... you were to just leave me alone in the dark so as to make up for the way that I treated you the other day!’
She looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of the kitten.
‘How I do wish that I could be just a little bit more like a cat,’ she said. ‘Then I might be able to see in the dark and how useful that would be just at the moment!’
But, useful or not, seeing in the dark was not a talent that Alice could readily call upon, so she continued on as before, trying to locate the kitten as best she could.
After a while Alice thought, ‘I might not be able to see in the dark like a cat but maybe, if I try hard enough, I might be able to use my ears to listen like a cat. That way, I will be able to hear faint sounds and one of those sounds might be Kitty!’
So Alice set herself to listening as hard as she could.
At first, all she could hear was her own breathing, short and sharp, under the covers.
Then, she could hear a clock ticking faintly in the downstairs hallway.
And finally, after listening extra especially hard, Alice thought that she could just hear a cat calling out, somewhere off in the distance.
As she listened, the voice became clearer until it sounded as if it was very close by.
‘How curious,’ thought Alice. ‘It sounds as if it is Dinah talking to her kittens and I do believe that they are discussing me!’
‘Now Kitty, now Snowdrop,’ said the voice. ‘We must find poor Alice before she gets completely lost. You know what she is like. She will just wander off without any sense of direction and before you know it she will be far from home and feeling very lonely. Poor thing! Why, I would not be at all surprised if she was curled up somewhere right now crying her eyes out in frustration.’
‘We should put butter on her hands and feet so that she doesn’t run off,’ said one of the kittens.
‘Or put a bell around her neck so that we can hear her,’ said the other.
‘All well and good,’ said the old cat. ‘Those are very good suggestions but first we have to find her.
‘Now where could she be?’ she continued.
Alice wanted to call out, ‘I am here, Dinah!’ but her throat felt so dry that the words failed to come out, so she listened instead to the cats as they talked among themselves.
‘She is so naughty,’ said Dinah. ‘Why once, I remember her pretending to be ill because she hadn’t prepared properly for her lessons. And another time she made everyone wait because she was late coming down to tea.’
‘Why, mama,’ said one of the kittens. ‘You would box our ears and wash our faces if we ever did those things!’
‘Quite right,’ said the old cat, ‘and you would be the better for it. But remember that Alice is the way that she is and we must love her for it. Now, come along children, we must all put our minds to finding young Alice before something bad happens to her. Remember that she doesn’t have all the natural advantages that we enjoy as cats: She cannot run very fast, she certainly can’t jump as high as we can and her reflexes are oh so slow. It really is a wonder that people have managed to survive at all!’
‘Have you seen her claws?’ asked one of the kittens. ‘They are so soft and dull that they are hardly worthwhile for anything.’
‘They are certainly no good for softening up cushions or kneading the bedclothes,’ said the other. ‘How awkward it must be to be a person!’
‘And her teeth!’ added the first kitten. ‘They are so blunt that it is no wonder that she has to use a knife to cut up her food.’
‘And people are so helpless that their houses would be over-run with mice if it wasn’t for us,’ said the second kitten.
‘Now children,’ said Dinah. ‘None of this is helping poor Alice. We must make a plan. I will search the foot of the bed. Snowdrop, you will search the pillows at the other end and Kitty, you will stay here and search the middle of the bed. When you find her, make sure that she is all right and that she doesn’t need any help from us. Let us just hope that she isn’t stuck in the branches of a tree! People are so difficult to move when they are stuck in the branches of trees!’
The three cats made a meowing sound to each other and Alice heard two of the cats scamper off in different directions.
‘Kitty must still be close by,’ she said to herself, hopefully. ‘I will try to call out again to her so that she knows that I am here,’ and with that Alice opened her mouth to call to the kitten.
However, much to Alice’s dismay, the only noise that came out sounded like a little raspy squeak.
‘That is no good,’ thought Alice, ‘for I sound more like a little mouse than a little girl and, if Kitty was ever to think that I was a mouse, then I would be in a very difficult position trying to explain myself to her. Indeed, she might even eat me and I don’t think that I would like that one bit! But how do I attract her attention without being eaten?’
So Alice thought some more before saying to herself, ‘What if I make some noise with my hands? Cats have very good hearing and she would be sure to hear me.’
So, with that thought in mind, Alice began running her fingers quickly over the bed sheets, trying to make a noise.
But the only sound that she could make sounded ...