Tabby's Ghost by Anonymous

All at once the matter was settled. Dr. Whitehead had given his orders—Mother must have change of air at once, and they were all going to Clifton for two months. The house was to be shut up, and in Edith's heart the question arose, 'What shall we do with Tabby?' Tabby was a pleasant, gentle cat, her especial property. 'Mother,' she said, 'might we not take Tabby with us? I could pay her railway fare with the half-crown Aunt Dora gave me. I should like it so much!'

'No, dear, it is quite impossible to do so,' replied her mother; 'but perhaps Mr. Merry, the milkman, would keep her for you; she would get plenty of milk, and you know she is a good mouser. Mr. Merry would be pleased with that; I have heard him say that his barn is over-run with mice.'

'Oh, there he is!' cried Edith; 'I will run and ask him at once.'

Very soon she returned, smiling and happy. 'Mother,' she said, 'I have given Mr. Merry my half-crown, and he says he will call to-morrow and take Tabby home with him, and keep her as long as we please.'

'And so you have no money now,' cried Evelyn; 'why, you will not be able to buy anything at Clifton.'

'Never mind, Edie,' said little Ina, kindly, 'I will give you a shilling out of my money; but I do think it was very unkind of Mr. Merry to take all that you had; don't you think so, Mother?'

But Mother would not tell her thoughts; she only smiled to herself and said, 'Run away, darlings, and pack up your dolls' clothes, and remember you must take nothing except what can be put into the dolls' trunk.' And away the children ran to look after this important matter.

Next day the cab was at the door. Mother had taken her seat, Jane had locked the hall door, and Mr. Merry, with Tabby in his arms, was just leaving the house, when, with an angry 'fuff,' and a desperate spring, she leaped to the ground and disappeared in a moment among the trees at the side of the house. What was to be done?

Edith was ready to cry, but Mr. Merry comforted her by promising to return in the afternoon, when, no doubt, Tabby would be at the door, hungry enough. He would give her a saucer of milk, and, while she was lapping it, he would secure her and take her away. Edith was greatly relieved; she thanked him warmly, and, in the excitement of railway travel, Tabby was almost forgotten.

What a delightful place Clifton was! Such toy-shops, such Zoological Gardens with real lions and tigers! Could children ever weary of such a place? Certainly neither Edith nor her two sisters; and so it was with a feeling of disappointment that they saw the travelling boxes once more pulled out, and faithful Jane begin to pack again. Mother was much better, however—that was one great comfort, and, as she was longing to be home again at the Grove, the children were fain to be content. As they drew near Ventnor, the three girls began talking of home and Tabby. 'Do you think that Mr. Merry will be willing to give her back to me, Mother?' said Edith, anxiously. 'She is such a darling, perhaps he may want to keep her!'

'Don't be afraid, dear,' said her mother, smiling; 'I dare say he has a cat of his own, and will be quite glad to send Tabby back.'

'Oh, Edie!' cried Evelyn, 'here we are; there are the chimneys of the Grove. Mother, may we not run home and not wait for the cab?'

'Very well, dears, run away; Jane will go with you.'

And away the little girls ran. They had just opened the gate and entered the avenue, when they saw some object approaching them. It seemed to be the ghost of Tabby! Staggering weakly down the avenue to meet them, her ribs sticking out, her fur torn off her in patches, her eyes dim, her voice quite gone, and her tail almost bare of fur, came poor dear Tabby, feebly trying to welcome her little mistress home.

Edith burst into tears as she lifted the poor cat into her lap, while kind-hearted Jane ran to the nearest cottage and returned with some warm milk. Oh, how greedily it was lapped up, and with what hungry eyes she looked for more! Jane had to warn the children lest in their compassion they should give her too much food at once, which would have been very hurtful to an animal so starved as the poor cat had been. Mr. Merry had only fulfilled one half of the agreement; he had taken the half-crown, but he had not taken the cat; and great was the anger of the children at his treachery and cruelty.

The next day, when he brought the milk as usual, they all ran down to scold him. But he was a man of composed manner and few words; he listened in silence, then he grinned at the sight of poor pussy's tail which Edith showed him, and, taking up his milk-cans, he departed, saying, 'Her should just have coom when I were willing to take her. Her deserves all she have got!'

'And, Mother,' said Ina, as she told the story, 'just think! he has kept poor Edie's half-crown. What a wicked man he must be!'

"Mr. Merry, with Tabby in his arms, was just leaving the house."

"Mr. Merry, with Tabby in his arms, was just leaving the house."