of A Rat Race
by James B.
The carpenters came on a certain Monday morning to make some needed
alterations about Mr. Wilson's stable at the rear of his house yard. And
you know what a noise carpenters will make when working; far more than
enough to disturb the most contented of rats.
Peggy O'Conner, who was moving to and from the kitchen hanging up linen
to dry in the yard, said she saw no rat pass by her; but as a rat was
found in the library, it must have come there by way of the side yard
from the stable.
It was a rather warm summer morning, but with enough of a breeze blowing
to start Uncle Leonard sneezing if he should drop off to sleep while
sitting in a draught. Now, merry Uncle Leonard was asleep in an
easy-chair down in the library, where the two window-sashes were raised
and both doors were open. He had gone there, as usual, to read the
morning paper, but gradually it drooped nearer and nearer the end of his
nose, as usual, until it finally spread itself adroitly over his closed
eyes, to fend off the flies. Then he began to make that soft
steam-enginery sound that most stout gentlemen make when asleep, about
as loud as the purring of "Cattegat," Lou and Amy's cat.
Cattegat always followed Uncle Leonard to the library if possible, to
escape Lou and Amy, who, during their vacation, were trying to teach him
to hold a lump of sugar on the end of his nose while seated on his hind
paws. Cattegat, who liked the sugar but not the trick, had been so named
by a Danish gentleman who had presented him to Lou and Amy.
The rat as it entered the library thought, doubtless, that it was a
pretty comfortable-looking place, or else it wouldn't have gone about
the room smelling and sniffing until it found a piece of sponge-cake,
knocked by the canary from the wires of its cage.
That little breeze went on blowing across Uncle Leonard's head, and
directly he gave a rousing "ashoo!" of a sneeze. Such an
"a-a-sh-sh-shoo," that he actually sneezed himself into a sitting
position. The rat was more startled at such a noise than at all the
carpenters had made, and dropping the cake, peeped from behind an
ottoman where it took refuge.
Cattegat jumped up and looked at Uncle Leonard as if to ask him if he
had made that noise, and then glanced about the room.
"What can ail the cat!" exclaimed Uncle Leonard, as Cattegat went across
the floor in about three springs. Then quickly closing the yard door, he
called, "A rat! a rat!" as the rat ran from behind the ottoman.
Cattegat and the rat raced headlong around the room once, and Uncle
Leonard nearly kicked himself off his feet as the rat slipped unhurt by
him. Then away went the rat out of the library through the other door,
along the hall, and up the front stairs; away tore Cattegat not far
behind it; and quickly in pursuit trotted Uncle Leonard, calling, "Catch
him, Cattegat; catch him, Cattegat!"
At the moment, Lou, a very handy boy about the house, was in a
second-story room near the head of the stairs, and had just finished
gluing in the leg of Amy's rocking-chair. He had taken the chair there
to mend, because the floor was not carpeted, but smoothly varnished, and
any glue dropped could be easily removed. Amy stood watching him as she
slowly untied a package of prepared chalk for the teeth, with which she
had shortly before returned from the drug store.
"Gracious! what's coming up stairs?" said Lou, placing the glue brush on
the chair beside the glue-pot, and stepping to the door.
"Look out for the rat!" shouted Uncle Leonard.
Amy instantly sprang on the first object at hand, her just-mended
rocking-chair, which gave way, of course, and over she went. However,
she broke her fall by catching at the chair holding the glue-pot and
brush, though the glue rolled to the right and the brush to the left.
The package of prepared chalk, that had received an upward pitch as Amy
had toppled over, then came down in time to plentifully powder both her
The latter had turned to clear the way for the rat and Cattegat, not
more than an instant later than Amy had taken alarm, but the glue had
been spilled more quickly. And though Lou jumped over the pool of glue
safely, he landed right under the shower of chalk, and directly upon the
slippery glue brush. Presto! down went Lou, and shooting over the smooth
floor, vanished under the bed at the far end of the room, as though he
had been a clown playing in a pantomime.
Amy, so filled with laughter, could scarce manage to climb on the sound
chair before the rat and Cattegat came whizzing through the doorway;
both leaped clear of the spilled glue, and scampered in a flash across
the floor into the next room, and so on through several other rooms that
"Oho! bravo, Cattegat!" said Uncle Leonard, as he came on, running at a
wonderful rate for him. Right through the doorway he ran, but on seeing
Amy, he was about to lessen his speed, and have her join in the chase,
when he stepped in the pool of glue. Slip, slip, slide across the room,
went Uncle Leonard, with his feet getting farther apart, as though the
floor was the slipperiest of ice. He slid to and against a wash-stand,
and then sank down slowly and gracefully at its foot in a way that would
have done credit to a champion gymnast. But he shook the stand so
violently that the water-pitcher was shaken over within its basin, and
emptied half its contents upon his head.
Amy rushed to his aid, righted the pitcher, and inquired if he was hurt.
"Not a bit," said Uncle Leonard, getting again on his feet, smiling
mirthfully at his own dripping coat, and giving one of those jolly
laughs of his at Amy's chalk-powdered head. "Come along, my dear,"
continued he; "keep the chase up, or the rat will yet have the best of
it. But where's Lou?"
"Here I am!" answered Lou, poking his laughing, powdered face from under
the bed, and crawling out. And away they all followed the chase, Uncle
Leonard kicking off his gluey slippers, and catching up a pair of Papa
Cattegat and the rat in the mean time had been racing up and down the
front bedrooms, frightening Mamma Wilson and Aunt Laura into climbing up
on one of the beds, and Cattegat had distinguished himself by knocking
over a sewing basket and a screen. As the pursuers appeared upon the
scene, rat and cat ran out into the hallway again, through a door that
Aunt Laura had opened, hoping to get clear of them.
Then pat, pat, pat, again in chase went Lou and Amy's shoes; flap, flap,
flap, followed Uncle Leonard's slippers; and Mamma Wilson and Aunt Laura
brought up the rear with an irregular run and walk. Right through the
length of the whole second story, through the hallway, and from room to
room they rushed, with such a clatter and whoop as had never before been
heard in that house, merry as were its people.
Cattegat will now surely catch that ferocious rat in the last room,
thought every one. But no; straight down the back stairs plunged the
rat, and jump, jump, followed Cattegat, still several feet behind it.
And at the bottom of the stairway, closed by a door, the race would have
been doubtlessly won by Cattegat, but Peggy O'Conner, hearing such an
unusual commotion overhead, came to the door to inquire its cause. As
Peggy opened the door she heard several voices call: "Don't open that
door; Cattegat's after a rat."
Bang! went the door—closed quickly, I assure you; but something flew
past Peggy, and she only shut the door in Cattegat's face.
As that something, very much like a rat, flew past Peggy, and vanished
out of the kitchen, a piece of soap that Katie, the other girl, threw
with a very bad aim, went flying after it. But frightened Peggy, in
dismay, raised her hands, backed awkwardly against a tub of blue water
on the floor, and before she could recover her balance, splashed down
into the water, which flew about like the spray of a great fountain.
As the whole party filed down the back stairs, Katie was trying amidst
her merriment to help wringing-wet Peggy out of her queer bath, and all
but Cattegat had something to laugh at.
Cattegat seemed very much disappointed because the rat had escaped, and
went out in the yard, and hid himself under a rose-bush.
As for the rat, Lou is pretty certain that he sees it occasionally
capering about the stable, very much unlike a common rat that has never
had an adventure.