- THE 'PUPPY ORDEAL' AND SUMMER'S LAST BOUQUET -
There was no harm in her, really, only once she had got hold of Crumb's hat she found that she liked it rather, and being still a very young dog who happened to have grown somewhat larger than one would expect a puppy to be, being used to puppies of smaller sorts, she was not yet accustomed to listening or doing-as-one-is-asked, and no matter how Crumb scolded, she kept hold of the little straw hat, gently gnawing at it with her sharp puppy teeth.
Crumb the mouse found herself in a precarious position. She had come out with Miss Nellie, intending to take the late summer air, and perhaps to pick a few flowers, but no sooner had her paws found the earth, than she was knocked off them by a large, panting flash of blond fur, all leg and tail and enormous, clumsy feet.
Even before she had scrambled up again, she was admonishing her assailant, whom at his moment had less interest in her and more in her headwear. "You scurvy rascal! You mangy animal! Drop that hat! Drop it now! Drop it! I said drop it, you great, stupid beast! Oooooh, I ought to - -"
But as Crumb took in the scale of this new animal, she concluded that perhaps her lecture would be better delivered from the cover of a hiding-place, so she quickly ducked beneath the leaves of an obliging nasturtium, where she watched as what could only be described as a canine-type-of-animal scuppered off with her hat and proceeded to try and eat it. She had lost track of Cake in the commotion of her first meeting with the puppy, which was not exactly the kind of how-do-you-do that a body would want to have everyday, if a body survived the first meeting at all, which was very much doubtful, Crumb thought. Very much doubtful, indeed.
"Ahoy! Crumb! Ahoy, my dear!" Crumb peered through her hiding-place towards a nasturtium across the walk which seemed to be rustling and emitting muffled greetings. She could just make out one of Cake's ears, poking out amidst the blooms.
"I say, my dear! Are you all right? Didn't see that coming, did we? I must say, a warning might have been nice. Yes, a warning would have been jolly nice. I wonder if I might just hop over and join you, Crumb, old fellow? The - er - beast - seems to be occupied at the moment, so I might just..." There was a brief struggle as Cake tried to extract himself from his botanical hiding place, and Cake appeared from under the nasturtium, all but one back leg, which had become entangled in the arms of the plant. With a final yank, he pulled free and fell onto the bricks of the walk. All his exertions had attracted the notice of the puppy, who galloped over to meet this animal and see if it might enjoy being jumped upon or perhaps being gently chewed and tossed about. She had not yet met this particular kind of animal, but was hopeful that it did exist, although the list of animals that did not enjoy these exercises was daily growing.
The puppy advanced, sniffing, and gave Cake's face a small lick. "Oh, I say! Yes, er, I mean to say - we haven't met properly, have we? Yes, well - er- rather- Ah! I'm not familiar with this kind of greeting - perhaps you're continental? Or, OUCH! I say, my good fellow! OUCH!" Cake roared again, as the puppy began to tug gingerly at his eye with her teeth. Cake was an animal with few natural defenses, having very short limbs and slow reflexes. He had been gifted chiefly with speech, and little else, so he continued to try to call the dog off.
Sadly, the puppy was still unfamiliar with words beyond her name, and remained singular in her intention of dislodging the small, black beady object from her new friend's face. And very likely she would have succeeded, had not The Lady and Miss Nettie happened to return to the garden at that moment, and discovered the Ordeal, and enacted a Rescue.
While The Lady held the puppy, Miss Nettie scooped Cake up. Meanwhile, Crumb scurried out of her Hiding Place and snatched up her hat, and was then snatched up herself by Miss Nettie.
Of course the whole Ordeal, as Cake and Crumb would refer to it in aftertimes, had taken place in the space of a minute or two. Still, it was enough adventure to last a very small animal like Crumb months, years even. But she had noticed, Crumb had, that when one is dealing with very large animals, that very large adventures can seem to happen in almost no time at all. It went without saying, as Cake liked to say.
The Lady and Miss Nettie had taken "Leonard," as they seemed to be calling her, on a walk, and Cake and Crumb were left to "take the air," as Crumb liked to say. Cake was rather shaken still, and really felt that his left eye seemed rather looser than it had before the Ordeal. "But after all," he said to Crumb, "We're really none the worse for it, not really. None the worse. No, because as I say, it really might have been dreadful, don't you think? Of course one hears of these sorts of things happening to other rabbits - dogs, and all that - but one never thinks it will happen to you. I say, Crumb, dear, have you ever met a dog? And I meantosay, my dear, did you know that a dog resided here? Because I must admit, I had no idea of it! Now it's true that I'm not the what you might call, er, I'm not particularly 'ass-toot,' you might say, but still, I keep my eyes and ears open. I try to stay on top of things, like a body does. The thing of it is - "
"Yes, yes," Crumb sniffed. "As you say, and say, and say. NO, I did NOT know that a canine had come to reside here, and I must say, I never would have dreamed that The Lady, such as she is, would invite a dog into her home. So tidy, so particular. I can't imagine what she was thinking! And such a great brute of a dog! Why, she'll be twice that size in no time, and then twice that again!"
"You don't mean it!" exclaimed Cake. "You don't mean to tell me she'll get bigger? Whatever next? I mean to say, how shall we ever be friends?"
"Friends!" squeaked Crumb. "What do you mean 'friends?' We don't mean ever to be friends with such a things a great, gallumping, saliva-dripping beast as a dog! How could you think it?"
"Well, I only mean that as she's Miss Nettie's friend, and she lives here, and we'll be seeing rather a lot of her, that perhaps it might be best if we learn to be - er - friends? Eh, my dear Crumb? ..... Crumb, dear?" Cake ventured.
Crumb sniffed violently. But she didn't speak, which meant she was Considering. "Yes, well," she said after a few moments, putting on her hat, "We've got to get our flowers picked while that menace - or should I say, friend, is away, so mind what I say, and cut me some of those yellow nasturtiums. Up there in that high bed, just over there, yes, you see them? There. I want two of that color, and one of the purple geraniums."
Cake saw nothing for it but to do as Crumb asked, and climbed the wall. There wasn't so much ever a victory with Crumb, as concession. Cake knew better by now than to push for more.
Looking and feeling rather worse-for-the-wear from the Ordeal with the puppy, and from foraging in the flower beds, Cake had managed to gather a nice selection of blooms, and Crumb was satisfied with her posy. Which was really the best they could hope for, that Crumb was satisfied. A satisfied Crumb was really the only type of Crumb that was pleasant to be with, and as Cake liked to say, "If you're happy, Crumb, my dear, then I'm happy, too." And they were.