Story by Richard Barnum.
Blackie scrambled down out of the cage of Dido, the dancing bear, ran between the legs of Tum Tum, the jolly elephant, who called to her in his big, kind, trumpety voice, and then stuck her head out under the circus tent.
“Is everything all right?” asked Dido, who soon was to go in the ring and perform his tricks with his master.
“Yes, I don’t see anything of those bad boys,” answered Blackie and then she quickly ran off the circus grounds, after one look back at the crowds of people, the gay, fluttering flags, and the men selling pink lemonade, peanuts and toy balloons.
“Another adventure!” exclaimed Blackie, as she went to a little brook in a field to get a drink. “Whoever would think that I should run into a circus,” thought Blackie, as she washed her face with her paws. “I don’t believe even Speckle, as many times as he has run away, ever met Dido, the dancing bear, or Tum Tum, the jolly elephant.
“I wonder who that dog Don can be that Dido spoke of? I wonder if he would be kind to me if he met me? I could tell him I knew Dido and Tum Tum, and that might make a difference. Of course I don’t know the bear and elephant very well,” thought Blackie. “But I had no time to stay to get better acquainted. A circus must be a strange place.”
Blackie did not quite know what to do next. She looked over the fields, and, far away, she could see the white circus tent. Then she looked down in the water and she could see herself, as in a looking-glass.
“My! How rough my fur is!” said Blackie. “I’m all ruffled up, and I’m beginning to get thin, I do believe! That comes of not having enough to eat. I’m half starved. I think I’ll go back home. I have had enough of running away.
“It’s all very well to talk about having adventures, and getting yourself in a book, and all that. But Muffins was right. It is nicer to stay home. I don’t wonder Speckle would not run away with me, nor Muffins either.
“Yes, that’s what I’ll do,” went on Blackie, as she took another look at herself in the water looking-glass. “I’ll go back home. There’s no use trying to find Mrs. Thompson, though she was very good and kind to me. I can’t tell which is her house. I’ll go back to the city, to Arthur and Mabel. They must be as lonesome for me as I am for them.”
The two children were. They had looked all over for Blackie, and even put an advertisement in the newspapers, asking any one who saw their pet to bring her home.
But Blackie was far away, for Mrs. Thompson had taken her on a long railroad journey.
“Sleeping in barns, and running down in store cellars isn’t good for a cat’s fur,” thought Blackie, as she saw how ruffled hers was. “I must give myself a good cleaning before I go back home, or the children will not know me.”
So Blackie stayed in the field and washed herself with her red tongue. Then she crept up behind a house and found a piece of fish the farmer’s wife had thrown out. It was not as nice fish as Blackie used to get in her own home, but she could find no better.
“Never mind,” said the black cat to herself, “I’ll soon be where I belong, and I’ll never run away again. I’m going home.”
So Blackie started to go to her home. But she found the same trouble she had found in trying to get back to Mrs. Thompson. Blackie was so far away from her home with the good children that she could not find it. Up and down, here and there, she wandered for several days, but she could not find her home.
“Oh, dear!” Blackie exclaimed one day, when, all tired out, and hungry and thirsty she lay down in the grass to rest. “Oh, dear! I’m lost! That’s all there is about it! I don’t know where my home is, and I’m lost! I wonder what I had better do?”
Blackie was all alone. There was no one to tell her what to do, so she had to think it out for herself.
“Let me see now,” she said. “Even though I am lost I must have something to eat and drink, and a place to sleep. I think I had better go to some house and see if they will take me in.
“If they will, perhaps they will keep me for a while, until I get fat again, and feel better, and then I can find my own home. Yes, that is what I will do. I have wandered around enough. I’ll go to some house, and meow. They’ll know that I’m hungry and feed me.”
Blackie walked out of the field to the road, and down that toward a big, white farmhouse. It looked so nice and clean that Blackie thought surely it would be a good home for her.
“I’ll go around to the kitchen door,” thought Blackie. “That is where there will be something to eat.”
She went around the gravel walk of the house and toward the back door. But, just as she was getting up the back steps, down them rushed a big dog, barking loudly and calling out, in animal talk:
“Hi, there! No cats allowed around here! Be off! Bow wow!”
Blackie did not stop to talk. Away she ran as fast as she could go, and as she saw, over her shoulder, the dog coming after her, up a tree she ran. The dog came to a stop at the bottom of the tree, and barking up at Blackie said:
“What do you mean by coming here, anyhow? Who are you, and what do you want?”
Before she had run away, and while she was living with Arthur and Mabel, Blackie would not have paid much attention to any dog. She knew very few dogs, not even the one next door, and most dogs were cross and ugly, she thought. She did not think it was safe to talk to them.
But now she was up a tree, and she knew it would be safe to speak to this dog from up there. Also Blackie was so tired and hungry that she felt she must do something to get help. And perhaps this dog was not as cross as some, even if he did chase her. He might tell her where to get something to eat.
So, sitting on the limb of the tree, and looking down at the dog, Blackie said:
“Please be nice to me, Mr. Dog. I am so tired and hungry, and I’m lost. I ran away, Mr. Dog.”
“Hum, ran away did you?” said the dog’s voice was softer now. “I once ran away myself. But my name is not Mr. Dog. It is Don.”
“What! Is your name Don?” cried Blackie, and she was so surprised that she nearly fell off the limb of the tree. “Why, I’ve heard about you, Don?”
“You have? From whom?” Don wanted to know.
“From your friends in the circus; Dido, the dancing bear, and Tum Tum, the jolly elephant.”
“Well, I never!” barked Don. “So you know them, do you?”
“Yes, I have met them, though I can’t say I know them very well. They told me about you.”
“They did, eh? Well, well! Fancy now, you meeting Dido, the dancing bear. He’s a great chap, isn’t he? and such a fine dancer!”
“Oh, I didn’t see him dance,” answered Blackie. “I only ran in his cage to get away from some bad boys. Dido was very kind to me.”
“Humph! I suppose you mean I wasn’t kind,” said Don.
“Oh, I didn’t say that,” went on Blackie quickly.
“Well, I guess I was a bit cross and quick,” admitted Don. “But I didn’t mean anything. Everyone says my bark is worse than my bite. I didn’t intend to bite you anyhow. I was just going to chase you away. They don’t like cats at our house.”
“Oh, I am so sorry!” said Blackie sadly. “I hoped I might get something to eat and drink here.”
“Oh, I guess I can fix that all right for you,” said Don, in a more kindly voice. “But you surprise me when you tell me you met my friends Dido and Tum Tum. Take that elephant chap now. Didn’t you find Tum Tum a fine, jolly fellow?”
“Why, he looked so,” said Blackie, “and Dido said he was, so I guess he must be.”
“Oh, he is,” barked Don. “I know him well. He’s the jolliest elephant you’d want to meet. Had a book written about him, too.”
“So Dido was saying. I just spoke to Tum Tum, or, rather, he spoke to me as I was running out of the circus tent.”
“Say, look here now,” said Don, a bit sharply. “I hope you didn’t run away from the circus. That wouldn’t be right, and if Dido hid you in his cage it might get him in trouble.”
“Oh, no, I don’t belong to the circus,” said Blackie. “I just happened to go in the tent. I belong at home. But I’m lost. I’ll tell you all about it.”
“Do,” said Don. “I should like to hear about your adventures, and I’ll tell you some of mine. I’m in a book too.”
“So I heard.”
“But first,” said Don, “I must see about getting you something to eat. Come down out of the tree.”
“And you won’t chase me or bite me?”
“No. Honest I won’t. See, I’ll cross my tail,” and Don waved his tail up and down and sideways, like a cross, to show he meant what he said.
So Blackie came down out of the tree.