Mystery #02 — The Mystery of the Disappearing Cat (3 стр.)

Тема

Miss Harmer squealed. Luke's mouth fell open and he looked frightened. All the cats set up a miaowing. Fatty called fiercely:

"Buster! Come here, sir! BUSTER! Do you hear me? COME HERE, SIR!"

But no amount of calling could get Buster away if there was a cat to chase. Miss Harmer ran in despair to the bushes. Only Buster was there, his nose bleeding from a scratch, his tongue hanging out, his eyes very bright and excited.

"Where's Dark Queen?" wailed Miss Harmer. "Oh, this is awful! Puss, puss, puss!"

Bets began to cry. She couldn't bear to think that Dark Queen had gone. She thought she heard a noise in some bushes right at the end of the path and she ran off to see, tears running down her fat cheeks.

Then there came another commotion. Someone walked up to the cages, came round them — and it was Mr. Tupping, the gardener! Luke stared at him in fright.

"What's all this?" shouted Mr. Tupping. "Who are you? What are you doing in my garden?"

"It isn't your garden," said Fatty boldly. "It's Lady Candling's, and she's a friend of my mother's."

It wasn't a bit of good telling Mr. Tupping that it wasn't his garden. He felt that it belonged to him. And here were children and a dog in his garden! He detested children, dogs, cats, and birds.

"You get out of here," he shouted in an angry voice. "Go on! Get out at once! Do you hear me? And if I catch you here again I'll box your ears and tell your fathers. Miss Harmer, what's the matter with you?"

"Dark Queen is gone!" wailed Miss Harmer, who seemed just as much afraid of Mr. Tupping as Luke.

"Serves you right if you lose your job," said Mr. Tupping. "What use are them cats, I'd like to know? Just rubbish, that's all they are. Good riddance if one is gone!"

"Shall we stay and help you to look for Dark Queen?" said Daisy to the Kennel-girl.

"You get out," said Mr. Tupping, and his big hooky nose got very red. His stone-coloured eyes glared at Daisy. He was an ugly, bad-tempered-looking fellow, with straw-coloured hair streaked with grey, and the children didn't like the look of him at all.

They decided to go. Tupping looked as if he might hit them at any moment. They made their way to the wall. They saw that Bets was not with them, but they thought she must have run back and climbed over the wall in her fear of the surly gardener. Fatty called Buster.

"No; you leave that dog with me," said Tupping. "A good hiding will do him good. I'll give him one, then he won't come interfering in my garden again."

"Don't you dare to touch my dog!" cried Fatty at once. "He'll bite you."

Tupping made a grab for Buster and got him by the collar. He held him firmly by the back of the neck so that he couldn't even snap. He jerked him off his feet into the air, and then, carrying him by the back of the neck, marched off with him. Fatty was almost beside himself with anger.

He ran after the gardener and pulled at his arm. The man hit out at the boy, and Fatty gasped. Tupping threw the dog into a shed, shut the door, turned the key and put it into his pocket. Then he turned to Fatty with such an ugly look on his face that the boy turned and ran.

Soon all four were over the wall, lying on the grass, panting and angry. They had left poor frightened Luke behind, and poor scared Miss Harmer. They had left Bets behind too, though they didn't know it — and Buster was locked in the shed.

"Hateful man!" said Daisy, almost in tears.

"The beast!" said Fatty between his teeth. "Look at this bruise already showing on my arm. That's where he hit me."

"Poor old Buster," said Pip, hearing an anguished whine in the distance.

"Where's Bets?" said Larry, looking all round. "Bets, Bets! Where are you?"

There was no answer. Bets was still over the wall. "She must have gone indoors," said Pip. "I say, what are we going to do about Buster? Fatty, we've got to rescue him, you know. We can't leave him there. I bet he will whip the poor little dog."

"Poor Buster," said Daisy. "And poor Dark Queen. Oh! I do hope she is found. I wonder how Buster got over the wall."

"He didn't," said Fatty. "He couldn't. He must have thought hard, run down the drive, and up the drive next door and into the garden to find us. You know what brains Buster has got. Oh, golly! how are we going to rescue him? How I hate that man Tupping! How awful for poor Luke to have to work under him!"

"I'll go and find Bets," said Pip. "She must have gone to hide or something — maybe she's scared."

He went into the house to find her, and soon came out looking puzzled. "She's not anywhere about," he said. "I've called and called. Wherever can she be? I suppose she did come back over the wall? She can't be in next door's garden still, can she?"

But she was. Poor little Bets was hiding there, scared stiff. What was she to do? She couldn't get over the wall by herself — and she didn't dare to run down the drive in case Mr. Tupping saw her!

Luke is a Good Friend.

When Bets had run to the bushes to see if Dark Queen was there, she had found that it was only a big blackbird that had flown out as soon as she had got there. All the same, she went into the bushes and had a look round, calling, "Puss, puss, puss!"

Suddenly she saw two bright blue eyes looking down at her from the tree above. She jumped. Then she gave a cry of delight.

"Oh, it's you, Dark Queen! Oh, I'm so glad I've found you!"

She stood and thought. It was no good getting Dark Queen down until Buster was safely out of the garden. The lovely cat was much safer where she was. Bets looked up at Dark Queen and the cat began to purr. She liked the little girl.

Bets saw that the tree would be easy to climb. It wasn't long before she was up on the branch beside the cat, stroking her, and talking to her. Dark Queen simply loved it. She rubbed her dark brown head against the little girl, and purred very loudly.

And then Bets heard Mr. Tupping shouting, and she was frightened. Oh dear! the gardener must have come back. He wasn't out after all. She listened to the angry yelling, and trembled. She did not dare to join the others. She sat quietly by the cat and listened.

She could not hear exactly what happened, but after a while she realized that the others must have gone back over the wall and left her. She felt very forlorn and frightened. She was just about to slip down the tree to try and find Miss Harmer and tell her where Dark Queen was, when footsteps came along the path. The little girl peeped between the leaves of the tree and saw Mr. Tupping dragging poor Luke along by one of his big ears.

"I'll teach you to let children into my garden!" said Mr. Tupping, and he gave Luke such a slap that the boy let out a yell. "You're paid to do work, you are. You'll stay here and work two hours overtime for letting them children in!"

He gave Luke another blow, pulled his ear hard, then pushed him and sent him flying down the path. Bets was so sorry for Luke that tears ran down her cheeks, and she gave a little sob. Horrid Mr. Tupping!

Mr. Tupping went off down another path. Luke picked up a hoe, and was just setting off in the opposite direction when Bets called softly to him:

"Luke!"

Luke dropped his hoe with a clatter, and looked all if round, startled. He could see no one. "Luke!" called Bets again. "I'm here, up the tree. And Dark Queen is with me."

Then Luke saw the little girl up the tree and the Siamese cat beside her. Bets slipped down and stood beside him.

"Help me over the wall, Luke," she said. "Well, if Mr. Tupping sees me I'll lose my job, and my stepfather will belt me black and blue," said poor Luke, his big red face as scared as Bets' little one.

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