her, while
the five kits scrambled after her and tumbled into her lap, as if hoping to hasten the
desired feast by their innocent gambols.
Granny, Tobias, Mortification, and Molasses were the elders. Granny, a gray old puss,
was the mother and grandmother of all the rest. Tobias was her eldest son, and
Mortification his brother, so named because he had lost his tail, which affliction
depressed his spirits and cast a blight over his young life. Molasses was a yellow cat,
the mamma of four of the kits, the fifth being Granny's latest darling. Toddlekins, the
little aunt, was the image of her mother, and very sedate even at that early age; Miss
Muffet, so called from her dread of spiders, was a timid black and white kit; Beauty, a
pretty Maltese, with a serene little face and pink nose; Ragbag, a funny thing, every
color that a cat could be; and Scamp, who well deserved his name, for he was the
plague of Miss Bat's life, and Molly's especial pet.
He was now perched on her shoulder, and, as she talked, kept peeping into her face or
biting her ear in the most impertinent way, while the others sprawled in her lap or
promenaded round the basket rim.
"My friends, something very remarkable has happened: Miss Bat is cleaning house!"
and, having made this announcement, Molly leaned back to see how the cats received
it, for she insisted that they understood all she said to them.
Tobias stared, Mortification lay down as if it was too much for him, Molasses beat her
tail on the floor as if whipping a dusty carpet, and Granny began to purr approvingly.
The giddy kits paid no attention, as they did not know what house-cleaning meant,
happy little dears!
"I thought you'd like it, Granny, for you are a decent cat, and know what is proper,"
continued Molly, leaning down to stroke the old puss, who blinked affectionately at her.
"I can't imagine what put it into Miss Bat's head. I never said a word, and gave up
groaning over the clutter, as I couldn't mend it. I just took care of Boo and myself, and
left her to be as untidy as she pleased, and she is a regular old----"
Here Scamp put his paw on her lips because he saw them moving, but it seemed as if it
was to check the disrespectful word just coming out.