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Transcriber's Note: Obvious typographical errors have been corrected in this text. For a complete list, please see the bottom of this document.
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BILLY WHISKERS' ADVENTURES
FRANCES TREGO MONTGOMERY
AUTHOR OF "BILLY WHISKERS," "BILLY WHISKERS' KIDS," "BILLY WHISKERS IN AN AEROPLANE," "BILLY WHISKERS IN CAMP," "THE WONDERFUL ELECTRIC ELEPHANT," ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY PAUL HAWTHORNE
THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY CHICAGO AKRON, OHIO NEW YORK
Copyright, 1920 by THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING CO.
CHAPTER PAGE I. THE CHUMS RETURN TO THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE BRAVE 7
II. THE NEW YORK DOG AND CAT CLUB 19
III. AN EXCITING EVENING 29
IV. AN UNEXPECTED SHOWER BATH 41
V. WHAT HAPPENED ON THE FOURTH OF JULY 49
VI. BILLY WHISKERS MAKES TROUBLE AT SCHOOL 65
VII. BUTTON'S DAY WITH BELLA 73
VIII. STUBBY TELLS WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM 81
IX. THE CHUMS RUN AWAY 93
X. UP IN A DIRIGIBLE 103
XI. THE OLD CROW CARRIES A MESSAGE TO NANNIE 113
XII. BILLY WHISKERS' FAMILY START FOR CHICAGO 119
XIII. BILLY WHISKERS' FAMILY ARRIVE AT LINCOLN PARK 127
XIV. THE TWINS ARE LOST 133
XV. THE ELEPHANTS ARE ENRAGED AT THE GOATS 143
XVI. A PANTHER ESCAPES FROM THE CAGE 155
They went running off, Button with a big lamb chop between his teeth and Stubby with a huge steak, while Billy contented himself with a head of lettuce.
Billy saw the man raise the mop to come after him.
Billy overtook her and gave her a gentle butt that landed her in the middle of the bed.
It was Stubby's and Button's frantic efforts to escape that had caused all the fun and laughter.
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself to take the baby's bottle away from it!" reproved Nannie.
"Oh, oh! Where did you come from?" wailed one little girl when the kids jumped out of the shrubbery and grabbed her bag of popcorn.
Billy Whiskers' Adventures
THE CHUMS RETURN TO THE LAND OF THE FREE AND THE BRAVE
Billy Whiskers, Stubby and Button sailed by the Goddess of Liberty and entered New York harbor after being in France ever since our troops entered the War. They had gone over on one of the troop ships and it just so happened that they returned on the same ship and with the same Captain and crew.
They were returning home covered with scars and wounds received while performing acts of bravery, but what cared they for scars and wounds so long as they had not lost an eye, ear or leg, and were feeling perfectly well and strong? To be sure, Billy had lost the tip of his tail when he was blown up by a bomb, but that did not matter.
You never saw three such happy animals as these were to be able once again to lay eyes on their beloved country,—the United States of America, that glorious country of the free and the brave.
"Gee, I feel so happy I could jump out of my skin!" exclaimed Billy with glowing eyes as the three stood on deck watching the familiar shores slip by them and the skyscraper buildings grow taller and taller and taller as they approached them.
"See!" said Billy. "We are about to dock. Now the next thing to settle is where we are going when we first land."
But the question was settled for them in a most unexpected way. For before Billy's remark could be answered, all three of them felt ropes being slipped around their necks, and heard the loud guffaws of three sturdy sailors as they pulled the ropes tighter, saying, "This is the time we caught you fellows off your guard!"
"We surely caught you slick as a whistle," remarked one of the sailors. "And now we have you, we are going to carry out the Captain's orders and look after you until he hears from France whether we are to take you back to your regiments when we return with more troops or keep you here."
"Return to France?" whined Stubby. "Just when we reach home safe and sound after braving all the terrors of submarines, sunken mines and dropping bombs? To be captured and sent back is really too much! I don't feel as if I would survive the disappointment, do you, Billy?"
"Not on your life will I go back!" replied Billy. "Not unless they take me over dead. For I shall fight to the last drop of my blood before I submit to being shipped back."
"And so will I," said Button. "I'll scratch their eyes out first. And from this day forward I shall begin to let my claws grow long and sharp for that very purpose. I'll see whether or not they take me back!"
"But they haven't started back yet, and 'There's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.' We'll have two or three weeks to make a getaway before they sail as they have to coal the ship before even thinking of sailing. And if in that time we three can't put our heads together and think of some way to slip through their fingers, we are pretty stupid and deserve to be shipped back. Don't pull back or make any fuss," counseled Billy, "but just go along with the sailors and watch for a chance to escape. It may come any minute. And remember if any one of us sees a chance, he is to take it and not wait for the others. Just get free and then wait around until the rest of us get loose."
"Seems to me you have a good deal of baaing to do this morning, Mr. Billy," said the sailor who was holding the rope around Billy's neck as he stood watching the ship tie up at the dock.
"Guess he must be giving orders to his Chums," replied a second sailor who had Stubby in charge.
"Seems like it," said the one who held Button. "I expected them to fight like the very dickens, didn't you?"
"I surely did," answered the one who had spoken first. "But it is not too late for them to show fight yet, and I bet all that talking His Royal Highness, King Billy, has been doing has been orders to his Chums to fight later on. You just wait and see."
Just then the Captain appeared on deck and ordered the sailors to take the goat, dog and cat ashore and tie them in the warehouse on the dock until he could find some place to board them until he heard from France what to do with them.
"They are too valuable to leave just on the dock. They might get loose or be stolen. Feed and water them and when I go up to the city I will look for some trustworthy person to take care of them. By the way, don't one of you know some one ashore who could house and feed them until we hear?"
"Aye, aye, sir!" replied one of the sailors. "I have an uncle who lives close to the docks. He keeps a small, cheap boarding-house for sailors. He is a very kind-hearted man and fond of pets. I could take them there and I am sure he would give them the best of care for very little recompense."
"Just the thing! Just the place for them!" exclaimed the Captain. "You may take them over there as soon as the gangplank is out. And you two boys go with him. He might have trouble trying to manage all three alone. Here is money to pay for the animals and to buy your own dinners. Tell your Uncle I'll foot the bill before we sail and throw in an extra dollar or two if he turns them over to me in good shape when we call for them."
"Aye, aye, sir!" replied the sailor.
"Well, this beats all the good luck I ever heard of," said Billy, "for we can get away from that boarding-house as easily as a cat laps cream."
"You are right, we can, and have plenty of time too to lay our plans as to what we will do when we escape," agreed Button.
"It looks as if we would sleep on feathers and eat fowl," said Stubby.
The three sailors took the three Chums over to the chop-house, where they were given a hearty welcome by the sailor's uncle. He was so glad to have his nephew back from the War unhurt that he gladly took in the animals to please him. And I really think that had his nephew asked him to let the Chums sleep in his beds instead of in a shed in the back yard, he would have consented. As it was, Stubby and Button came near having fits from the amount of meat they ate as the Uncle had given them the scrapings from the plates, making a pile of beef and chop bones a foot high. He also gave Billy so many vegetables and so much juicy fruit that he had cramps all night.
In the morning there was still plenty of food left for their breakfast, but the Uncle insisted on giving them a fresh supply of food and water.
"He is a mighty fine old man," said Billy, "and I feel like a villain planning to run away from him, but we must or run the risk of being sent back to our regiments in France, and I for one am sick to death of war."
About ten o'clock in the morning the Uncle and the three sailors came into the yard to see how the animals were faring, and the sailors seemed pleased with the way they looked.
"Now we can tell the Captain when we return to the ship that we saw the animals just before we went to the boat and that they were safe and sound and in a good home where they will be well cared for until he hears what to do with them."
"I guess I'll leave the door of the shed open," said the Uncle. "It will make it more cheerful for them. And I think we had better take those ropes off their necks as they can't get out of the yard without going through the house or jumping the fence, and it is much too high for them to do that."
Little did those sailors and the old man know of the jumping powers of these three animals or he would never have had them untied. When the sailors and the old man had disappeared in the house, the three Chums walked around the yard looking for a loop-hole to crawl through, or for a weak board Billy might butt down. As for Button, all he had to do was to run up the fence and jump down on the other side. And did they but know it, Stubby could do the same stunt as he had watched the police dogs in Paris run up the side of an eight-foot fence, balance themselves on the top and leap down on the other side. As for Billy, when he was ready to go he could jump on top of an old packing box that stood beside the shed, and from that leap to the roof of the shed. From there he could spring into the alley. But what bothered them now was where they should go when they escaped. The city was very large and it stretched itself out along the banks of the Hudson River for miles and miles. They wanted to go in that direction, as 'way up north lived Nannie, Billy's little wife whom he was crazy to see after his long absence abroad. She was away up in Wisconsin on the dear old farm and it would take weeks and weeks to reach there if they traveled by foot all the way. But they expected to steal some rides as they always did when traveling. Stubby and Button had not a relative in the world they knew of, but they loved Nannie and all of Billy's family as if they were their very own blood relations. They had known them for years and years and had always been very kind to them, especially Nannie and Daisy, Billy's son's wife, while the Kids, Billy's twin grandchildren, were their delight.
The three Chums were lying perfectly still, each engrossed in his own thoughts and plans as how best to get out of the city when they were aroused by a loud meow over their heads. Looking up, they saw a big, striped cat sitting on the fence.
"Good-morning, friends and distinguished travelers!" said the cat. "I hope I am not disturbing you, but the cats and the dogs of the neighborhood—and there is a goodly number of them—appointed me the head of a committee to call upon you and welcome you to our shores."
As the cat had been talking, other cats had been appearing on top of the fence and now a line of them, all sizes, colors and descriptions, sat on the top of the fence winking down at the Chums, while through holes under the fence appeared dogs' heads, as evidently they were too large of body to crawl through the small holes.
"The canary you see in the cage hanging out of that upper window, and the parrot in the window of the next house sang and called out to us this morning that celebrated travelers from the War had just arrived from overseas and were shut in Grandpa Stubbs' back yard. Every one around here calls Mr. Stubbs grandpa because he is so kind to little children and to all animals. We are always glad to hear some things of the outside world, and when we heard that you were fresh from the war zone, we determined to make your acquaintance and invite you to speak and tell us of some of your adventures on the other side. I am president of the Dog and Cat Information Bureau, and we are holding a meeting to-night in a big, empty warehouse that has just been finished for the storage of ammunition. We have a very large membership—five hundred dogs and cats belonging. Having no newspaper, we meet to exchange the news of the day. If we did not, we would not know what was going on in the world outside our city. As it is, we are well posted for dogs and cats journey here from all over the world to speak at our meetings and to tell us what is happening in the countries from which they come. Now I hope all of you will favor us by speaking at our meeting to-night. It begins at twelve o'clock, and I will come and escort you to our place of meeting. We start rather late as it is easier for us to steal away from our homes unmolested at that hour than at any other. Many of our members are children's pets and can't get away until they are tucked in bed as they keep such close track of them."
Billy stood up and bowing to the line of cats on the fence and to the heads of the dogs under the fence, he began:
"Friends and countrymen, we thank you for your courtesy and kind invitation to speak before your club this evening. This we will be pleased to do provided we can escape our host and are not locked in the shed. But I think I can promise you we will be there for if we should be shut in the shed, my good strong head can butt down and make short work of a board or two that would give us access to the alley. Should we be tied, we can easily chew the rope in two. Consequently I think you may expect us at the appointed hour if some one will kindly show us the way to where your meeting is to be held."
Just then Mr. Stubbs opened the back door, and stepped into the yard.
"Bless my soul! I never saw so many dogs and cats in my life. I must be seeing things, for surely there can't be that many cats and dogs in this neighborhood." He rubbed his eyes to make sure he had seen a line of cats sitting on top of the fence and a line of dogs peeping under the fence. But when he looked again, there was not a single cat or dog to be seen. The only ones he could discover were Stubby and Button, both apparently asleep outside the shed door.
"Well, I declare that is the most peculiar thing that ever happened to me in my life! I distinctly saw dozens of cats and dogs and now I can't see one. Heigho! My old eyes must be playing tricks with me." And that was all he thought about it. He had come out to shut the Chums in the shed, but seeing them all three fast asleep, he decided to let them sleep on and not shut them in the shed that night.
THE NEW YORK DOG AND CAT CLUB
"He really is an accommodating old fellow, isn't he," said Billy, "to leave us out all night? It will save him a broken shed door, though he will never know it."
"What time do you suppose it is?" asked Stubby.
"From the height of the moon I should say it must be about half past ten," answered Button.
"That will give us an hour and a half to think up what we are going to talk about at the club to-night. What are you going to tell them, Billy?" said Stubby.
"I really don't know. Guess I will wait for the inspiration of the moment."
"You better think up something extra exciting. Why not tell them about the time you were blown out of the trenches and lost a piece of your tail? Or, better yet, when you broke into the German headquarters and butted the great Hindenburg himself," advised Button.
"Very well, I will, as probably that would be as interesting as anything I could recount. What are you two fellows going to relate to them?"
"I think I shall tell them about our trip on the canal boat in France," replied Button.
"And I plan to describe to them the Dog Hospital and tell how it was blown up by the Germans," added Stubby.
"It is quite an idea," said Billy, "their having a club like this. It keeps them in touch with all that goes on throughout the whole country. I am quite anxious to see what it is like."
As the hands of the clock in the Ferry station pointed to twelve, they heard a loud meow and looking up they saw the big cat that had first appeared to them sitting on the fence.
"Well, friends, here I am! Are you ready to start?"
"All ready!" replied Billy.
"But how are you to get out?"
"We will show you," said Stubby, whereupon Billy hopped up on the packing box and from it onto the roof of the shed and then jumped down into the alley.
"Very cleverly done!" commended the cat, whose name, by the way, was Tiger because he was striped like one. "But what puzzles me is how your friends are to get out as the jump is too high for them."
"Too high for them, did you say? Nothing is too high for a dog that has done police duty in France. Listen! Did you not hear something hit the fence and then the scratch of nails on the boards? Well, that is my friend Stubby running up the side of the fence. From the sounds, evidently he did not get enough of a running start and fell back. But here he comes! See his head appearing over the top?"
In a second Stubby appeared, balancing himself on the ridge of the fence. The next moment he stood beside them. At the same time Button also ran down a post of the fence.
"Now we are all here, we'll have to hurry to allow for having to stop to hide when we see watchmen and strange dogs. Not knowing any of our members, you will have to be careful not to attack them, thinking they are enemies. I will give you the password. It is three short, sharp barks. On seeing another dog, all our members bark this password and if the dog they bark at does not reply in like manner, they know it is a stray dog. The cats all give three caterwauls in the same manner."
"Oh," exclaimed Button, "here comes a brute of a bulldog, whose mouth looks as if it were just watering for the back of a cat. Unless he gives the password quickly I shall take no chance but run up this tree. I am willing to tackle almost any dog but a bulldog."
"Bow! Wow! Wow!" barked the bulldog as he approached them.
"Bow! Wow! Wow!" replied Stubby, while Billy baaed, "Baa! Baa! Baa!" and Button meowed, "Mew! Mew! Mew!"
By this time the bulldog had come up to them and Tiger introduced them, telling the dog what distinguished friends he was meeting.
They found him most agreeable and that his looks really belied him, just as the appearance of many persons does. As they all trotted along toward the big warehouse down by the dock, Stubby and the bulldog ran side by side, while Billy and the two cats ran on ahead. Presently Stubby barked: "Oh, Billy! What do you think? Our new friend here says he is the full brother of Boozer, the bulldog that belonged to Captain Percy, and that he was in the Dog Hospital at the same time we were there, laid up with a broken leg."
"The world is small after all. To think we should meet over here just after seeing your brother in France!"
"Hiss!" warned Tiger. "No more talking until we are inside the building. We are approaching the warehouse now and we must not let the watchmen see us. The only way we can get in is through a window in the basement that has been left open by mistake. There is a broad plank running from the window down to the floor that the men use with their wheelbarrows to carry out the dirt. It makes it very handy to get out. We all could jump down, but few of our club members can jump up so high. None of us can jump like Stubby here."
"Bow-wow!" barked the bulldog in a low voice as a man with a lantern turned into the alley down which they all were running. "Hide quickly until he passes!"
As the man passed them, they heard him muttering to himself: "I never saw so many cats and dogs in my life as I have seen to-night in this alley. I did not know there were so many in the world! And when I get up to where I saw them they are all gone—disappeared—vamoosed. They must be the ghosts of the dead and gone dogs and cats that used to live in the warehouse."
Just then the bulldog, whose name was Buster, sneezed, which so startled the man that he ran as if he had been shot.
"Nice brave watchmen they have!" said Billy.
"Plague take my nose!" said Buster. "It is so short and stubby that all the dust gets into it and to save my life I can't help sneezing. And I always do it at the most inopportune moment."
Just then a whistle sounded, and Tiger said, "We must hurry! There goes the twelve o'clock whistle at the factory down the river. It is the signal for the night shift to come on."
The warehouse being near where they were, in about five minutes they found themselves entering the low window Buster had spoken about. When they looked inside, it was pitch dark and as if they were looking into a coal pit. But their eyes being such that they could see in the dark, they had no trouble in walking the plank and soon found themselves on the floor of the cellar. It looked a black square in shape and there was absolutely nothing in it, Tiger said. Still in the distance they could see black shapes moving about.
"What in the world is over in that corner?" asked Billy.
"Oh, they are only wharf rats," replied Tiger. "Shall we charge down on them just for fun?"
"Say we do! But I hate rats as I do poison," said Billy.
"So do I, but they are our natural enemies," answered Tiger.
"Ours too," from Stubby.
"You stand and watch the fun, while we rat haters kill a few," suggested Tiger.
"When I say three, all of you run for the bunch and kill as many as you can," instructed Tiger.
For the next ten minutes you never in all your life heard such squealing, snarling and snipping of teeth as there was in that cellar. Two unusually big cats and two dogs all bound to kill rats were fighting these fierce wharf rats. But what made the battle such a bloody one was that wharf rats are braver than house rats and will fight to the death when attacked. Being large, and having long, sharp teeth, more often than not they get the better of ordinary cats and dogs that are sicked on them. In less than fifteen minutes hundreds of rats had been killed, for Buster was a noted rat killer. All he did was to open his jaws, grab a rat in the middle of its back, give his head a shake and the rat's back was broken. Then he tossed that rat aside and served another one likewise.
The rats had all disappeared or else were lying dead in heaps when Billy heard Stubby give a whine of pain, and turning to discover where he was, he saw him standing in the midst of a pile of dead rats with one nearly half as large as himself hanging to his throat under his jaw. The rat had hold of Stubby in such a way he could not shake him off, and all the time the rat was sucking his blood.
Billy saw him in a minute and with one bound he was beside Stubby and had ripped the rat open with his long, sharp horn, which made its mouth open and set Stubby free.
"Thank you, old fellow, for saving me! I was almost gone when you came with your timely assistance."
"I guess we have had enough fun with rats for one night," said Tiger, "and we better be getting on or we will be late for the opening exercises."
"I am a perfect mess!" said Stubby in disgust. "See how bloody I am."
"So am I," replied Tiger.
"I too," chimed in Button.
"I tell you what let's do," proposed Stubby. "It won't take five minutes. Let's run out and take a swim in the river. I can never appear before a strange audience with my coat looking like this."
"I'll go with you," replied Buster.
"I think," said Button, "I would prefer cleaning my coat by rolling in that nice clean bank of sand in the corner of the cellar to swimming in the river."
"I am with you on that proposition," said Tiger. "No water for me when I can get good, clean sand! After a roll I shall come out as clean and shining as if I had been sent to the cleaner and run through a vat of gasoline."
Stubby and Buster went to the river and were soon swimming around and having great sport in the water as it was nice and warm. But presently Stubby stopped short and stared ahead of him, and what do you think he saw but a whole drove of rats swimming out to a big sea-going vessel that lay at anchor in the harbor.
"Let's go ashore. I've seen all the rats I want to see for a coon's age. And you can't get me out of here too soon for they may attack us."
Soon Stubby and Buster, looking as clean as whistles, found Button and Tiger who also looked spick and span, and the four entered the clubroom, which was on one of the upper floors and as light as day for the light from four big electric street lamps came streaming in the window, lighting the room from corner to corner and making it as bright as if the lamps were in the room itself. And what a sight was there! Hundreds of dogs and cats were there sitting on benches arranged in a semicircle and graduated like the seats in a theater. For this room had been used as a lecture room to give instructions to sailors and soldiers before going overseas, and the benches and platform were just as they had left them.
On the platform, sitting upon their hind legs on chairs one could see every specie of dog from the Eskimo dog of the North to the tiny hairless dog of the tropics. There were big dogs, little dogs, middle-sized dogs, and cats of all sizes, colors and breeds. The snow-white Angora was there as well as the mangy alley cat. But all were on an equal at these meetings and there was no quarreling between aristocrat and the animal with no pedigree. All was harmony there. Could only the human race be as harmonious as these animals, the Brotherhood of Man would be established.
One after another the cats and dogs went on the platform and either told some funny episode that had happened to them or some tragedy that had occurred where they lived, or else they described the country from which they had come, and told how the natives lived.
AN EXCITING EVENING
The first dog called upon to lecture was an Eskimo dog with bright, snappy eyes, short, sharply pointed ears, strong legs and a bushy tail that gave him the appearance of a wolf, especially as his coat was just the color of that animal. And what more natural, as the Eskimo dog is the direct descendant of the timber wolf of the North? And though they may appear docile at times, still they always retain that half wild, ferocious look and manner.
He was a handsome, alert dog and spoke in quick, short sentences and to the point. He began by saying:
"I expect that none of you are familiar with the far North, where it is day six months of the year and night the other six. But though the sun does not shine, don't think for a moment that we live in pitch darkness, for the stars and the Northern Lights make our nights most beautiful. In fact, they are more beautiful and varied than our days. Instead of the blazing rays of the sun that blind one, we have the ever varied, many colored rays of the Aurora Borealis, shooting stars and electrical displays of all kinds that far surpass even your most elaborate Fourth of July celebrations.
"One moment the sky will be a sea-shell pink, with bars of vivid green, lavender and purple playing across it, while in the center will be a misty golden ball as if the sun was trying to shine through. The next instant all may be pitch darkness until this too is chased away by another electrical outburst. These go on constantly for the whole six months until they become so common an occurrence that the inhabitants pay no more attention to those magnificent displays than you do to your sun on a summer day.
"Picture to yourself this wonderful sky, against which huge icebergs are seen, taller than your tallest church steeple, and more beautiful to look upon with their lacelike frostwork than your most elaborately carved white marble cathedral. All of this is reflected in detail in the clear, cold, deep green waters of the Arctic Ocean, where the big walruses, whales and seals live, to say nothing of the clumsy white polar bears that sit idly on a cake of ice waiting for an unwary fish to swim by so he may catch it and make a breakfast on it.
"In round-topped, oven-like mounds made of ice and snow live our masters, the Eskimos. They live on whale oil, blubber, fish and the meat of the musk ox, bear and other animals that inhabit the far North. You dogs and cats who live so far from us in a country where there are noisy cities cannot imagine the silence of a cityless country or a land where the only sounds are the crunching of one iceberg against another or the roar and thunder of a glacier as it falls to pieces when melted by the sun. This world of ours seems like a dead world when compared to yours, but underneath this eternal covering of snow, down deep in the green water of the ocean are myriads of living, moving creatures as lively as any in your more sultry climate.
"But I see I am taking up too much time, so will stop and extend an invitation to one and all of you to come and visit my Land of the Midnight Sun, and see for yourselves how things look and how we live. I thank you for your courtesy in listening to my stupid speech," and bowing low his head he left the platform.
His speech was followed by loud barks and meows and a great scratching of claws upon the bare floor.
At last it was Billy's turn to go on the platform. He had just been introduced to the large audience and had started to speak in the old-fashioned way by saying, "Friends and fellow countrymen!" when there was a terrific explosion and the window panes were blown in or shattered, while through the open windows could be seen vivid red and yellow lights and columns of black smoke. Every heart in that large assembly stood still for a moment, then one and all started for the exit.
"Some one is trying to blow up the docks. We better get out of here before this building goes up in smoke," said Billy. "All stick together, though. If we do become separated, come to our back yard."
Bing! Bang! Bang! and the walls of the building they were in began to tumble around them and the floor crashed in, falling on those that were in the cellar. As it happened, our friends had not been near the exit, so were not among the first to get out. This probably saved their lives as it kept them from being among those in the cellar when the floor fell.
"I say we take our chance and jump from one of the windows," said Billy, "before the whole building falls in on us or it blows up."
It was a long way to the ground, but the cats and dogs jumped down on the heads of the crowd that had gathered, and this broke their fall. Being very large, Billy could not do this so he ran to another window and leaped down on a high pile of baled stuff which was nice and soft on which to alight.
When they were all safely on the ground they made for the back yard of the chop-house as fast as their legs would carry them. But somehow they became separated from the bulldog and Tiger, so lost their way and never again were they able to find the old uncle of the sailor.
They wandered around for the rest of the night looking for a place to sleep, but they were careful to keep close together so they would not lose each other.
About daylight they found themselves on the bank of the Hudson River opposite a dock where lay a big pleasure boat. No one was astir on it, so they cautiously crept on board, thinking to get a free ride up the river. This would give them a lift on their journey north. All three found good places to hide in different parts of the boat, and they lay down and fell asleep for they were both tired and sleepy after all the excitement they had been through.
Billy was awakened by the scrubbing of the decks over his head.
"I can't see why the captains of boats always insist on scrubbing decks so early in the morning. I guess it is just because they are afraid the sailors will get fat unless they keep them working from sun-up to sun-down. I smell bacon cooking, and I just love it, though I am a goat. I can't get to sleep now that I have once been wakened, so I think I will go and see if I cannot get some of it to eat."
Billy crept to the head of the stairs that led down into that part of the boat where the kitchen was located, but just as he was about to venture down, he saw a sailor coming up. He dodged out on deck, and ran toward the prow of the boat. Here he spied another flight of stairs going down into the boat he knew not where. But what cared he? He would go down and see. They led down into the dining saloon and at the further end he could see a swinging door through which came the smell of frying bacon.
"I know the kitchen must be behind those doors. I'll just stick my nose against one of them and peek in."
Billy was just about to push one of the doors open when bang! came one of them against his head with such force that it knocked him over. It also rebounded with such force that it knocked over a sailor who was carrying a tray of glass tumblers to set on the table. Over went the man, rolling over and over amidst the broken glass and rattling tin tray.
Of course all this racket brought the cook and all the other deck hands who heard it. The cook still carried the frying pan in his hand, being too much surprised to set it down when he heard the noise. The man with mop and pail who had been scrubbing the deck came and also two or three other deck hands. There they all stood, staring with open mouths and bulging eyes at Billy, who had risen to his forefeet and stood surveying the wreck he had made. He still felt a little dazed but came to his senses in a hurry when he saw the man with the pail and mop raise the mop to come after him. Before the fellow had taken two steps, Billy had risen to his hind feet, gave a spring and butted him straight into his pail, where he stuck fast and could not get up without the pail sticking to him. Then Billy whirled and hooked the pan of bacon out of the cook's hands, which sent it flying out the open window onto the deck. Then he turned and started for the other two men who were standing there, but they had seen enough and disappeared while there was yet time. Seeing the coast was clear, Billy wheeled around and ran out on deck, where he saw Stubby and Button eating up the bacon that had spilled out of the frying pan as it went through the window.
"Leave me a slice of that bacon and then run, for we shall have to get off this boat in double quick time if we expect to save our bacon," said Billy, thinking the slang expression very fitting indeed.
"Why, what is up?" asked Stubby.
"Didn't you hear a racket going on in there?"
"No. We just came down from the upper deck."
"Well, take my word for it and vanish before you are hit with a club or thrown overboard. I'll be with you as soon as I lick up this grease. Since you have eaten all the bacon I had so much trouble to get, I am not going to lose this grease anyway."
Splash bang! came water, bucket and all down on Billy's head. Quick as lightning, Billy jumped through the window through which it had come, and found himself standing face to face with the cook, who had the most astonished expression on his face you ever saw when he beheld Billy coming through the high, small window.
Billy stood on his hind legs and knocked the jaunty little white cook's cap off the man's head with one of his fore legs before the cook could defend himself or turn to run. They were in very close quarters as a ship's kitchen is not the largest room in the world. At last the cook got up enough courage to strike out at Billy. He intended to hit the goat in the stomach as he stood towering before him, but alas! his knuckles hardly touched Billy's stomach when he found himself flying backwards across the long, narrow room, out through the opposite door and hit the railing of the boat so hard it broke and let him fall splash into the water.
On perceiving this, Billy turned and ran off the boat, and soon found Stubby and Button, who were waiting for him. When they had gotten far enough away for safety, they stopped under a large shade tree and had a good laugh at Billy's recital of how he butted the cook overboard.
"It will do him good," said Button. "I bet it will be the first bath he has had in weeks."
"Bet so too," agreed Stubby.
"Well, what are we going to do now?" asked Billy. "That bacon has made me more hungry than ever. The salt in it has just whetted my appetite."
"Mine too," said Stubby. "I feel as if I could drink the river dry, I am so thirsty."
"Say we trot along this drive that runs by the river until we come to some house that has a yard around it, where we can hide until we have a chance to sneak into the house or stable to see what we can find to eat," proposed Button.
They had to travel several miles to find such a place for they were still in the suburbs of New York City and not far enough out for the summer homes with their beautiful grounds. Once they passed a roadhouse where they got a drink out of a watering trough for animals and stole a few mouthfuls of food from some baskets a greengrocer had left outside the kitchen door. Button and Stubby stole only meat and went running off, Button with a big lamb chop between his teeth and Stubby with a huge steak, while Billy contented himself with a head of lettuce. They were just rounding a bend of the road when they heard an excited Frenchman calling to them. Turning to look, they saw the French cook wildly waving his arms at them and calling to them to bring back his things. But they only kicked up their heels at him and disappeared from his view around the bend in the road.
"Gee!" exclaimed Stubby, "this steak is the best thing I have had to eat in a fat goose's age."
"Yum! Yum!" replied Button. "It can't beat this chop for tenderness and juiciness."
"Nor my head lettuce. It is as sweet as sugar and as cold as ice. I just dote on cold, crisp lettuce. The colder and more crisp, the better. But I am afraid that cook will have an apoplectic fit if he isn't careful, the way he was waving his arms and carrying on. Excitement such as that is very bad for a fat old cook of forty."
"Hark! I hear an auto coming from the roadhouse. We better get back farther in the bushes and hide until it passes. They might be after us," said Stubby.
But they were not pursuers, but only two young fellows chatting and laughing over the dismay of the cook, for he had called to them that if they saw a big goat, small dog and black cat to run over them and kill them dead, dead, dead!
AN UNEXPECTED SHOWER BATH
Just at dusk the next day Billy, Stubby and Button entered a small town to look for some nice quiet place for them to sleep, for they had traveled far that day and were tired of being chased by dogs and stoned by boys. So when they came to a small bungalow on the outskirts of the town with a cellar door open and no one around to drive them away, the three stepped in as noiselessly as possible and crept down the cellar stairs to find a place to hide until the family had gone to bed. Then they would begin to look about for something to eat for they expected to find potatoes and probably other vegetables there for Billy to eat and some kind of cold meat for Stubby and Button, and perhaps a pie or piece of cake, either of which would be very acceptable to all of them for they dearly loved sweets of all kinds.
The corners of the cellar were quite dark as by this time the sun had set, so Billy hid himself in one corner behind a pile of kindling, while Stubby crawled under the stationary wash tubs and Button curled himself up on top of a high pile of boxes, from which place he could see a swinging shelf with a plate of cold meat and boiled potatoes, as well as an uncut pie and some doughnuts on it. In the opposite corner of the cellar Billy spied a pile of potatoes and some cabbage and carrots.
"Well, I declare," exclaimed Button, "if we are not lucky! Here we find a good supper all laid out that will just suit our different tastes. Meat and potatoes for Stubby, as well as potatoes, cabbage and carrots for Billy."
"Hark! I hear some one coming!" warned Stubby. "I do hope whoever it is, they don't find us and drive us out just when a good supper is in sight, and also a nice quiet place to sleep."
Clumpety, clump, clumpety, clump, down the stairs came a stupid looking German girl with a plate of fried chicken in one hand and a dish of lovely crisp lettuce in the other. These she put on the shelf and then turned and stumped her way up the stairs again. Then they heard her locking up for the night, as they thought, but soon she appeared wearing her hat and went out the side door through which they had come into the cellar. They all kept very still for a little while, then Button meowed to Stubby to tell him what he could see on the shelf for them to eat, and where Billy could find some potatoes and other vegetables. Stubby crawled out from under the tubs and ran to where Button said the shelf was, but alas, alack! how was he to get at the things on the shelf? It was six feet above him and so hung from the ceiling that there was absolutely no way for him to climb up to it.
"Gee whiz! It makes me hungrier than ever to smell all those goodies and not be able to get at them!"
While Stubby was standing there trying to think out a way to reach them, Button cautiously climbed down from the boxes onto the shelf and with his nose and paw poked a big, round potato and a thick slice of meat off the plate to the floor. As they fell, they hit Stubby on the nose and made him jump, it was so unexpected, and at first he thought some one was throwing things at him. While he ate the meat, Button helped himself to fried chicken and Billy came over and baaed to him not to be so greedy but to throw him down some lettuce.
"Why don't you go over into that corner and eat those carrots and other vegetables?" meowed Button.
"Because I am not such a goose as to eat cold, dirty potatoes and cows' food when I can get my favorite nice, crisp lettuce."
The three ate and ate, for they were very hungry after their long tramp on the road all day. After Button had pushed all the food onto the floor he did not want for himself, and had licked the plate, he said, "I wish I had a nice drink of milk now, to quench my thirst. If I had that, I could go to sleep and sleep until daylight without waking, even if a rat chewed my tail and a mouse bit my ear."
"A pail of clean, cool water would please me better," said Billy.
"Me too," said Stubby. "Listen! I hear water running somewhere," he added.
"It sounds to me as if it were in the kitchen upstairs," said Billy. "I don't hear any one stirring around up there, so let us go and get a drink and then turn in for the night."
Billy walked to the cellar stairs and was half way up, while Stubby and Button were just behind him, when they heard some one exclaim, "Chester, come quick! Come quick! The water is running in the sink, and the cellar floor is flooded."
This was followed by the loud laughter of two people.
"Whatever shall we do?" said a girl's distressed voice.
"Get a mop and mop it up!" replied a boy.
"But the mop is in the cellar and I'll get my feet wet if I cross the floor to go to the cellar. Besides, I have on my best white shoes."
"Where do you keep the broom? That will do."
"Behind the kitchen door usually, but with the house all torn up with housecleaning, I don't know where it is."
"I'll find it. You stay out of the room so you won't get wet."
"Who ever would have thought that just because I happened to set that coffee pot over the hole in the sink that it would stop it up so tight that the water when it overflowed the coffee pot would fill the sink and make it overflow?"
"No one would," answered the boy. "And here is all this mess just because we hadn't any sense and tried to cool a bottle of ginger ale by setting it in the coffee pot and letting the water run on it."
The three listeners on the stairs heard the boy cross the kitchen and turn off the water. Then they heard him get the broom from behind the kitchen door.
"Where are you going to sweep the water?" asked the girl.
"Down the cellar stairs! It won't hurt anything down there," and before Billy, Stubby or Button could move, a deluge of water struck them full in the face, blinding them and sousing them from the tips of their noses to the ends of their tails.
This made Button sneeze, and he climbed back to the top of the boxes. Billy turned on the stairs, but before he could really face about, another sweep of the broom sent a second deluge on him, and blinded by water and mad with rage, he rushed up the stairs to escape it. Instead of getting out of the way, he ran straight into the boy who was sweeping, which surprised the boy so that he let go the broom handle and it too flew out of his hands and hit Billy on the head. This made Billy so angry that he jumped for the boy and butted him straight into the sink, where he sat down in the overflowing basin. The girl, too panic-stricken to move, stood in the doorway wringing her hands and crying, "Don't butt me, Mr. Billy Goat! I didn't do a thing!"
She looked so funny standing there wringing her hands and calling Billy Mr. Billy Goat that just for fun Billy thought he would give her a very little butt into the next room—not enough to hurt her, but just to frighten her a little. But when she saw him coming toward her, she screamed and ran. Billy pursued her into a bedroom, where he overtook her and gave her a gentle butt that landed her in the middle of a big four-poster bed, after which he turned and trotted off to see what the boy was doing. He found him floundering in the sink, trying to get out that he might go to the girl's rescue, but he could not as his feet would not reach the floor and he could get no grip on himself in the slippery sink. Just at this crisis the maid came home and unlocked the outside door at the head of the cellar stairs. With one bound Billy was at the door the minute it was opened. As he flew by her, he hit her, knocking her over against the young man who was seeing her home. He held a watermelon under his arm, on which they intended to feast, but when Billy struck the girl and she fell against him, it sent the watermelon flying from under his arm and the three of them, Billy, the maid and her beau, all fell on the melon. This squashed it flatter than a pancake and made it explode like a bomb. While all this was taking place, Stubby and Button made their escape through the open door and ran down the street to wait for Billy to join them.
When he came up, all he said was, "Just our luck, to have to lose a perfectly good lodging place just when we were almost ready to go to sleep for the night! And just because two young geese could not drink ginger ale warm instead of cold!"
"But I would not complain if I were you, Billy," said Button, "for we got a good supper before it happened."
"Sure enough! So we did. I guess I better not complain. One thing, it is a nice warm night, so it wouldn't be bad to sleep outdoors, and I see a clump of trees and bushes down by the lake. Let's go down there and see if we can't find a nice soft mossy bank to sleep on."
So the three trotted off and soon found a soft sandy bank under some sheltering trees and bushes where they curled themselves up and were soon fast asleep.
WHAT HAPPENED ON THE FOURTH OF JULY
They were awakened at daybreak the next morning by a battered tin falling on their heads, followed by a shower of pieces of red paper.
All three jumped up and were wide awake in a second for all around them was the din of battle. For a moment they thought they were back in France and that a big bombardment was on. But on looking through the trees under which they had been sleeping, they saw a crowd of boys shooting off firecrackers and putting bunches of them under barrels and tin pans.
"This is no place for us!" exclaimed Billy. "I despise the Fourth of July and its celebration, and this is just what it is. If those boys see us, it will be all up with us, for if there is one thing boys love, it is to torture animals on the Fourth by tying bunches of firecrackers and tin cans on their tails."
"Well, thank goodness, my tail is so short they will have a good time tying anything on it," exulted Stubby.
"Mine too!" replied Billy.
"But how about mine?" said Button. "It is long enough to tie a whole string of crackers to it."
While they were talking, the boys started to run in their direction and came straight toward them. When they were within hearing distance, the Chums heard them say, "Let's pretend the trees and bushes are a fort. We'll put a lot of powder around them and blow them up."
"What did I tell you?" said Billy. "There is no safe place for men or beasts on the Fourth of July if there is a boy within a hundred miles."
"What shall we do?" asked Stubby. "If we stay here we will be blown up or maimed for life. And if we run out, the whole pack will probably set upon us."
"I say we show fight anyway," said Button. "In the first place, they don't know we are here and in the second we have the advantage of taking them by surprise. Billy, you can butt them while Stubby bites their heels and I will run up their backs and scratch the shirts off their shoulders."
"Good idea, Button!" commended Billy. "You should have been a General, at least, in the army."
"Oh, stop your fooling and mind when I hiss we all jump out of the bushes at once and attack our victims. Select the boy you will attack as they come toward us."
"All right," replied Billy. "I'll attack that big, red-headed boy who seems to be the leader."
"And I'll go for that snub-nosed, freckled-faced urchin with the ragged pants, as he seems to be displaying a fine amount of shins at present," said Stubby.
"Then I'll go for that boy who runs with his head and shoulders down. It gives me a good expanse of back to scratch," said Button.
On came the boys, whooping and hallooing with all the power of their lungs. But when they were within twenty feet of the trees and bushes that concealed our Chums, they jumped out at them. The leader stopped in his tracks, too dazed and surprised to move at seeing a strange goat come flying out of the bushes straight toward him with head lowered to butt. He scarcely had time to know he was surprised when he was hit in the pit of the stomach and sent sprawling in the sand fifteen feet away. As he picked himself up he saw a funny sight—a big boy running straight for the lake with a big, black cat sitting on his shoulders scratching the shirt off his back. Button never moved, but stuck to him as the boy swam farther and farther out. At last it seemed to occur to the boy to dive, which he did and Button, hating the water as all cats do, jumped for a big rock that was sticking out of the water. There he sat and meowed for Billy to swim out and carry him to shore on his back as he had often done before. But Billy was nowhere in sight. After butting the boy he had disappeared as completely as if the earth had opened and swallowed him.
As for Stubby, he had chased all the boys up town, first biting one boy's shins and then attacking another until he had driven them howling two or three blocks from where they started. When he saw he had gotten the boys so far away, he stopped chasing them and went back to see what Billy and Button were doing. But when he reached the old spot neither Billy nor Button was anywhere in sight. All he could see was a black object on a rock sticking out of the water. It looked like some one's wet muff or old coat. He did not know that that same wet muff was his own beloved Button.
Button was meowing as loudly as he could for Stubby to swim out and rescue him, but the wind was in the wrong direction to carry his voice to Stubby. Stubby looked around and even set up a howl, trying to find out where Billy and Button had gone, but no answering call came back. He sniffed around but could get no scent of them. Then all of a sudden he saw a boy come out of the lake and run up the shore. He started after him on a dead run, thinking that perhaps he would lead him to some boys who might have captured Billy. He was running with his head down when all of a sudden he pitched headlong into a dry well. What was his surprise on opening his eyes after the shock to find himself staring into Billy Whiskers' eyes!
"How in green gooseberries did you get here?" he asked.
"Same way you did! I took a header and here I am! I have baaed my head nearly off calling to you and Button to come to my rescue, but not a sound could I hear. Somehow or other my voice did not seem to carry."
"We certainly are in a pretty pickle! Lost in an abandoned well on a lake shore with no habitation within a quarter of a mile. This will be our tomb unless some one chances to pass this way soon. And the chances are that no one will pass this way for weeks."
"Where can that cat be?" asked Billy. "It sounds to me as if he too was in a hole or shut up somewhere and cannot get out."
"Yes, where can he be?" echoed Stubby. "First we hear his voice, then we don't hear it. It sounds a good way off at that. Say, Billy, I think I see a way out. You stand up on your hind legs and I will run up your back and see if I can't jump out of this well. It isn't more than eight feet deep and when you stand up you must be about six or seven feet tall."
"Yes, I should think I would measure that. But how are you to get room to get a running start?"
"I can't do that. I shall just have to climb up your leg by pulling myself, holding onto your hair and digging my claws into your back."
"Thanks! That sounds fine for me, I am sure!"
"Well, isn't it better than staying here and saving your skin and dying of hunger and thirst?"
"I suppose it is, but when you are out, how do you propose getting me out, as there will be no one up whose back I can run and jump?"
"Oh, that will be all right! When I am out, I can run and bring some one to help you out."
"Yes, I know, Mr. Stubby-tail. But do you realize that it is going to be some job to get a goat of my size out of a deep, narrow hole like this?"
"To be sure I do! But that can easily be accomplished when once I find a man to accompany me here to see what is down in this well. Men with pulleys can soon hoist you out."
"Well, I hope so, for I am getting tired already of being confined here. Just hear that cat howl now!"
"Listen! I hear voices. He must see some one walking on the beach. I hear two people talking and they are coming this way! Let's baa and bark for all we are worth!"
This they did, and a little girl and her father who were walking along the beach heard the meow of a cat come floating to them across the water and the baa of a goat and the bark of a dog float to them from the land on the other side. Still they could see no cat, dog or goat. All they could discover was a black coat or something like it lying out on the rocks.
Presently the little girl cried out, "Oh, papa, see! The coat is moving! It isn't a coat at all, but a cat. Did you see its long tail?"
"Sure enough, it is a cat. Most likely some bad boy has thrown it in the water with a stone tied to its neck, to try to drown it, but it has managed to crawl up on the rocks."
"Poor kitty! Let us go get our rowboat and bring it off. Will you, papa?"
"Yes, dear; if you want to, we will."
On their way to get the boat they passed within a few feet of the well, and though they heard both Billy's and Stubby's voices they could see them nowhere, and the wind played sad havoc for it made their voices sound as if they came from the opposite direction. After stopping several times and listening without being able to decide where the animals were, they walked on. Billy and Stubby could hear their voices die away in the distance.
"Now, Billy, there is a chance lost, so stand up and let me see if I can't climb up on your back and get out."
It took many trials, but at last by Billy putting his hind legs against one wall of the well and bracing his forehead against the opposite wall, Stubby managed to jump on his back and climb to his head, from where he gave a big leap and landed outside the well.
"Now, Billy, don't worry! I will soon find some one to get you out. If I don't, I promise you on my sacred word of honor to come back here and die with you."
It was not a rash promise on Stubby's part for already he had seen the man and his little daughter rowing out to take Button off the rocks.
"Now is my chance," thought he. "Here is a kind-hearted man going to the rescue of a cat. Why won't he be a good one to come to the aid of a goat? I'll go down by the shore and wait until they land. Then I will bark and run up to the well and make such a fuss that they will follow me to see what is down there."
Button was sitting on the little girl's lap enjoying the petting she was giving him when he saw Stubby standing on the beach, and he meowed to him, saying, "Well, old Chum, where have you been? And why didn't you come to help me off the rocks?"
To which Stubby replied, "Good reason enough! I fell into a well and only just now got out. And when you land you must help me make this man go to Billy's rescue."
"Why Billy's rescue? Where is he?" asked Button excitedly.
"Down the well, silly!"
"You said nothing about Billy being down a well, but only mentioned yourself. How in the world did you both happen to fall down a well?"
"Don't ask so many questions. Just do as I tell you to do now and after Billy is out I will answer all you wish to ask."
"Papa, this dog and cat must know each other. Just hear how they meow and bark messages to one another. He is a cute looking little dog, but this cat is a real beauty. He has such big yellow eyes just like glass buttons and his fur is so soft and silky. May I keep him for my very own?"
"Yes, dear, if you want to, for he does not seem to be wanted by anybody."
The boat had no sooner touched the shore than Stubby began making friends with the man and his daughter by walking on his hind legs, turning somersaults and doing all sorts of cute tricks. After he had done all his show tricks he ran over to where Billy was imprisoned, and ran round and round the rim of the well, looking in and barking very loudly. Then he ran back to the man and little girl and taking hold of the man's trousers leg he began to pull him in the direction of the well.
"What is the matter with you, you crazy little dog?"
Then Stubby let go his hold and raced back to the well. When he reached there, he jumped in, hoping this would bring the man and his daughter to the brink of the well to see what had become of him, and in trying to find out they would discover Billy.
His plan worked, for he had no sooner disappeared down the well than Button jumped out of the little girl's arms and ran after Stubby. The moment he saw Billy and Stubby both down at the bottom of the well, he too jumped in.
"I declare to goodness there must be some kind of a hole there, Nellie, and those animals have found something in it to interest them. We must hurry over and see what it is."
Can't you picture the surprise on their faces when they looked down the well and discovered a big Billy goat as well as the dog and cat they had followed?
"Bless my soul, Nellie, if there isn't a big, live goat down there! So we did hear a goat baa when we thought we did! Poor animal! I wonder if he was hurt when he fell in, for that is a nasty, deep hole. But the question now is how in the world are we going to get him out?"
"Yes, that is it," baaed Billy, but of course the man did not understand what Billy was saying to him.
"Poor thing! He may have been here for days and be nearly dead for want of food and water. But I guess not as he looks too fat for that. Nellie, run home and tell Tom to bring a pulley, rope and ladder from over on the lake where Mr. Stilwell's house used to stand before it burned."
Nellie was soon back from her errand, bringing her big brother and the hired man with her.
As Nellie's father turned his back to the well, Billy stood on his hind feet and Stubby climbed out of the well as he had once before. When Mr. Noland turned around, there was Stubby frisking around his feet.
"I'll be switched if here isn't that clever little dog again! How in the world do you suppose he got out of that well unless spooks boosted him?"
"Or the goat butted him out. That is more likely," replied his son.
"Now put the ladder down the well, and I'll go down and fasten the rope around the goat's body while you and Dan fix a brace to put the pulley on to pull him up," said Mr. Noland, ignoring his son's remark.
The hired man lowered the ladder into the well, but it had scarcely touched the bottom and found a secure footing when Billy climbed up the rungs as nimbly as a cat. This act made Mr. Noland's eyes fairly pop out of his head, while all the rest stood with open mouths. None of them had ever seen any animal as large as Billy climb a ladder. You see Billy's old circus stunts stood him in good stead once in a while. When he traveled with the circus, the clowns had taught him to climb a ladder halfway to the top of the big circus tent.
"I claim this goat as my own," said Nellie's brother.
"And I the cat!" said Nellie quickly.
"But where do I come in?" said their father. Just then Stubby barked, and Mr. Noland said, "Well, I'll take the dog and I think I have the best of the bargain at that, for he can almost talk. If it had not been for the dog, neither of you would have had a pet. It was he that led us to this abandoned well."
"You forget, father, that the cat showed you the way too," said Nellie.
"I think the best thing we can do now is to go home and get some supper and also give our new-found friends some food. I'll wager that they are hungry. They must have come a long way, for I never saw any of them around here before, and I know every dog and cat in the town. I won't say goat, for no one owns a goat," said Nellie's father.
So it happened that the Chums were given a good supper and beds of straw in the woodshed and then left to themselves for the night. At least that is what all of them thought, but the day being the Fourth of July made a difference for just as they were dropping off to sleep the stick of a Roman candle fell on the woodshed and burned a hole through the roof. Some sparks fell down and set fire to the straw on which the Chums were sleeping and in a few minutes straw, woodshed and all were in a blaze, and they only escaped with their lives because they were high jumpers and thus able to escape through the little window in the side of the shed. Billy was so large that he could not make it the first time, and he fell back into the fire, but the second time he went through, taking half the side of the woodshed with him. His hair was all on fire, but he had sense enough to roll in the sand and put it out instead of running. If you run when your clothes are on fire, you only feed the flames breeze you make and the fire burns faster than ever. When it was all out, Billy went down to the lake and had a good swim to rid himself of the smell of burnt hair.
When he came back, he was surprised to see a ring of people en-circling something that was making them laugh and clap their hands with delight. When he was near enough to stick his head between the crowd of people, what do you suppose he saw? There were Stubby and Button flying round and round, being chased by Fourth of July nigger chasers or snakes, as some people call this kind of fireworks. They are funny looking things that when set on fire twist and turn like live snakes, and no one can tell where they are going next. The consequences are that they are always surprising one and coming after them when they least expect it. The crowd had conceived the idea of making a circle so Stubby and Button could not run away, and then setting off a lot of these to chase them. It was Stubby's and Button's frantic efforts to escape that had caused all the fun and laughter.
"Here is the goat!" called out a lad. "Let's get him in the ring too!"
But instead of getting him in the ring as proposed, that lad found himself going up in the air like a balloon, one of Billy's mighty butts having sent him.
This broke up the party and when all had disappeared and the three friends were alone again, Billy said, "Didn't I tell you the Fourth of July was a bad day for animals?"
BILLY WHISKERS MAKES TROUBLE AT SCHOOL
The next morning Mr. Noland took Stubby away out into the country with him in his auto, and Nellie carried Button over to her friend's to show her the big, fine cat she had found out on the rocks. Consequently Billy was left alone to amuse himself as best he could.
He wandered around for a while and at last went down to the lake and took a swim, coming out as clean and white as a fresh bale of cotton. Then not knowing what to do with himself, he decided to go up into the town and see how it looked to him. Not being a very large town, he had no difficulty in locating the main street and then the largest church, the movie theater and the schoolhouse. As he walked down the street, he stopped to help himself to a peach here and a plum there at the different fruit stands, as well as to several bunches of asparagus and a peck or two of green peas that he saw in baskets outside the grocery stores.
When he reached the schoolhouse he found it was recess time and all the children were out in the yard playing tag, leap frog, crack-the-whip and such games as children always play at school. Billy stood watching them for some time and as they seemed to be having such great fun, he thought he would go in and join in a game of pussy-wants-a-corner he saw four or five girls and boys playing. Much to the surprise of this group, the first thing they knew a big, white goat was running from tree to tree to get an empty corner just as they were doing. At first they were so astonished that they stopped playing, but soon they went on as Billy kept running from tree to tree, frisking his little paint brush of a tail and kicking up his legs with glee. You remember he had lost part of his tail in France in the war where it was blown off by a bomb which had sent him flying up in the air.
Presently all the children had stopped their games to watch Billy play pussy-wants-a-corner. He was just beginning to grow tired of the sport when the school bell pealed out that recess was over and all the children ran to form in line to march back to their rooms. Each room had a separate line of its own. When Billy saw this, he too went and stood in line. As he knew nothing about the different rooms, he selected a line in which stood a pretty little girl with yellow hair hanging in long braids down her back. She was the last one in the line, and being very busy talking to the little girl just in front of her, she did not notice that any one was standing behind her.
"Her hair looks just like straw. It is just the color of it," thought Billy. "I wonder if it tastes like it too." And thereupon he began to chew the end of one of her braids.
"Stop pulling my hair, Jimmy Jones!" she cried, without turning around. Jimmy Jones and Tommy Green were in the habit of pulling her hair or giving it a twitch whenever they passed her. So now she took it for granted it was one of them when Billy pulled it while chewing on it.
"Didn't I tell you to stop pulling my hair? I'll tell teacher if you don't stop this minute!"
Billy did try to stop, but somehow her hair got between his teeth and he could not let go, much as he wished to do so. Of course the more he tried the worse it pulled. She turned quickly to slap the tease who was hurting her. But horror of horrors! She found herself face to face with the big goat that had been playing with them in the yard. She was terribly afraid of goats, and had stopped playing when Billy entered the game and had sat down on the school steps to watch them, so now she screamed as if she was being killed. This brought a teacher and some of the big boys to the rescue. By this time Billy was really pulling very hard in his frantic efforts to get loose, but he was unconscious that he was doing so. The little girl stood facing him, which wound her braid around her head and made it pull more than ever. Then too if she had only stood still, but she kept jumping up and down and calling out, "Take the nasty old goat away!"
When the teacher arrived, she soon saw what the trouble was and with the help of some boys she quickly removed the strand of hair from Billy's teeth, which released the little girl, who fell half fainting and crying in the teacher's arms.
On being freed, Billy trotted out of the schoolyard mumbling to himself that he would never try to eat hair again, even if it did look like straw. He was just about to run out of the school yard when he saw a boy enter eating a big red apple, with another still larger and more luscious looking in his hand.
"My, but those apples look good! I must have one, no matter what happens," thought Billy.
On seeing Billy coming toward him, the boy ran for dear life, trying to make the school door before Billy could overtake him. He did, but that was all. Billy had gotten a good whiff of the apples, and that settled it. He would have one of those apples, even if he had to chase the boy all over the school. He was hoping the boy would be so afraid of him that he would throw one of the apples at him. But no such good luck. Up the stairs ran the boy, trying to reach the room before Billy could catch him. Close on his heels came Billy. The boy dodged into his room and tried to shut the door but Billy was too close on his heels. So he ran around to the far side of the room, thinking surely the goat would not follow him there. But on came Billy more determined than ever to have one of those apples. Round the room they chased each other, with all the scholars standing up in their seats screaming and laughing and hugely enjoying the chase. By this time the boy was so afraid that his hair was standing straight up on end, and he was crying lustily. Had he known it was the apples that the goat wanted, he would gladly have given up both. He thought, of course, it was himself Billy wanted to butt. Now the extra large apple had been for his beloved teacher, and the second time around the room as the boy reached the platform where she stood, he made a dive for her and threw his arms around her waist, calling to her to save him, save him!
The teacher picked up a bottle of ink, the only thing on the table she could see to throw at Billy. It hit him on one horn and broke, and the ink began to run down into his eyes. This made Billy angry, so instead of chasing the boy, he decided to go for the teacher, butt her, grab the coveted apple from the boy and make his escape. Up on the platform he leaped, upsetting chairs as he went and overturning the table behind which the teacher and the boy had taken refuge. Billy shook the ink out of his eyes, leaped over the table and chairs, grabbed the apple out of the boy's hand, brushed against the teacher so hard that he knocked her over, stepped on her and then left the room.
On the way he ran into the principal of the school who had heard all the commotion and was coming to see what was causing it. Billy, never slackening his speed, ran straight into him, and landed the principal on his back, and as his head touched the floor his wig fell off. This mortified him so he let Billy go, and thought no more about him. All his effort was to get his wig on straight before any of the young lady teachers should see him. For he was very vain and he did not wish any of them to know he wore a wig. But alas! The more he tried to straighten it, the more it persisted in turning inside out and back end foremost. And there he sat with his bald head shining like a billiard ball when a sweet voice said, "I hope you are not hurt, Mr. Wheeler!" and looking up he saw standing before him the prettiest teacher in the whole school, the one above all others he would not have had see him in such a predicament for a whole year's salary.
"Oh, no, not at all, thank you!" he replied, as his nervous fingers tried to adjust his wig. He jumped to his feet and walked off as quickly as he could, trusting his wig was on straight. But when he reached his office and looked in the mirror, he found it was on hind side before, and the part at the back of his head when it should have been on top. From that day the boys nicknamed him Baldpate, though they took very good care that he never heard them call him that.
As for Billy, he found his delicious looking apple had a false heart and was worm eaten, so he had had all his trouble for nothing and gotten a nasty spot of black ink on his snow-white whiskers and hair.
"I guess I'll go back to Mr. Noland's and see if Stubby and Button have returned," he thought, and as he rounded the corner of the street on which Mr. Noland's house stood, he saw the auto turn in the other end of the very short block. Stubby jumped out and when he saw Billy he ran joyously to meet him, barking as he came, "Oh, Billy, you should have been with us! I never had more fun in my life. But what has happened to you? I bet you have been in mischief somewhere.
"Come down by the lake while I try to wash this ink off, and I will tell you what I have been up to while you were away, and you may tell me what has happened to you."
So the two of them trotted off toward the lake to recount their adventures. And as you are interested in the doings of Billy, Stubby and Button, perhaps you might like me to relate to you in another chapter what happened to each of them.
BUTTON'S DAY WITH BELLA
Nellie took Button up in her arms and started over to see her best friend, Kittie Mead. Kittie owned a beautiful white Angora cat named Bella, who always wore a tiny gold bell tied around her neck with a blue ribbon.
When Nellie was within calling distance of Kittie's house, she began to call, "Oh, Kittie, bring your doll carriage here quick! Hurry, hurry, for this cat is getting heavy!"
Nellie had carried Button in her arms most of the way, as she was afraid that he would run away if she trusted him to follow her. Now Button was no lightweight, you must remember, and the farther she carried him, the heavier he became and the more he slipped through her arms. So when she called to Kittie most of Button's long body was dangling around her legs, while she still held on to his neck in such a manner that the poor cat was nearly strangled.
"Oh, Kittie, don't you hear me? Come, come, come! I can't carry this cat another minute!"
Luckily for Button, Kittie happened to be playing in the front yard with her doll and had just put Annabella, her favorite doll, to sleep in the doll carriage. So when she heard Nellie calling her, she jerked the sleeping Annabella out of the carriage so quickly it nearly disjointed her and tossed her on the grass while she started on a dead run down the garden path to meet the calling Nellie.
When Kittie came up, Nellie let go of Button and he dropped to the ground and lay like dead for a few minutes. Indeed, the poor cat was almost choked to death. Before he could recover and jump up and shake himself together enough to run away, Nellie had picked him up again and plumped him down in the doll carriage and the two girls began to talk as they wheeled the carriage toward the house. Nellie was relating to Kittie all that had happened since she saw her last, including the coming to her house of the goat, dog and cat, while Kittie talked so fast Nellie could not answer one question before she had asked two or three more. But neither of them noticed as all they wished was to talk, not to listen, anyway.
Button found the soft pillow in the doll carriage very comfortable and the motion made him sleepy, so he curled himself up a little tighter and went sound asleep. Had he known what they were planning to do, he never would have risked that, but would have jumped out and ran away. For these two little girls were planning to dress him up in doll clothes and play baby with him! Now that was one thing the dignified, independent Button could not stand. He had been used to play baby when a young cat, and he hated it. He had also made a vow that the very next person who tried to dress him up in doll clothes or any other clothes would be scratched for their pains.
All the way up the garden path the two girls discussed how they would dress him as well as what they would put on Bella. Button had been so sound asleep he had not heard a word. When the children left him asleep in the carriage to go after the clothes, he awoke and looking around spied a beautiful big cat with gray eyes looking down at him from the limb of a tree directly over his head.
"How do you do, Miss Beauty?" meowed Button when he had both eyes open and his thoughts collected enough to speak.
"I am pretty well. How are you, Mr. Impertinence?" Bella meowed back, for as you have guessed, this beautiful cat was none other than Kittie's pet, the belle of all the cats in that neighborhood, Miss Bella Angora Mead, to give you her full name.
"Come down and rest on this soft cushion beside me where we can talk without my having to crane my neck to look at you," Button invited.
"No, I can't. You better come up here unless you want to be tortured by being buttoned into a pink gingham doll dress and having a bonnet tied on your head. I heard the girls talking over what they were going to do to you and me, so I ran up here where they could not get at me. They will never think to look up here but will hunt all over the barn and wood piles for us, and perhaps even go down cellar, but look up a tree they never will."
"If that is what is about to happen, I surely will join you, as I object to being dressed up and having my fur turned the wrong way and having my ribs crushed by being buttoned into a tight dress."
"Well, if you are coming, hurry along for I hear them in the hall now and in another minute it will be too late for you to get up in the tree without them seeing you."
Button had barely climbed up in the tree and nicely settled beside Bella when the girls came running out of the house with their arms full of doll clothes. They went straight to the doll carriage, expecting of course to find Button asleep there.
"Oh!" exclaimed Nellie when she reached the carriage and found no Button. "He has run away!"
"He can't have gone far," replied Kittie. "Let's look for him. Perhaps he saw Bella and is getting acquainted with her. I'll call her and see."
So the two little girls began to call, "Bella, Bella! Sweetheart, where are you? Come here! Bella, Bella! Kittie, kittie, kittie!" as they walked around the yard and then behind the house looking under every bush and shrub. And all this time the two cats sat and grinned at them and enjoyed their discomfort very much.
After looking for the cats everywhere, the girls came back to thee front of the house and sat down by the empty doll carriage, scolding and telling each other what they would do when they laid hands on those two cats again. Presently one of the little girls threw herself back on the grass, her head on her hands, too angry to talk more. Lo and behold! What did she see but those two cats she had been talking about sitting quietly side by side on a limb over her head looking down on her. Yes, and from the expression on their faces she knew they were laughing at her!
"Nellie, Nellie, look up in the tree over your head and see what you will see!"
"Oh, you naughty, miserable cats! Come right straight down out of that tree this minute!"
"Oh, yes, we will be right down when we get good and ready," meowed Button.
"We are very comfortable up here, so you two better play with your dolls as we intend to spend the rest of the day up here," meowed Bella.
"You miserable cats, you! If I had hold of you, I'd pull your tails, so I would!" called Nellie.
"Better wait until you do get hold of us before you tell what you will do to us," meowed back Button.
"Let us throw green apples up at them and make them come down," suggested Kittie.
"All right. Let's do!"
"They make me laugh," said Button. "Neither one of them could hit the side of a barn even if they aimed at it. To try to hit us up here is perfectly ridiculous."
"I bet they hit themselves," meowed Bella. "Here they come with their aprons full of apples."
The girls began to throw the apples up in the tree but they could not even throw high enough to hit the limb on which the cats sat. And presently an apple came down and hit Kittie on the head.
"There! Didn't I tell you they would hit themselves?" said Bella.
Just then Nellie let out a cry and the cats laughed so they nearly fell off the limb for Kittie in her endeavor to throw high enough had whirled half way around and as she turned the apple flew out of her hand before she was ready and it hit Nellie squarely in the back.
"Let's not try to hit them any more," proposed Nellie wisely.
"I know what we can do. We'll go to the orchard and get the long ladder they are using to pick the cherries, and we'll put it up against the tree and then climb up after them."
"All right. Let's do!" again agreed Nellie.
Away ran the girls to the orchard and in about ten minutes the cats saw them tugging away at a long ladder. At last they reached the tree and after many mishaps succeeded in standing it up against the trunk. But what was their disappointment to find that it only reached half way up the tall tree and came nowhere near the limb on which the cats sat.