While Tom Kitten was left alone under the floor of the attic, he wriggled about and tried to mew for help.
But his mouth was full of soot and cobwebs, and he was tied up in such very tight knots, he could not make anybody hear him.
Except a spider, which came out of a crack in the ceiling and examined the knots critically, from a safe distance.
It was a judge of knots because it had a habit of tying up unfortunate blue-bottles. It did not offer to assist him.
Tom Kitten wriggled and squirmed until he was quite exhausted.
Presently the rats came back and set to work to make him into a dumpling. First they smeared him with butter, and then they rolled him in the dough.
“Will not the string be very indigestible, Anna Maria?” inquired Samuel Whiskers.
Anna Maria said she thought that it was of no consequence; but she wished that Tom Kitten would hold his head still, as it disarranged the pastry. She laid hold of his ears.
Tom Kitten bit and spat, and mewed and wriggled; and the rolling-pin went roly-poly, roly; roly, poly, roly. The rats each held an end.
“His tail is sticking out! You did not fetch enough dough, Anna Maria.”
“I fetched as much as I could carry,” replied Anna Maria.
“I do not think”—said Samuel Whiskers, pausing to take a look at Tom Kitten—“I do not think it will be a good pudding. It smells sooty.”
Anna Maria was about to argue the point, when all at once there began to be other sounds up above—the rasping noise of a saw; and the noise of a little dog, scratching and yelping!
The rats dropped the rolling-pin, and listened attentively.
“We are discovered and interrupted, Anna Maria; let us collect our property—and other people’s,—and depart at once.”
“I fear that we shall be obliged to leave this pudding.”
“But I am persuaded that the knots would have proved indigestible, whatever you may urge to the contrary.”
“Come away at once and help me to tie up some mutton bones in a counterpane,” said Anna Maria. “I have got half a smoked ham hidden in the chimney.”
So it happened that by the time John Joiner had got the plank up—there was nobody under the floor except the rolling-pin and Tom Kitten in a very dirty dumpling!
But there was a strong smell of rats; and John Joiner spent the rest of the morning sniffing and whining, and wagging his tail, and going round and round with his head in the hole like a gimlet.
Then he nailed the plank down again and put his tools in his bag, and came downstairs.
The cat family had quite recovered. They invited him to stay to dinner.