Creak! In the dim moonlight, a housecat stepped on the boards of the old house. There were many rumours about whether anyone lived in this house. One rumour was that the house was deserted and haunted; another was that the house had been taken over by some mad, lonely scientist. None of this was true.
The housecat made her way to the back of the house. She jumped onto her old master, who had not yet fallen asleep, and nuzzled his forehead. Then, she cocked her head to one side, believing she had heard something.
“It was probably just a mouse.” the old man said.
“It wasn’t a mouse,” insisted the housecat, who was magical and could speak. Normally, she kept her powers to herself, but today it just burst out. Luckily, the old man didn’t notice. “â€“it is an ant.”
“An ant? How can one small ant possibly harm us?” scoffed the old man.
The housecat sighed and turned her paw over the blanket. “The problem is that we can’t stay here. There are bugs everywhere you look, a billion cracks in the wall, and creaking floorboards. It needs repairs, or we have to leave! Any minute now, a letter will come from the government, even though the neighbours doubt that anyone’s living here, saying that we have to leave the house!”
“But my dear Perry-Pussyâ€“” the old man said. “this house has been known by my whole family for generations, just the way it is. I don’t have the heart to change it.”
“Then you must know it properly, and keep the thing that will protect us.” declared Perry-Pussy, the housecat, glad that the old man still hadn’t noticed that she was talking.
“But I know this house well.” exclaimed the old man.
“Not everything.” replied Perry-Pussy. “Follow me.”
Wordlessly, the pair left the room. Perry-Pussy led the old man, who was carrying a candle. She stopped at a Mona Lisa portrait. It seemed that all the secret passageways were hidden by Mona Lisa portraits, though she did not tell the old man so. Instead, she slid back the portrait and pointed behind.
There was a narrow winding staircase, and automatically a pale set of steps leading up to where the portrait had been had pushed out of the wall. The old man and Perry-Pussy began to follow them . . .
There was a tiny room with an immense circular table that had a cumbersome pot on it, and several shelves on the walls, each containing various peculiar things; fragmented light bulbs, a decaying shoe, a jar of silkworms, and a recipe book.
Perry-Pussy stepped in front and reached out for the recipe book. The old man realised it was not actually a normal recipe book, but a book labelled â€˜How to stay in your old house’.
Perry-Pussy instructed, “When I read out these ingredients, take them off the shelves and put them in the pot. Okay?”
The old man readily agreed.
And so she read out what was needed and the old man propped them in the pot.
Halfway through, the old man looked inside the pot. It divulged a murky green, lumpy, swamp-like liquid, with shattered glass, decrepit hunks of oily shoes, and rigid sections of a jar lid.
Perry-Pussy also peered in, and at once her face clouded over in anguish.
“This isn’t the conventional reaction! We must have done something wrong!”
While Perry-Pussy intelligently observed the pot, as if this would help her notice the dilemma induced, the old man watched as the mixture in the pot swirled around slowly. Finally, Perry-Pussy looked up and said, “I’ve realised our little quandary. We need coconut oil, the one in the storeroom.”
The storeroom was quite far away, and it took them a long time to collect the coconut oil. Perry-Pussy emptied the oil with a great dexterity that the old man admired, and softly whispered, “We need to leave it alone till midday. Let’s get some sleep.”
So they went back to bed, feeling somehow more happy and content than before, and fell fast asleep.
And guess what â€“ the dreaded letter aforementioned by Perry-Pussy never came! â€“ even though the government had intended to send it the very next day.