FICTION

The Cat Called Claudius

"Lost: by Hollywood's most glamorous star, one genuine $5000 coal black SpitzbergenPheenie Cat. Reward"—and what a reward!

LESLIE McFARLANE July 1 1942
FICTION

The Cat Called Claudius

"Lost: by Hollywood's most glamorous star, one genuine $5000 coal black SpitzbergenPheenie Cat. Reward"—and what a reward!

LESLIE McFARLANE July 1 1942

The Cat Called Claudius

"Lost: by Hollywood's most glamorous star, one genuine $5000 coal black SpitzbergenPheenie Cat. Reward"—and what a reward!

LESLIE McFARLANE

THERE were at least three hundred passengers on the city-bound train that morning and it is to be presumed they all had worries of one kind or another—man being born to trouble as the sparks fly upward—but none carried a heavier burden of woe than young Mr. Horace Lumkin.

The countryside, green and gay with early summer, skimmed merrily past. Horace Lumkin stared morosely out of the window and was not uplifted. The train wheels sang a cheery song of their own, as train wheels do. To Horace Lumkin it sounded dismally like a refrain in the voice of one Elsie Shackleby, to wit:

“/ cannot marri/, cannot marry, cannot marry you; sorry Horace, sorry Horace, cannot marry, love another, please forgive me do . . .”

The train boomed across a bridge, whereupon the refrain took on a deeper note in the rumbling bass of T. J. Bramble, sales manager of the Sunny Monday Washing Machine Company, chanting: “Priorities, priorities, the war you know, the war you knote, we’re cutting staff, we’re cutting staff, ice’ll have to let you go ”

Mr. Bramble hadn’t said it yet. But he would. Mr. Bramble didn’t summon a field salesman all the way from Wakeville for nothing. He would say it five minutes after Horace stepped into head office.

And then what? The Sunny Monday people were going to beat their washing machines into pursuit planes or something but they didn’t need salesmen for that. Horace had tried the Army. An inch under height. He had tried the Navy. A bit nearsighted. He had tried the Air Force. They said they would let him know. Tremendous things were going on in the world but nobody wanted Horace Lumkin. Not even Elsie Shackleby. He groaned.

“This seat taken, young man?”

Without waiting for an answer the old lady wedged herself in beside Horace, puffing like a small tugboat. Stout and short, she bore a large wicker basket and a startling resemblance to the late Queen Victoria, including the bonnet. She thrust the big basket at Horace.

“Put that on the floor, young man. Too warm to be holding it on my lap.” She sat back and fanned herself vigorously with a newspaper.

Horace wrestled with the basket. Pie had a startled impression that it lunged at him and snarled a little.

“Cat,” said the old lady with a pleased chuckle. She nudged Horace in the ribs. “You’ll never guess who owns him.” She looked over her shoulder, on guard against spies or saboteurs, and whispered impressively: “Sonya Monyonya!”

Horace was a round-faced, well-scrubbed youth, the sort of completely harmless young man in whom old ladies just naturally place their trust. The sort of young man who believes pretty nearly everything he is told. But now his eyes almost bulged right through his spectacles:

“No!” he gasped incredulously.

“True as 1 breathe.”

Horace regarded the basket with awe.

“Sonya Monyonya, the movie star?”

“Sonya Monyonya, the movie star!”

“Her cat?”

“Her cat.”

“In that basket?”

“In that basket.”

This might have gone on indefinitely but the old lady decided they were getting nowhere. She whisked open her newspaper and thrust it under Horace Lumkin’s nose:

Screen Star Weeps For Lost Pet

Sonya Monyonya Grief-Stricken When Five Thousand Dollar Claudius Disappears

“She’s on a tour,” explained the old lady. “Entertaining the troops. She was driving back from a training camp last night, stopped off in our town a few minutes for a hot dog, and that must have been when she lost the cat.”

“And you found him!”

“I stepped out on the porch to get my newspaper this morning and there — teas — this — cat! Practically sitting on his own photograph!”

“Gosh!”

“Says in the paper Sonya Monyonya didn’t miss the cat until she got back to her hotel. Doesn’t know where she lost him. And he’s right there in that basket!” the old lady concluded and slapped Horace smartly across the knee with her newspaper.

“Offering a reward, I suppose?”

“Oh yes, there’s a reward.” This, apparently, was of minor consequence. Money isn’t everything. “But just imagine!” the old lady sighed rapturously. “When I bring back the cat I’ll meet Sonya Monyonya! Face to face !” She beamed. Life had not been lived in vain.

Horace understood her expectant bliss. He

was a movie fan himself, less Elsie Shackleby was a worshipper.

He could imagine what Elsie would do if chance selected her from among the earth’s millions to retrieve Sonya Monyonya’s cat and meet the enchantress face to face. Elsie would go nuts, that’s what she would do.

“It says in the paper the cat’s name is Claudius. He’s a genuine coal black Spitzbergen - Pheenie. And I found him !”

“Yes sir,” mused Horace, “she’d go absolutely nuts.”

ON THE dot of 9.05 that morning a special train groaned to a halt on Track Three at the Union Depot. It heaved a steamy sigh of relief; and out tumbled two hundred happy delegates

to the International Buttermakers’ Convention.

At 9.07 Horace Lumkin politely offered to carry Claudius and the wicker basket when the Wakeville local creaked to a stop on Track Four. The old lady in the Victorian bonnet preceded him down the aisle. Horace didn’t know anything about the buttermakers.

Not until he reached the platform. And then he was up to the neck in buttermakers. He was jostled by buttermakers, surrounded by buttermakers, pushed this way and that way by buttermakers, caught up in a roaring tide of jovial buttermakers all heading for the same exit stairs.

The Victorian bonnet was swept away, engulfed by buttermakers. Horace caught a glimpse of it

bobbing up and down like a toy boat in a torrent. He clung grimly to the basket and fought to overtake the bonnet. But he was caught up in a small whirlpool of delegates trying to organize a chorus to sing the Buttermakers’ Anthem.

“Join in, pal !” they begged, clinging affectionately to Horace as they yodelled:

“Our hearts stilt yearn For the old family churn

In Renfrew County far a-whey!” “Please1” implored Horace, breaking free. “I lost my old lady.” Four buttermakers gleefully announced that they had left their old ladies at home. Desperately hugging the basket, Horace dived into the cataract of humanity on the stairs. But by this time the Victorian bonnet had vanished.

Flushed and perspiring he was swept along with the crowd, down the corridor, through the doors and into the roped runway where incoming passengers undergo the critical inspection of other people’s waiting relatives. An ordeal for a self-conscious person at any time. But doubly an ordeal when one is hugging a huge wicker basket and sweating like the

hired man at a square dance.

This was the moment Claudius chose to give tongue.

Perhaps he was irked by the commotion going. on about him. Perhaps he was merely lonesome for Sonya Monyonya. Whatever the cause, just as Horace stepped forth into the view of the multitude, Claudius cut loose with a mournful and penetrating yowl.

In nightmares Horace had sometimes dreamed of wandering in public without his pants. He firmly believed this would be the most ghastly of all human predicaments. Now he knew better.

To a shy and sensitive soul the ultimate in horror was to find oneself stumbling about Union Depot with a squalling cat in a basket.

“Eeeee-yowrrrr !” wailed Claudius.

Porters wheeled in their tracks. Scurrying citizens skidded wildly and gaped in all directions for the source of the inhuman sound. Claudius, having cleared his tlyoat, took a deep breath and went to town.

‘‘ Yeeee-owrrr-owrrreeeee-yaowwwwwwwww !”

It sounded a little like an air raid siren tuning up.

“Shut up, Claudius!” groaned Horace. But Claudius merely took a grip on himself and uttered another piercing yowl, concluding with a series of convulsive sobs.

Public interest was tremendous. Horace hadn't attracted so much popular attention since the day he was born. People were beginning to talk. He advanced in a rising tumult of laughter and applause and polite enquiry, while Claudius wept dismally.

Horace had a wild impulse to heave the basket into the crowd and flee, not stopping this side of Labrador. And then he spied a telephone booth. Blessed sanctuary ! He broke into a trot. Claudius howled. The crowd shrieked. Horace hugged the basket tightly to his bosom and broke into a gallop. He pitched headlong into the telephone booth amid rousing cheers.

It is one thing to enter a telephone booth with a bushel basket. It is another thing to close the door. Intricate problems await the man who tries to share his telephone booth with any baggage larger than a parcel containing pyjamas and toothbrush.

The folding door put up a stiff battle. It squeezed the basket. It knocked off Horace’s hat. It trapped one of his feet and almost took off one of his shoes. Finally it gave in, snapping viciously at his fingers as it closed. Horace collapsed, shuddering.

IN TIMES of trial and sore distress, man needs the sympathetic understanding of a good woman. It was instinctive with Horace to pop a nickel in the slot and phone Elsie Shackleby.

After all, there is no law against talking to a girl, even if she has met the grandest student flier. Even if she has returned your ring with ten pages of romantic regrets. It’s a free country.

“Elsie,” he quavered, “this is Horace. Listen Elsie, I’m in a — ”

“Horace, dear, I tried to explain everything in my letter. I do hope v/e’ll always be good friends, Horace, and you’ll never know how terribly I feel about it all, but — ”

“But Elsie, I’m in a very embarrassing position. I’m down here at Union Depot with Sonya Monyonya’s cat, and I — ”

“With what?”

“PJeeeee-yowwww !” wept Claudius.

“Sonya Monyonya’s cat, and it’s making a terrible racket. Now listen, Elsie, what do you think I should — ?”

“But Horace, it sounded to me as if you said

Continued on page 26

Continued from page 15

•Sonya Monyonya’s cat. There’s so much noise going on — ”

“That’s what I did say!” bawled Horace. “Shut up, Claudius!” “Llorace!” squealed Elsie. “You didn’t find Sonya Monyonya’s cat, did you?”

“I’ve got it right here. Now the point is, Elsie — ”

“Oh, Horace! Then you’ll be returning it to Sonya Monyonya yourself! You’ll meet her. You’ll meet Sonya Monyonya. Oh, Horace, it was wonderful of you to call me! Wait for me, Horace. I’ll be right down.”

“But Elsie, I have to see Mr. Bramble at head office in fifteen minutes. I think he’s going to fire me and lie’ll he very angry if I’m late.”

“Then I’ll call for you at the office,” babbled Elsie. “Don’t go without me, Horace. If 1 miss this chance of meeting Sonya Monyonya I’ll just die. I think you’re wonderful ! Wait for me, Horace!”

“But Elsie — ”

A buzzing in his ear told him the excited Elsie was practically on her way downtown by now.

“Yaowrrr!” sobbed Claudius. When he lugged the basket into the Sunny Monday office Horace nursed a forlorn hope that he might find Bramble in a rare moment of benevolence.

But the luck of the Lumkins had always been a fragile thing. As Horace came into the waiting room a stenographer bolted out of Bramble’s office like a frightened bunny. And plaintive yelps from beyond the glass partition indicated that Mr. Bramble was having a little trouble again with Petty-Pie.

Petty-Pie was Mrs. Bramble. Petty-Pie was a lady who did not like being disappointed. When Petty-Pie was disappointed life was apt to become very difficult for Mr. Bramble. This morning Petty-Pie had set her heart on being invited to a very exclusive little reception in honor of the great movie star, Sonya Monyonya, whom she had long worshipped ...

“But Petty-Pie, I tell you I’ve tried everywhere. Everyone in town is trying to get a ticket to that reception. Now don’t be angry, Petty-Pie — all right, all right!”

The receiver clattered. Cursing, Mr. Bramble plunged out of his office. He was a red-faced, roly-poly man, mostly stomach and chins, and he never entered or left a room like any normal person. He exploded through doorways.

“A fine thing !” he bawled. “A fine thing when a man can’t even -— ” Then he spied Horace. His eyes gleamed.

“Oho, so it’s you, Lumkin ! You’re late!”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Bramble, but — ” “Is this the way you keep appointments out in Wakeville? What if 11 was a customer for a washing machine? What if you — ?” “Eeeeee-yowrr !” wailed Claudius.

Mr. Bramble’s eyes popped.

“Good heavens, Lumkin!” His voice was hushed. “What was that?” “It’s a cat, Mr. Bramble. Just one cat.”

Mr. Bramble blinked rapidly at the basket. Then he blinked slowly at Horace and edged away a little.

“Cat? You’ve taken to carrying cats around with you?”

“It’s called Claudius. It belongs to Sonya Monyonya.”

“Sonya Monyonya !”

“The movie actress.”

Mr. Bramble gulped in a mouthful of air.

“Lumkin! You didn’t find Sonya Monyonya’s cat?” he gasped incredulously.

“It’s a long story, Mr. Bramble. I guess I really ought to call her up at the hotel and let her know about it. You see, I was on the train — ” “Sonya Monyonya doesn’t know you found her cat?”

“Well, not yet. You see, I was on the train — ”

Mr. Bramble’s vast pudding face became slowly radiant with an expression of unholy ecstasy.

“Lumkin,” he said in a voice that was almost a whisper. “How would you like to join my head office staff?” “Me, Mr. Bramble?”

“You don’t think I’d leave a valuable man like you out in Wakeville forever, do you? No, my boy. I’ve had my eye on you, Lumkin. I’ve been watching you.”

“Gosh, Mr. Bramble, this is certainly — ”

“Go out to this address,” said Bramble, scribbling busily on a card, “and sell them half a dozen washing machines. It’s a big proposition but I know you can handle it.” He thrust the card into Horace’s hand and slapped him warmly on the back, heading him toward the door. “Away you go, my boy, and good luck to you.”

“But Mr. Bramble, I’ve got a girl friend — ”

“She’ll be proud of you! On the commission from those washing machines you can marry her. I’ll give you two weeks’ vacation with full pay for a honeymoon.”

“Gee whizz, Mr. Bramble, I don’t know how — ”

“Don’t thank me, Lumkin. You’ve worked hard for this opportunity. And it’s only the first step. The time will come when I’ll have to hand over my burden to a younger man. That man may well be you, Lumkin. And after that — who knows? Sales managers have become company presidents!”

A little dazed by these rapid promotions, Horace found himself propelled out into the hall. Mr. Bramble seemed anxious to get him started on the next phase of his meteoric career without delay.

“But how about Claudius — ?” “Don’t you worry about Claudius. I’ll take care of him. Off you go and sell those washing machines. Goodby, my boy!”

The door closed. Horace teetered down the hall. He looked at the card in his hand.

It bore the address of the East Side Jail.

“Boy!” he breathed. “Only six washing machines! I’ll sell ’em a dozen !”

Back in the office Mr. Bramble I pounced on the telephone.

“Petty-Pie,” he said, “how would you like to meet Sonya Monyonya in person? . . . Yes, Petty-Pie, that’s what I said . . . . ”

WHEN Lady Luck smiles too suddenly it is wise to be wary. She may be breaking into a hearty laugh at your expense.

All the way out to the East Side Jail, Horace entertained himself with rosy plans for the future. He would sell nine washing machines, he would go back to the office and return Claudius to Sonya Monyonya, Elsie would meet the movie actress, Elsie would adore him . . .

“Bramble?” said the man at the East Side Jail. “Never heard of him. We don’t want any washingmachines.”

On the way back, stopping only long enough to buy ten cents worth of liver for Claudius, he decided that Mr. Bramble must have made a mistake. But when he thought of Elsie Shackleby, waiting patiently for him at the office, he broke into a cold sweat.

And with reason.

When the blond and dainty Miss Shackleby tripped breathlessly into the Sunny Monday office she was all atwitter at the prospect of meeting Sonya Monyonya. The suitor who could lay that sort of gift at her feet, she had decided, was a man in a million. She was positively glowing with renewed affection for Horace Lumkin.

At the end of forty minutes on a hard bench she was still glowing. But not with affection. Nibbling her pretty finger tips with exasperation, she told herself she had been right about Horace all along. Horace was a — was a . . .

At the fifty minute mark Elsie was ready to call it a day. She was close to tears. And then in rushed Horace, flustered and breathless, juggling a small brown paper parcel.

“Elsie !” he stammered. “Gosh, I feel awful about keeping you waiting, but you see Mr. Bramble wanted me to go to the East Side Jail about some washing machines and — ” “My goodness, Horace, I thought you’d never show up. Where’s the cat?”

“The cat! Oh yes, Sonya Monyonya’s cat. We’ll bring it over to her hotel right away. I’ll tell Mr. Bramble about the East Side Jail not needing any washing machines.” “Air. Bramble is gone,” spoke up the reception clerk.

“Oh ! Well I left a basket here — a big wicker basket.”

“It’s gone too.”

Horace felt as if he had been kicked right in the gizzard.

“But there was a cat in it!”

“Mr. Bramble said he and Mrs. Bramble would deliver the cat to the owner personally.”

“Oh, Horace,” wailed Elsie. “Now I won’t be able to meet Sonya Monyonya after all. And you said I j could. And I waited for hours.”

Her grief overflowed. She wept with disappointment.

Men like Horace Lumkin can be pushed around just so long. The sobs of Elsie Shackleby aroused something primitive in him. His

shoulders straightened. His eyes flashed.

“So !” he said quietly. “Mr. Bramble will return Sonya Monyonya’s cat, will he?”

He flipped a handkerchief from his pocket and dried Elsie’s eyes.

“Mr. Bramble is a snake in the grass,” he declared, taking Elsie by the arm. “Yes,” he repeated, thinking it over and liking the expression, “a snake in the grass. What’s more, he is a weasel, a jackal and a skunk.”

And with these zoological imprecations he yanked open the door.

“Come on, Elsie!” said Horace Lumkin. “He can’t do this to us.”

At the hotel entrance they came upon a very odd sight — a race between a very small bellhop and a very large yellow tomcat. What made this spectacle a distinct novelty was the fact that it was being conducted inside a revolving door. The cat was in one compartment; the bellhop was in another. Round and round whizzed the door; feverishly scampered the cat; diligently plodded the bellhop. Each was holding his own. The cat, however, decided that this was not enough. At the next turn of the door he shot out into the street, skidded, straightened out and departed like a comet.

“—and don’t come back!” the bellhop called sourly after the feline fugitive. “Cats! Cats! Cats!” he muttered, with bitterness uncommon in one so young.

And indeed the hotel seemed to be having cat trouble.

In the lobby an ancient grey cat peered grimly from the topmost leaves of a potted palm. She snarled and spat at a hunting party of bellhops on safari, vainly trying to shake her down. And as Horace and Elsie crossed the rotunda a villainous black cat streaked out from beneath a sofa and skimmed south, hotly pursued by a house detective. It exploded like a projectile in the checkroom. At the desk they found themselves behind three happy delegates to the Buttermakers’ Convention. Each delegate wore a red badge, each carried a birdcage and each birdcage contained a cat of doubtful pedigree.

“What is the number of Miss Monyonya’s suite?” they demanded in chorus. “We have found her cat.”

“It’s been tried, boys,” said the clerk, wearily. “People have been using that gag all morning. We can’t give out her number. Please go away.”

Horace hadn’t anticipated this little difficulty. But Elsie was regarding him trustfully. He said they would try one of the elevator boys.

“I can’t even tell you what floor she’s on,” said the boy. “We got strict orders.”

Horace sagged. “Gee whizz,” he murmured dejectedly.

But this was more in Elsie’s line. The boy found himself exposed to one of Elsie’s smiles.

“Won’t you even tell me?” she murmured.

“I’m sorry, miss,” faltered the youth, “but we got strict — ” .

“Please!” And she smiled at him again.

“Get in,” said the boy, huskily. ; All the way to the twelfth floor he j gazed at her so entranced that

Horace was afraid the cage would go right on up through the roof.

The cage stopped. They got out. The door slid shut behind them.

And a shrill voice cried : “There he is! Grab him, Stanley!”

THE OLD lady in the Victorian bonnet was no fool. As the original, bona fide discoverer of Sonya Monyonya’s cat she was not one to let her chance of a cash reward and a cosy chat with the enchantress slip from her grasp without a struggle. Reasoning that the abductor of Claudius would show up at the Monyonya suite with the purloined feline sooner or later, she had taken up a strategic position by the elevator bank.

On her right was a distracted gentleman named Clinker. On her left was her son, Stanley Grubb. Stanley was six feet three inches tall and he wore the shield of a city detective.

Long experience in collaring pickpockets and other malefactors had given Stanley a grip of steel. Horace was grabbed so vigorously that his teeth rattled.

“Hang on to him, Stanley!”

“I’m hangin’ on, ma!” Stanley assured her. He gave Horace a gentle shake that lifted him two feet off the floor.

Mr. Clinker pounced on the victim. “Where’s the cat?” he demanded feverishly.

“And where’s my basket?” demanded old Mrs. Grubb.

“You sneak thief!” growled Stanley. “Thought you’d snag the reward, huh? Speak up, you crook!” Horace was trying to speak up. But every time he opened his mouth Stanley gave him another shake and the words rattled around in his mouth like pebbles in a tin can.

“Offered to carry my basket and then ran like a deer as soon as my back was turned!” accused Mrs. Grubb. “Don’t let go, Stanley!” “Horace!” cried Elsie, aghast at these revelations. “Is this true? Oh, Horace, and you told me you found that cat all by yourself!” She burst into tears. “I feel so disgraced, so humiliated — ”

“It’s a good act, sister, but save it for the judge,” advised Stanley. “Got the cat hid away and figured you’d hold him for ransom, huh? Couple of cat-nappers, huh? Well I’m takin’ you both down to the cooler.”

He gave Horace another little shake. The pennies in Horace’s pockets jingled like sleighbells.

“Where is that cat?” bleated Mr. Clinker, trotting back and forth in great agitation. “I’m appointed by the government to see that Miss Monyonya’s visit runs smoothly. And now look what’s happened, She comes up here at sacrifice of time and trouble and how does Canada reward her? By swiping her cat! How will that read in the Chicago Tribune? Where is that cat?” At that moment the elevator door slid open again.

First emerged the wicker basket. It was closely followed by Mr. Bramble, who in turn was followed by the small, mush-faced female he was wont to address as Petty-Pie. Mr. Bramble strode out jauntily,

with the pleased demeanor of a man who has just slipped over a fast one.

“Yes, indeed,” he was remarking smugly, “Miss Monyonya will certainly be delighted when we — ” “My basket!” shrieked Mrs. Grubb. “Grab him, Stanley!”

“Aha!” said Stanley, and grabbed. “Give over that cat, brother!”

“Now look here,” objected PettyPie. “That’s my husband,”

“That so, lady?” replied Stanley. “Then you’re married to a catthief.”

Mr. Bramble was doing some very rapid thinking. His mental processes were a little hampered by the fact that he was being slowly strangled by Stanley’s grip on his collar, but the brain was still functioning.

“Who says I stole a cat?” he gurgled. “If it was that man,” — he managed to point at Horace — “I never saw him in my life.”

“Oh,” said Stanley, thoughtfully. “I kinda had an idea you two were in on this together. So you take the rap yourself, huh?” He released his grip on Horace. “I guess that clears you, mister.”

He turned his undivided attention to Mr. Bramble and gave him a few hearty shakes, just to get the heft of him. Mr. Bramble was heavier than Horace, but Stanley had a nice change of pace and he was quite equal to the occasion.

“Caught red-handed, by gosh!” he gloated. “Comes marching in here, bold as brass, with a stolen cat and my ma’s basket. You’ll get about three years for this, my friend.” “If any harm has come to Claudius,” panted Mr. Clinker, as he opened the lid of the basket, “I’ll never — ”

No harm had come to Claudius. He shot out of the basket like a broken mainspring, described a black furry arc in the air and lit running. A flight of stairs going upward opened straight ahead. Claudius hit the third step on the first bounce and kept right on going up.

“After him !” shrieked Mr. Clinker. But Horace Lumkin was already on his way.

AMONG the skylights and protuberances of the hotel roof there were many hiding places for a cat with a taste for freedom. After five minutes of vain search Mr. Clinker was a nervous wreck.

“You see,” Horace explained carefully as they prowled vainly in their search, “after 1 got separated from the old lady in the station I decided — ”

“I know, I know,” bellowed Clinker. “I believe you. I don’t think you stole the cat. I believe everything you’ve said. But if I can’t return that confounded animal — ”

“Ah!” said Horace. “I just thought of something.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Liver!” Horace fished a small paper parcel from his pocket. “I bought it for Claudius.” He opened the package and began trotting back and forth among the skylights. “Here, Claudius...here, Claudius...” The gentle breezes on the roof top did their work. The delicious fragrance of raw liver reached the lurking Claudius when Horace was

on his second lap about the roof. There was a plaintive “Yaowrr,” and Claudius emerged. He trotted meekly up and accepted a morsel of liver. The hunt was ended.

“My boy!” said Clinker, gratefully. “If there is anything I can do to show my appreciation — anything — ”

“Well, I’ve been trying to get into the Air Force,” ventured Horace modestly, “but there seems to have been a little delay — ”

“I'll phone Ottawa about it tonight. And if we can’t get you into the Air Force — My goodness, a fellow who could think of that liver idea — it’s resourcefulness like that we need, man ! Don’t you worry. There’s a spot for everybody and I’ll see to it that we find one for you.” They descended the stairs, Claudius purring contentedly on Horace’s shoulder.

“And now,” beamed Clinker, “we’ll return Claudius to his owner — boy !” He heaved a happy sigh of relief. “What a load off my mind! Come along, Mrs. Grubb. We’ll tell her how you found the cat, and I’ll see that you get your reward. Horace, you and your young lady must be in on this too. Come along now.”

“I told Stanley I could hardly believe you stole my basket,” the old lady smiled at Horace. “You had such an honest face I trusted you at first sight. Dear me, I’m glad we caught the real thief.” She eyed Mr. Bramble grimly. “There’s no mistaking that face. A crook if ever I saw one.”

“Criminal type. I’ve got so I can recognize ’em at a glance,” said Stanley. “Probably has a record. I’ll take him away and lock him up.” “Lumkin,” moaned Mr. Bramble. “Talk to these people. Speak up, man, and tell them who I am.”

“We know who you are,” declared Mrs. Grubb. “You’re the reprobate who stole my basket.”

“Speak up, Lumkin!” implored Mr. Bramble.

It was a great moment for Horace Lumkin. He had suffered much that day at the hands of Mr. Bramble. He took a deep breath and spoke:

“It would serve you blamed well right if I said I’d never seen you before in my life.”

“You bet it would!” applauded Elsie.

“Lumkin!” moaned the victim. “But I can’t do it.” Horace turned to Stanley and Mr. Clinker. “Mr. Bramble is a very respectable citizen.”

“Respectable or not,” growled Stanley, “how come he had that cat?”

Horace gulped a little. “I gave it to him,” he said. “I asked him to bring it up here and return it to Miss Monyonya and — and if we’re going to see Miss Monyonya I think Mr. Bramble and Pet — Mrs. Bramble — should come too.”

Mr. Bramble seized Horace by the hand.

“Lumkin,” he declared earnestly. “I’ll never forget this, my boy!

Never ! I’ll make you a city salesman. I’ll make you my assistant, so help me!”

“I think I’m going to be in the Air Force,” said Horace.

“Then, by George, the job will be waiting for you.”

“Come along,” said Clinker, j “Come along, everybody. We’re j going to visit Sonya Monyonya!” Blissfully, Elsie squeezed Horace’s arm.

“Oh, Horace!” she whispered. “I ¡ think you’re just wonderful!”