“He’s a bad kitten, Cousin Tabitha; he made a cat’s cradle of my best bonnet last time I came to tea. Where have you looked for him?”
“All over the house! The rats are too many for me. What a thing it is to have an unruly family!” said Mrs. Tabitha Twitchit.
“I’m not afraid of rats; I will help you to find him; and whip him too! What is all that soot in the fender?”
“The chimney wants sweeping—Oh, dear me, Cousin Ribby—now Moppet and Mittens are gone!”
“They have both got out of the cupboard!”
Ribby and Tabitha set to work to search the house thoroughly again. They poked under the beds with Ribby’s umbrella, and they rummaged in cupboards. They even fetched a candle, and looked inside a clothes chest in one of the attics. They could not find anything, but once they heard a door bang and somebody scuttered downstairs.
“Yes, it is infested with rats,” said Tabitha tearfully. “I caught seven young ones out of one hole in the back kitchen, and we had them for dinner last Saturday. And once I saw the old father rat—an enormous old rat, Cousin Ribby. I was just going to jump upon him, when he showed his yellow teeth at me and whisked down the hole.”
“The rats get upon my nerves, Cousin Ribby,” said Tabitha.
Ribby and Tabitha searched and searched. They both heard a curious roly-poly noise under the attic floor. But there was nothing to be seen.
They returned to the kitchen. “Here’s one of your kittens at least,” said Ribby, dragging Moppet out of the flour barrel.
They shook the flour off her and set her down on the kitchen floor. She seemed to be in a terrible fright.
“Oh! Mother, Mother,” said Moppet, “there’s been an old woman rat in the kitchen, and she’s stolen some of the dough!”
The two cats ran to look at the dough pan. Sure enough there were marks of little scratching fingers, and a lump of dough was gone!
“Which way did she go, Moppet?”
But Moppet had been too much frightened to peep out of the barrel again.
Ribby and Tabitha took her with them to keep her safely in sight, while they went on with their search.
They went into the dairy. The first thing they found was Mittens, hiding in an empty jar.
They tipped up the jar, and she scrambled out.
“Oh, Mother, Mother!” said Mittens—
“Oh! Mother, Mother, there has been an old man rat in the dairy—a dreadful ’normous big rat, mother; and he’s stolen a pat of butter and the rolling-pin.”
Ribby and Tabitha looked at one another.
“A rolling-pin and butter! Oh, my poor son Thomas!” exclaimed Tabitha, wringing her paws.