The Footprints that led to the Great Forest
What has happened already: The people turd animals in this story are:
AMADEUS, a tine black cat with an honourable position In the household of the DUKE and nuoness OF FRUFOOTLE.
STANISLAUS, a white poodle brought from Paris by the Duchess. At first Amadeus tries to have him sent essay, but after the fiasco of a mass protest against poodles, organised by all the cats of Prufootle, the two animals a re friends.
deus dislikes her. •
This is the Seventh Part of the Story 0 NE morning in early March when the snow was beginning to think of going . and the winds brought the taste of rain with them, Amadeus was in his apartments writing out a new catalogue for his collection of sea shells. There were many blots and crossings-out in the old catalogue; also it was nearly full and a fresh consignment of rare shells from the
Among other friends of Amadeus are GINGER, a farm cat, WILLIBALD, mousecatcher to a local inn, and MRS GIZZA.RD, who sells toffee apples by the castle gate. • Her thin daughter, DELPHINIUM dislikes Amadeus and Ama deus dislikes her. •
This is the Seventh Part of the Story
By Peter Thompson
'Aegean Sea had been ordered from the nephew of the apothecary. 'Aegean Sea had been ordered from the nephew of the apothecary. This nephew worked for an antique dealer hundreds of miles away in the city of Vienna. The antique dealer sent to the Grecian Isles travellers who tried to become friendly with the fishermen who lived on the isles, so that they could get the shells that the fishermen scooped up in their nets, when they went trawling round the coasts of places uninhabited, as cheaply
as possible. The travellers, however, were city men, used to conversing with men who smiled readily and understood the proper importance of coins that jingled in one's pocket, but not at all used to the smell of seaweed, or the violence of the sea. Therefore they were distrusted by the fishermen, who in the first place did not understand why any. one should want just sea shells which no one could eat.
Altogether it cost a great sum of money to take shells from the sands at. the bottom of the Aegean Sea to Prufootle Castle. But Amadeus was not thinking of this as he paused in his writing and sighed.
He looked out of his window at the pine trees heavy with snow and sighed again. There, out there, was the real world, where every action had meaning. where cats and men lived fully, hunting their food, making their homes, fighting against the winds and the snow and the barrenness of the earth. A very different world it was to this world within Pmfootle Castle, thought Amadeus; and he remembered how once he had told Ginger that his way of life was " to do nothing and to do it gracefully." Still it was not much use to waste time in sighing. Amadeus resolutely began writing again. With his tongue sticking out a little he put down in his delicate handwriting some more descriptions of his shells.
PRESENTLY he flung down his long quill pen and stood up. "This is too tedious," he said. He put on a long astrakhan coat and tied a silk scarf, coloured green. red, yellow and blue about his neck; then walked out clamming the door. Just outside he met the Duchess. '' Where are you going? " she asked.
"I am going for a long, long walk."
"But I wanted you to come and turn over some music for me. We have a musician coming to stay here soon, and I must practise some of my music, so that he can properly appreciate my musical understanding."
" I am very tired of this comfortable castle. I must see something of the real world. I shall be home in time for supper. Good-bye."
" Have you gone mad ? " But already Amadeus was descending the grand staircase. Outside the air was so cold it took away his breath for a moment or two. It gave a shock to his whole body, like the touch of water only pleasanter. He walked quickly across the castle gardens and out through a little used gate to the lane whicn led past Ginger's farm.
The sky was all grey. Every so often a great gust of wind would whirl about him, nipping his ears and blowing the fur over his eyes; and the snow on the bushes and the trees would scatter a little like spray.
Amadeus did not pause when he came to Ginger's farm. He walked steadily on, looking straight ahead of him. The wind made tears come into his eyes, but he was feeling very happy. " Oh, but this is glorious," he said aloud. His fur felt slick and dry, his skin tingled warmly.
"Here I am, walking alone. No silly people about me, talking about things which don't matter; thinking out complicated ways of amusing themselves. Here I am in the real world, alone. and my own master. How very beautiful it is to be myself on this cold morning."
WHEN he stopped talking he noticed how quiet it was. The only sound was the moan of the wind and the
occasional splosh of snow falling from a bough. So far he had met neither man nor beast. He hummed a little marching song to himself.
Suddenly he took notice of footprints in the snow. They were human footprints, and there was only one set of them. They led in the direction he was going. He looked behind him. Yes, and they had come the way he had come. There were two lots of footprints marking the snow all the way along the lane, the small round ones of Amadeue, and the long narrow ones of the unknown person Who was somewhere ahead.
" Oh my goodness gracious! Oh the whiskers of my ancestors ! " said Amadeus, sorrowfully, as he looked at the two sets of footprints behind him, " any self-respecting animal ought to have known those marks of human feet were there as soon as he sniffed the air. And they're plain enough. It just shows how depraved one gets with this soft living." Amadeus continued on his way, muttering to himself about the evils of luxurious life in castles.
He turned a corner and saw that the lane went straight for a considerable way. At the end of this straight part there were many trees. It was dark under the trees and the road could be seen no further. This was the beginning of the Great Forest.
Amadeus stood still. There was no sound; the human footprints went on Into the forest. Amadeus wondered whether to go back. But it would be a feeble thing. he thought, to tell everyone you were going walking until supper-time and then return home before the mid-day meal.
So he continued along the lane, following the footprints into the forest. They led Amadeus along the road for some way until he was well into the forest, in the gloom under the pine trees that crowded together, then they led off the road and down a narrow track. Amadeus did not hesitate. His curiosity was completely aroused.
The track went through thick undergrowth. Several times the curly Vack fur of Amacieus's coat caught in the thorny branch of a bush, and as he pulled it away a little shower of snow fell to the ground. He was hot with hurrying, and as he walked he could see his breath spurting out from his mouth like thin grey smoke. Presently the track began going -down hill. the pines grew closer together, and their branches shut out most of the light. ' It is really very, very quiet," Amadeus whispered to himself. He whispered because it seemed the proper thing to do amongst such silence. T HEN he stopped for he thought he I heard someone singing. But perhaps it was only the habitual moan of the wind...Yet ...He stopped again. There was no sound at all. He went on, more slowly than before. He heard the sound again. This time he was sure it was not the wind.
It was the shrill voice of a human singing. It, was the voice of a girl; and she was eiriging a queer kind of song that had only three or four notes ir it. She seemed to be singing the same thing over and over again.
Amadeus walked on, putting his paws down carefully, and presently he thought he could distinguish some of the words of the song. There was something about " great tree," " wise tree," end " see a lover to send me."
When he had gone a little further. Amadeus saw ahead of him a small green light shining somewhere on the ground. Then suddenly he recognised whose voice it was that sang. He went carefully forward, very curious to see what was happening, but a little afraid.
To be continued.