Alice gave Topsy a saucer of milk, and soon her pet was curled up in the doll’s cradle fast asleep and none the worse for her warming.
III. HOW TOPSY MOTHERED HER NEIGHBOR’S KITTENS.
Topsy had no babies of her own. Tarlequin, her next door neighbor, had two soft, little, cuddley ones. Topsy was lonely. Her tail grew big and bushy, and her eyes grew dark and bright as she trotted off toward the wood shed where, in a barrel of nice smelling shavings, her neighbor had set up housekeeping.
Tarlequin was not at home that morning. Topsy did not stop to knock, but gave a big spring and landed right in the middle of the babies’ bed. Then she took one of the babies right in her mouth by the loose skin at the back of its neck, jumped out of the barrel, and ran home as fast as she could. She laid the stolen kitten softly down on her own bed, and began to wash it all over with her funny rough tongue.
Soon the kitten began to cry, for it was hungry and missed its own mother.
Alice heard the strange sound and ran to find out what it could be.
When Topsy saw her little mistress, she curled herself up all around the stolen baby and began to growl and hiss, something she had never done to Alice before.
“Oh, mamma, do come and see what Topsy has found!”
“Well, well!” said mamma. “It is one of Tarlequin’s babies. Where did she get it?”
“Why are Topsy’s eyes so shiny, and why does she growl at me, mamma? I am afraid to touch her,” said Alice.
“She thinks that you are going to take the kitten away, little daughter; but it will never do to let her keep it. Tarlequin will miss it and, besides, we have no way of feeding it.”
Alice’s mother began to talk softly to Topsy. After a while she put her hand down and gently stroked the cat’s face. Very soon Topsy allowed mamma to take both herself and the little kitten up in her arms. Then mamma carried them back to Tarlequin’s barrel in the neighbor’s wood shed.
Tarlequin was at home this time. She seemed very glad to see her lost baby back again and called, “Meow! meow! meow!”
Mamma stroked Tarlequin, saying, “Nice kitty! nice kitty!” Then she put Topsy right down in the nest beside Tarlequin and stroked her. Soon the two cats were purring softly and licking each other and the two kittens by turns.
That was the last time that Topsy was ever lonely, for she lived in Tarlequin’s barrel after that, and helped bring up Tarlequin’s babies; and she took just as good care of them as their own mother did, too.
She cuddled close to them when they were asleep so that they would not feel cold. Every day she licked their coats until they were smooth and shiny. When the kittens were big enough, Topsy brought them all the plump mice they could eat, and she let them tumble and scramble all over her, nip at her ears and play with her tail as much as ever they liked.