The Adventures of Cake and Crumb : The new friend

- THE 'PUPPY ORDEAL' AND SUMMER'S LAST BOUQUET -

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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. 

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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.

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"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.

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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.

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....

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 - "

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"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. 

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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. 

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The Adventures of Cake and Crumb : A tea party

 - at which Cake tries birthday cake and meets two famous rabbits -

Cake was so excited he could hardly find words. He'd just been invited to tea for the first time in his life. It hadn't been a formal invitation, exactly. What had happened was that he overheard the Lady at breakfast, asking Miss Nellie if she'd like to have a tea party with her friends for her birthday? And Miss Nellie had replied "You would," meaning she would. And would she like to invite Cake and Crumb? And she had replied "You would," meaning she would, and so the matter was settled. There would be a tea party at 10:30, as soon as Miss Nellie finished her breakfast, and as soon as the Lady could set the table and make the tea and round up all the guests. Cake could hardly stay on the window sill. And once when the Lady left the room, he recklessly considered making a run for the table to help Miss Nellie finish her dreaded porridge.

But the Lady came back before he could act, so now he sat, positively trembling, unable to vent any of his feelings, forced to sit dumbly and wait for the Lady to fetch him, when he jolly well wanted to have a look in the mirror and perhaps jump onto the interweb for a quick refresher of tea party etiquette. He wondered what Crumb was thinking. Had she much experience with tea? He supposed she had; she seemed to know about everything. He watched the Lady lay out the cloth and set the flowers and china in their places. Ah, there was one large cup, and one smaller cup, and one, two, three, four very small cups and saucers. Four? Why four? Cake counted in his mind. No, he and Crumb were only two. That was quite right. Surely they didn't each get two cups of tea? And if so, did one hold a cup in each hand and alternate drinking from both? Or did one drink one of the cups first, and then move on to the second cup? Oh dear, he really felt quite beyond his depth. If only he'd had some warning of the tea party he would have read all about it. He was most unprepared. Confound that lady and her eternal fussing!

The Lady was slicing a tiny pink cake and dishing out pieces onto small plates. And here was Miss Nellie, wearing a new birthday dress and cardigan, looking very smart. The Lady went out of the room again and Cake looked down at himself. He wasn't wearing his kitchen apron today, thankfully; he was entirely without dress. He desperately wished the Lady would mark the occasion by presenting him with a bowtie or the like. That would look fine. He had dreams of a jacket and waistcoat, but he would be quite content to have a necktie. At this moment, the Lady returned, carrying two rabbits whom Cake didn't recognize. Miss Nellie stood, tugging at the table cloth, anxious to have her tea and cake. The Lady set the unknown rabbits beside two cups of tea and two plates of cake and then came and lifted Cake and Crumb from their spots on the window.

Now everyone was seated. The Lady made introductions. The White Rabbit? But surely not, Cake thought. The White Rabbit from the book? Outside of being a very great age by this point, what would he be doing here, of all places? My goodness, but he must be over one hundred years old! And dressed so well, though the clothes were showing their years, Cake thought. A bit outdated, a bit yellowed, but very elegant for their time. Cake couldn't wear purple or wine tones himself; they clashed with his coat, but he did admire a hare who could. Oh, how he wished the Lady had given him a necktie! To be forced to sit at tea with The White Rabbit wearing nothing at all! How common, how simple, how juvenile, the White Rabbit must think him! He was brought back to himself by a very small sniff issuing from his right side. It was Crumb, who was sitting quite still, just as he was, waiting to be asked to help herself to the refreshments. She was sniffing, it seemed, in response to the Lady's introduction of the second rabbit, "The Easter Bunny."

The Easter Bunny? That little thing? Oh tosh, what was the world coming to? He was having tea with The White Rabbit AND the Easter Bunny and he wasn't wearing a stitch, though he was rather glad he wasn't wearing whatever sort of head ribbon the Easter Bunny had tied round her ears. He wasn't sure if it was functional or decorative, but he thought perhaps it was meant to be artistic, as she seemed rather aloof and her frock was stained with paint. She was hiding under the flower arrangement as if she didn't want to be there. And he was sure he saw her lip curl as she watched Miss Nellie drop cake into her tea. But that couldn't be! My goodness, though, if that was the Easter Bunny.... Perhaps she was new to the job and hadn't quite warmed up to it yet. He couldn't very well see how she carried all the eggs and candy on those spindly little legs. He had always imagined the Easter Bunny as a stout, matronly type of rabbit. This little thing had just refused cake because she was on a "cleanse." She was only eating "soft greens and fruit." There was another sniff from his left side.

The Lady invited Cake and Crumb to try the cake. Miss Nellie had already spilled her cup of tea and eaten all her frosting and was now trying to stir his tea with her cake fork. "Try it! Try it!" She urged Cake, and pressed his nose down towards a plate of cake. Which did smell delightful, now that he was up close. He took a bite. In that moment everything else, the manners and the world-famous rabbits and his lack of a necktie, all Cake's earthly cares, floated away. Oh heaven! So this was cake! What a miraculous creation! Why had he wasted so much of his life without it? He took another bite, and another. He knew now why folks went on getting older, despite all the drawbacks: it was for the birthday cake. Of course a body could survive another year with the prospect of a whole cake of their own to greet them on the other side.

Cake's cake was disappearing rapidly, and Crumb began to sniff loudly, hoping to call him back to himself. He had rather lost all restraint and was now shoveling cake frenziedly, using his paws and a large silver fork in turn. The Easter Bunny, who had remained reserved and rather disdainful throughout the pleasantries, was now watching Cake with wide, horrified eyes. The White Rabbit was peering at Cake from beneath his bushy eyebrows and over the top of his teacup rather wisely, as though he had met his kind of animal before. And indeed he had met at least one little girl in his life who enjoyed cake as almost as much as Cake the Rabbit was at this moment. The White Rabbit himself had never much cared for cake; it was too messy. It soiled one's gloves, and he was particular about his gloves. He preferred a nice, crisp biscuit. Ah, well. He was past the age of expecting too much, especially from young people. This young mother knew nothing of tea, that was clear enough. She hadn't offered milk or sugar. And the tea itself seemed to be some sort of greenish hue.

Now Miss Nellie, having finished her own cake, had grown antsy, and was excused to play. The Lady, after gulping down the last of her (cold) tea, hurried after her to help her find the book she wanted and make sure her hands were clean. Cake was just eating the last of his cake when he noticed they were alone. He thought he may have rather lost his manners a few moments ago while he was eating his cake, and it took all his self-control to walk past the remaining birthday cake and introduce himself to The White Rabbit and the Easter Bunny.

"It's wonderful to meet you, sir," said Cake, taking The White Rabbit's paw enthusiastically between his own. "I'm an awfully big admirer of you, of course what young rabbit isn't? You do such wonderful work - But I can't tell you what an honor it is, and what a very handsome waistcoat you have! You MUST give me the name of your tailor! I'm afraid all my own clothes are being cleaned at the moment - terrible inconvenience, of course - I was invited today on VERY short notice - but I couldn't refuse - I've known little Miss Nellie since birth, as it was - 'Uncle Cake-y' she calls me, and you know what little girls are! Of course you do, of course you do! - so I came as I'm made, you might say, haha! " Here Cake motioned apologetically to his naked limbs, and noticed that he was covered in cake crumbs and bits of icing.

"I say, DO forgive me, madam! Cake the Rabbit, your servant," said Cake, extending his paw and brushing crumbs off his chest with the other.

"Charmed," returned the Easter Bunny, tonelessly, extending a limpid paw. "You enjoy refined sugar," she said flatly, motioning to the cake.

"Er, well, the cake, you mean? Oh, yes, rather. Of course I relish my greens as much as the next rabbit, but every now and then a bit of 'refined sugar,' as you say, is just the thing! I was feeling rather peckish before the tea - low blood sugar, you know -  er, well.  Jolly! Yes. Well .... This is your peak season, isn't it?" asked Cake. "However did we manage to steal you away from all your preparations?"

"Hmmm?" the Easter Bunny asked, turning her head slowly back towards Cake. "Oh, for sure. I'm totally shattered. The kids will get what they get, I suppose. You can't force art, you know? It's a process. Everyone's always like 'Oh, Marigold's favorite color is pink! Can you do something in pink for her?' and 'Oh, Julian's favorite thing is dinosaurs. Can you do something with dinosaurs for him?' I can't even begin..... They don't get it. It doesn't work like that. I'm just the vessel through which it passes, right? If they don't like the eggs, they just weren't ready to receive them, you know?"

Cake's eyes grew wide as he listened to this speech and he nodded vaguely as if he understood, but just then he heard the Lady saying she had to get something from the kitchen. Hastily he backtracked to his side of the table and sat down again beside Crumb. The Lady filled a glass with water, looked at the clock, murmured something about "lunch" and "mess," and left the room again. In a moment she was back and picked up The White Rabbit and the Easter Bunny from the table, carrying them into the next room.

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"Well!" sniffed Crumb in her most scandalized whisper. "What do you make of all THAT? I don't believe for a second that she's the REAL Easter Bunny. What business does SHE have working around children? She doesn't even like them! What's she going to put in their baskets? Prunes? Dates? A bouquet of leafy greens? What's she talking about a CLEANSE??? I'll give her a CLEANSE! 'Oh, I'm not eating refined sugar,' " Crumb simpered, flailing her paws around.

"Shhhhh! My dear Crumb, try to keep your voice down! She's only in the next room! But I DO wish we'd had some warning of all this. The Lady might have told us last night so I would have had time to prepare myself. How was my comportlement? Was I right in my manners?" Cake asked anxiously.

"Well, if diving headfirst into your cake and stuffing with your paws is part of comportment, you did admirably," Crumb said mercilessly. "And if ringing old rabbit's hands off while covered in crumbs and telling bald lies and dropping clangers left and right is comportment, then yes; you were very 'right' in your manners."

Cake hung his head. "Oh, Crumb. I'm afraid I lost my head today. I did make an utter fool of myself, didn't I? I was so anxious for everything to go well, and then The White Rabbit and the Easter Bunny showed up and I felt rather out of my league. And ashamed not to have any fine clothes. And then the cake. Ah, the cake. I say, the cake!" exclaimed Cake, turning around to look over his shoulder. "The cake is still there! Just sitting there, half a cake! Do you think the Lady would notice if I just sliced off a small piece? Or perhaps I could take a bit from both sides... would that be less noticeable?"

"Cake! You'll do no such thing! I absolutely forbid you to lay a paw on that cake! Of COURSE she'll notice. She always notices when the Man sneaks food, doesn't she? Now pull yourself together! You must let the cake go. There will be more birthdays and more cakes in the future. And more tea parties, too, if you haven't completely turned the Lady off them with your very fine comportment. So! You want some clothes, do you? And I want a few things myself. We must see what we can do about that. I have an idea," and Crumb proceeded to lay out her plan.

This is how the Lady found them when she came to clear the table, side by side, Cake's head bent down towards Crumb, as if they were talking. "Poor Cake," she said, brushing the crumbs off him. The little girl had pushed him head-first into a plate of cake. She hoped all the frosting would come off.

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