« AnteriorContinua »
CLOSE by the threshold of a door nail'd fast
For long ere now it should have been rehears'd,
PETERKIN AND HIS CAT.*
ONE day, while Peterkin and I were seated beside our table, on which dinner was spread, Jack came up from the beach, and flinging down his axe exclaimed,—“There, lads, the boat's finished at last! so we've nothing to do now but shape two pairs of oars, and then we may put to sea as soon as we like.”
This piece of news threw us into a state of great joy; for although we were aware that the boat had been gradually getting near its completion, it had taken so long that we did not expect it to be quite ready for at least two or three weeks. But Jack had wrought hard and said nothing, in order to surprise us.
* From The Coral Island, by kind permission of Messrs. T. Nelson & Sons.
“My dear fellow," cried Peterkin,"you're a perfect trump. But why did you not tell us it was so nearly ready? won't we have a jolly sail to-morrow, eh ?”
"Don't talk so much, Peterkin,” said Jack; "and pray, hand me a bit of that pig."
“Certainly, my dear,” cried Peterkin, seizing the axe; "what part will you have ? a leg, or a wing, or a piece of the breast; which ?"
"A hind leg, if you please," answered Jack, "and pray be so good as to include the tail.”
“With all my heart,” said Peterkin, exchanging the axe for his hoop-iron knife, with which he cut off the desired portions. “I'm only too glad, my dear boy, to see that your appetite is so wholesale ; and there's no chance whatever of its dwindling down into retail again, at least in so far as this pig is concerned. Ralph, lad, why don't you laugh ?eh?” he added, turning suddenly to me with a severe look of inquiry.
“Laugh l” said I; "what at, Peterkin? Why should I laugh ?"
Both Jack and Peterkin answered this inquiry by themselves laughing so immoderately that I was induced to believe I had missed noticing some good joke, so I begged that it might be explained to me; but as this only produced repeated roars of laughter, I smiled and helped myself to another slice of plantain.
“Well, but,” continued Peterkin, “I was talking of a sail to-morrow. Can't we have one, Jack ?"
“No," replied Jack, “we can't have a sail, but I hope we shall have a row, as I intend to work hard at the oars this afternoon; and if we can't get them finished by sunset we'll light our candle-nuts, and turn them out of hands before we turn into bed.”
“Very good,” said Peterkin, tossing a lump of pork to the cat, who received it with a mew of satisfaction, “I'll help you, if I can."
Afterwards," continued Jack, “we will make a sail out of the cocoa-nut cloth, and rig up a mast, and then we shall be able to sail to some of the other Islands, and visit our old friends the penguins."
The prospect of being so soon in a position to extend our observations to the other islands, and enjoy a sail over the beautiful sea, afforded us much delight, and after dinner we set about making the oars in good earnest. Jack went into the woods, and blocked them roughly out with the axe, and I smoothed them down with the knife; while Peterkin remained in the bower, spinning, or rather twisting some strong thick cordage with which to fasten them to the boat.
We worked hard and rapidly, so that when the sun went down Jack and I returned to the bower with four stout oars, which required little to be done to them save a slight degree of polishing with the knife. As we drew near we were suddenly arrested by the sound of a voice! We were not a little surprised at this—indeed I may almost say alarmed -for, although Peterkin was undoubtedly fond of talking, we had never up to this time found him
talking to himself. We listened intently, and still heard the sound of a voice as if in conversation. Jack motioned me to be silent, and, advancing to the bower on tiptoe, we peeped in.
The sight that met our gaze was certainly not a little amusing. On the top of a log which we sometimes used as a table sat the black cat, with a very demure expression on its countenance; and in front of it sitting on the ground, with his legs extended on either side of the log, was Peterkin. At the moment we saw him he was gazing intently into the cat's face, with his nose about four inches from it, his hands being thrust into his breeches pockets.
“ Cat," said Peterkin, turning his head a little on one side, “I love you."
There was a pause, as if Peterkin awaited a reply to this affectionate declaration. But the cat said nothing.
"Do you hear me?" cried Peterkin, sharply. "I love you—I do. Don't you love me?"
To this touching appeal the cat said "mew,” faintly.
“Ah! that's right. You're a jolly old rascal. Why did you not speak at once? eh ?" and Peterkin put forward his mouth and kissed the cat on the nose.
“Yes," continued Peterkin, after a pause, “I love you. D’you think I'd say so if I didn't, you black villain? I love you because I've got to take care of you, and to look after you, and to think about you, and to see that you don't die"
“Mew, me-a-w!" said the cat.