36 A RAT TALE
the kitchen, and on the other with a large ventilator opening to the outside air. A paradise for rats ! and as to the inhabitants of the house we shall see.
It was early in the afternoon when they arrived, so they had plenty of time to settle down before night. Huggy, having selected his corner, left his mother to make it comfortable for him, and scampered off for ' a poke round,' as he called it. First he went to the kitchen, peeped up through a hole in the floor, and, seeing no one about, cautiously crept out and sniffed into all the cupboards. As he was emerging from the last he beheld a sight which made his little heart turn sick. There, in a corner which Huggy had not noticed before, lay a huge dog half asleep! And so great was Huggy's fright that he squeaked, very faintly indeed, yet loud enough to set Master Dog upon his feet. Next minute they were both tearing across the kitchen. Huggy was a wee bit in front, but so little that he could feel the dog's hot breath behind him. There was the hole bump scrabble, scrabble Huggy was safe ! Safe! yes but oh, so frightened!and what made him smart so dreadfully? Why, his tail . . . was gone bitten off by the dog ! Ah, Huggy, my poor little rat, if it had not been for that foolish little squeak of fright you might have been as other rats are but now ! Huggy almost squeaked again, it was so very sad and painful. Slowly he crept back to the cellar, where he had to endure the jeers of his young companions and the good advice of his elders.
It was some weeks before Huggy fully recovered himself, and more weeks still before he could screw up his courage to appear among his companions as the ' tailless rat;' but at long and at last he did crawl out, and, because he looked so shy and frightened, the other rats were merciful, and let him alone. The old rat, too the leader took a great fancy to him, and used to allow Huggy to accompany him on his various exploits, which was considered a great privilege among the older rats,