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by Mary Essberger

Inky-Pinky-Pooh was a very little kitten, and he lived in a very large house. It was a very grand house, too, but when a new cook arrived one day things began to be bad for poor Inky-Pink.

For the new Cook did not like animals at all. She rarely remembered to put out any food for Inky-Pink, and there were never nice tit-bits left over as there had been in the old cook's time. And Inky-Pink-Pooh was never allowed to sit by the kitchen fire nowadays.

One day poor Inky-Pink was very hungry indeed. He had had nothing to eat for over two days.

At first he tried mewing gently, and rubbing himself against Cook's legs. But when she smacked him and pushed him away each time, he realised that that was no use!

So he sat beside his plate very quietly and hoped that that would remind Cook and soften her hard heart! But it did not seem to have any effect, and she merely scowled at him whenever she looked his way. Poor Inky-Pink, he felt very miserable. He not only felt more and more lonely and miserable, but more and more hungry, too.

So, when one day he suddenly noticed that Cook had left the larder door ajar, he slipped in quietly when she was not looking.

It was the most wonderful place he'd ever been in, and quite took his breath away! For a while he was lost in admiration just looking at the lovely plate of fresh liver, the pheasant hanging from a hook in the ceiling, the chicken and the ham... But, most beautiful of all was a plate of shiny, silvery fish lying there on a plate. It was just begging to be eaten, and it was on the lowest shelf of all!

He purred happily to himself, "Oh my whiskers and paddy-paws, what a be-au-ti-ful piece of fish...!!!!" But just as Inky-Pink was dragging the fish off the plate, Cook came back into the larder and caught Inky-Pink... To say that she was angry would be an understatement... She was furious!

Poor Inky-Pink was in disgrace!

He was smacked, and he was scolded, and then he was tied up to the leg of the table by a piece of string, so that he could not get into the larder again when Cook was not looking! It was all most humiliating!

And when a cheeky little mouse came by and grinned at him and said, "Good dog! Good dog! What a pretty lead you've got!" poor Inky-Pinky-Pooh felt that insult could go no further. He was very, very indignant indeed!

But the little mouse (whose name, by the way, was Twinkletoes) was really a kind-hearted little mouse, and when he saw how upset the little kitten was, and how thin and hungry-looking he seemed to be, he was sorry and asked what the trouble was. When Inky-Pink told him, Twinkletoes nodded his head and said, "I know! I know This new Cook never leaves even a crumb about... and as for cheese, oh!, my whiskers and twinkletoes, I've almost forgotten what it smells like! I can understand how hungry you must be!"

Then he said, "I know a house, not very far from here, where they love animals, and always have plenty of food for them - crumbs each day for the birds, and milk for the hedgehogs each night. I'm sure they would spare a little food for us. And I know the little girl has been wanting a kitten for a long, long time... I've never heard her ask for a mouse, but I have heard her asking for a kitten..."

So Inky-Piny-Pooh said, "I wonder if she would like me? I'm sure Cook doesn't want me, and I would so much like to have someone to love me and cuddle me and care for me!"

Then Twinkletoes had an idea. "If you will meet me tonight," he said, "when the moon is up, and you have been let off that - er - piece of string, I will show you the house and then you can think about it for a day or two and see if you feel you'd like to live there... it's a much smaller house than this big, grand house of yours" he added, apologetically.

This seemed an excellent notion, so they agreed to meet at twelve o'clock midnight that very night. And, as Cook had never bothered to untie Inky-Pinky-Pooh, even by midnight, Twinkletoes came back for him and gnawed through the piece of string and set him free!

Just as the clock was striking twelve, Inky-Pinky-Pooh and Twinkletoes set off for their walk.

The moon was like a big silver penny shining up in the sky, and the ground was covered with snow. Inky-Pink and Twinkletoes walked carefully along the tops of the garden walls, and over the roofs, all through the town until they came to the house Twinkletoes had mentioned.

It was quite a little house, with only quite a little garden round it, not at all like the big house and garden where Inky-Pink lived. But it looked warm, and pretty, and very 'homey'.

Inky-Pink liked the 'smell' of the house very much indeed, but he did wonder what it looked like inside. He could not go in and out of the little mouseholes like Twinkletoes could, and all the curtains were drawn at the windows, so there was no way for him to be able to see inside.

He stood and thought for a minute. "I wonder," he said to Twinkletoes, "If I could see anything if I look down the chimney?"

So he climbed up on to the top of the chimney-pot and balanced there carefully while he tried to see down it, and Twinkletoes stood at the foot of the chimney-pot and asked anxiously, "Can you see anything? Can you see anything?"

And then, suddenly, there was the most awful squealing and screeching as Inky-Pinky-Pooh lost his balance and fell right down into the chimney, and Twinkletoes could only see Inky-Pink's tail waving frantically about in the air for a second before it, too, vanished completely down the chimney-pot! Then Twinkletoes heard a dull, muffled 'thud', and Inky-Pink's "Miaow!" from far away down inside the chimney-stack.

"Oh my goodness!" exclaimed Twinkletoes in consternation, "Oh my Blue Cheese and Gorgonzola! Whatever has happened to poor Inky-Pink?"

You may well ask what had happened to poor Inky-Pink! He was asking himself!

"Oh my whiskers and paddy-paws!" he exclaimed, as soon as he was in a fit state to exclaim anything at all, "Wherever am I?"

He looked around and saw that he had fallen on to a lovely white hearth-rug in a pretty, comfy-looking room. In one corner there stood a little tree that glinted with silver and was crowned with a big golden star. Inky-Pink thought he had never seen anything so lovely in his life!

And as he looked he saw something else too... his beautiful white coat was quite, quite black, from all the soot he had collected on it as he came down the chimney!

It was while he was staring at himself in dismay that he heard the door of the room open and the light was suddenly switched on!

Standing in the doorway was a little girl in a pretty blue night-gown, and behind her, hastily pulling on their warm dressing-gowns, were a lady and a gentleman! They all stared at the little black object sitting in the middle of the white hearth-rug. Then the little girl cried out, "Oh, Mummy! Daddy! Look! It's a dear little kitten! Father Christmas has brought me a kitten just like the one I've always wanted, only he is black instead of white. What a lovely, lovely Christmas present!"

Inky-Pink was never quite certain just what the little girl meant by 'Christmas present,' but there wasn't time to puzzle it out!

The lady, whose name was 'Mummy', said he was a poor little stray and he looked half-starved, poor mite, and he must have a bath and good warm meal; and the gentleman (whose name was 'Daddy') said he would make him a box to sleep in, and went off to see about it. And Mummy and the little girl, whose name was Marilyn, washed Inky-Pink in warm soapy water (which he did not like very much!) and then gave him some lovely warm milk to drink (which he did like, very much indeed!)

And the next day (which they all told him was a specially important day called 'Christmas Day') he was given a lovely red bow to wear around his neck, and as much warm milk to drink as ever he wanted, and he was allowed to curl up on the white hearth-rug in front of the glowing fire, where he purred and purred and purred with sheer contentment, until he sounded like an aeroplane out of sight!

And it seemed to him that in that house all days were Christmas Day, for everyone was always kind to him, and there was always plenty to eat and drink, and warm fires to sit by...

And every night, when the humans had gone to bed, Twinkletoes would creep out of the little hole he had found and made into his own little home, and he and Inky-Pink would sit together by the hearth and tell each other what they had being doing all the day. And Twinkletoes would sigh with happiness and say, "What a lucky night it was when you fell down this chimney, Inky-Pink!"

And Inky-Pinky-Pooh would purr and say, "Yes... and wasn't it a lucky day when Cook tied me to the table leg! For if she had not done that, then you would not have come by and spoken to me, and we would never have set out that night to look for this house, and then I would never have been able to climb up the chimney-pot to try to see down it...!"

And they would both sit there looking onto the glowing red heart of the fire and feel that they were the luckiest little animals in the whole, big, world!

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