Cabbage, Rice Pudding and Mutton
It was the dirtiest place that Rumpleteazer had ever seen. It was still light out on the streets, but this alley to the right of The Tomb was dark as night, with Industrial Age dust collected everywhere—on the ground, over the walls of the buildings on either side, the carelessly-tossed garbage and, she suspected, in her beautiful, shiny fur as well. She moved closer to Mungojerrie, hoping that he could deflect some of the soot. A nervous giggle escaped her.
"Shh," her young mate admonished her. "The owner of the club is particular about what cats he let's back here—usually only members' pets."
"What are we doing here?" she asked, her hair bristling with excitement. "I thought you said Macavity's lair was on the other side and under the building."
He nodded his striped head. "It is, but we have to take a gift for him. Everyone does to get in." He began pawing and sniffing through the mounds of broken crates and barrels and rotting food. "And he won't take just anything."
Rumpleteazer glanced up at the strong, young cat, thinking he looked like a jungle king on his throne. Her heart leapt toward him, then she glanced and pawed gingerly at a pile of garbage by the door, pulling out a partial fish skeleton, with a look of triumph on her delicate face.
Mungojerrie smiled but shook his head. "He'd say it's too old," he explained. Seeing her ears drop in dejection, he jumped from the debris to stand next to her.
The virile tom nuzzled her to lift her chin and said, "No matter. We'll have it ourselves."
Teazer laid down the bones with a little smile and they both began licking, absorbing the flavors of the cod and the discards with which it had been found. "Yumm," she murmured. "He doesn't know what he's missing."
Mungo moved closer to her. Their heads touched as they gnawed the same succulent remnant. "We'll keep it that way," he said, flicking his tongue across her mouth for a shared taste of marrow.
Teazer's black eyes now feasted on him, feeling the warmth and jitters that always accompanied his touch. His purr suggested desire.
A deep but pleasant growl interrupted. "Ah, Mungojerrie," hailed the cat waddling toward the pretty couple, "where have you been, lad? And who is this lovely little tiger with you?"
"This is Rumpleteazer," the young tom said proudly. "We make our home in Victoria Grove, but I'm here to show her how other cats live."
"The Grove, eh? That's a nice little community," said the St. James's Street cat. "Unfortunately, your new address doesn't seem to have improved your manners, Young Mungo. You've only made half an introduction."
Rumpleteazer gaped at the largest cat she had ever seen. He was like a furry, black hippopotamus, she thought, comparing him to the stuffed animal in her family's game room, a memento of the father's Indian military service.
The rotund cat smiled at her. His white face seemed to carry a thin black mustache, like his master's, and he touched it with a paw, as though giving it a twirl. "Bustopher Jones, at your service, my dear."
Rumpleteazer remembered her training with the family's young daughter at Lady Mary's Charm School for Girls and Their Pets. She dropped her head and little bottom in a perfect, four-legged curtsy. "How do you do, Mr. Jones," she said in a far more cultured voice than Mungojerrie had ever heard from her. "It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance."
"The pleasure is all mine, Miss Rumpleteazer," he grinned, bowing in deep admiration. "Perhaps you would like to share my afternoon repast," he offered, as the pub owner came out with the platter ordered by Bustopher's master. The man eyed the younger cats with scornful forbearance, unable to chase away Bustopher's guests.
Mungojerrie's eyes sparkled and mouth watered at the combination of tart, sweet and savory aromas as the older cat dipped his white, spat-like paws into the plate. "We have somewhere to be," he said, picking up a large piece of rabbit in his sharp teeth, "but I'll take this with us."
Bustopher chortled, digging into his dessert. "Take it, you thief."
The couple hurried away with their prize, leaving the Brummel of cats in the filthy alley. "I'm still in me prime," he assured himself, dripping food all over his perfectly tailored coat.