There was a grasshopper on Miss Smith’s prize geranium. It would have to wait. There were bigger games afoot.
All of the kids were running for Number 2’s front yard. “Uncle James has brought our dog!” shouted one of the Plummer boys.
“Back up,” said James, getting out. “We don’t want to scare Rufus!” James opened the back door and pulled out a leash. At the other end was a dog.
“I don’t like dogs,” Fanny whispered. “They’re big and dirty and noisy. I wish Mr. James hadn’t offered to give him to the Plummers.”
King Ginger’s sentiments exactly.
James let Rufus off the leash to explore. At first, Rufus smelled all of the kids, but then he spotted King Ginger. King Ginger saw him coming, and suddenly remembered he was due for a bath. Flexing his leg gracefully, he began to thoroughly wash.
Rufus stopped at the top step and snuffed experimentally. King Ginger looked at him. Rufus backed up. Then he barked. King Ginger pursed his whiskers. Rufus barked again.
King Ginger went back to washing his white middle.
Rufus touched King Ginger’s caramel back with his slick nose. Four long claws streaked through the air. Rufus yelped in surprise and ran to the safety of James’ car. The kids gasped. King Ginger assured them that he was perfectly all right.
Rufus did not come back to the Smith’s porch all that day, and King Ginger liked that just fine.
The next morning King Ginger was on the Smith’s porch when James walked up. Trailing behind was Rufus, who kept forgetting his tail was attached to his body.
When Sarah opened the door, she asked: “I thought you gave that puppy to the Plummers?”
James nodded. “They’re at their grandparents today, so I said I’d keep an eye on him.”
“Well—would you like to come in?”
“Yes, please,” admitted James shyly. “Stay, Rufus,” he added over his shoulder.
But Rufus did not stay. As soon as the door shut behind James, Rufus climbed right through the cat door. King Ginger stretched out on the porch railing and waited.
Moments later, Rufus came flying out the cat door, something lacy clamped in his teeth. The door burst open and out ran James, and Sarah and even Miss Smith, who was flapping her apron.
Rufus streaked down King St., the whatever-it-was flapping behind him. When he passed Number 3, the entire King St. Kid’s Club poured out to join the chase. And it was quite the chase. At last, Tom Richards and James cornered Rufus and got the thing away from him. James tried to wipe some of the slobber off before he handed it back to Miss Smith.
“I’m terribly sorry about your piano scarf,” he said. Sarah could barely manage a weak smile before Miss Smith grabbed her hand and jerked her into the house.
James ran a hand over his face. He patted King Ginger sadly. “Just between you and me, old fellow: sometimes I wish Rufus was more like you.”
King Ginger stuck his nose in the air.
All the next week, King Ginger tried to ignore Rufus. But it was hard. Rufus dug up all of Mrs. Hurst’s tulip bulbs. He ate March Richards’ rag doll. He turned over trash cans. The humans said it was lucky that Rufus outgrew the cat doors after only a few days. No matter what Rufus did, the Plummer boys stoutly declared that he would get better. And even King Ginger had to admit he did. He began to sit. He began to stay. He did not howl all night. And he quit eating the mail. The humans said that the Plummer boys were doing a wonderful job of training Rufus. King Ginger knew that Rufus had discovered the power of lulling humans into carelessness.
Early one morning, King Ginger went decided to visit Mrs. Wilson. She wasn’t getting around like she used to, and he worried she might be lonely now that her son, James, had gone back to the city. King Ginger strolled into her kitchen through the cat door and meowed in greeting. He had never been interested in TV, so he didn’t know that thieves wore black caps. He also didn’t know what a gun looked like. But he did know what fear looked like. And Mrs. Wilson was a picture of fear.
“King Ginger!” Mrs. Wilson whispered in a shaky voice.
The strange man stopped rummaging in a dresser drawer and snapped, “Shut up, lady!” He touched the gun in his back pocket for effect.
Mrs. Wilson whimpered.
King Ginger was a good monarch, and a good monarch protects his people, so he hissed and showed his molars.
The man sneered. “You a tough kitty?” With that, he grabbed King Ginger’s tail.
Mrs. Wilson squealed.
The man shot her a dirty look. “SHUT UP!”
King Ginger strained to make contact with his torturer’s skin.
Mrs. Wilson squealed again.
“That’s it!” And with his free hand, he drew his gun.
At that exact moment, Rufus tore the cat door frame out of the wall and sailed into the kitchen with it still hanging around him.
Everyone froze. They all eyed each other.
Then Rufus did something that King Ginger had never expected. He didn’t sit down and watch. He didn’t yawn and walk away. He didn’t even burst out into a loud guffaw.
He bit the man on the leg! With a yowl, the robber sent King Ginger flying into the air. King Ginger extended his landing gear and attached himself to the man’s head.
When the police arrived, Rufus and King Ginger were sitting on the thief side by side. The newspaper man put their picture on the front page. After that, King Ginger and Rufus had a silent understanding. King Ginger would always be king, but Rufus was chief of security. And King Ginger liked it that way just fine.