Jeannie tenderly lifted the light
bundle, still wrapped in the sweater, and using her little finger, dipped
it into the food. The kitten put out the smallest pink tongue they had
ever seen and lapped at it. She liked it! She was warm, she was safe, she
was being fed. She ate a little, yawned, then snuggled into the improvised
blanket. In a moment she was asleep. Jeannie and Melanie were enchanted
and happy. Tim came over for a look, approving of the proceedings.
Melanie rang her mother to see if
she would be allowed to keep the kitten. Her mother reminded her that it
would need too much tending for a girl in school to manage and suggested
that Melanie try to find the Mother Cat. Melanie was deeply disappointed.
How she wanted that kitten for her own! But both her mother and father
worked for distant employers and there would be no one home to look after
it during the day.
Jeannie put her arm around Melanie
to comfort her. "Donít fret, dearie. The littliní will be fine with me.
Iíll take it home and tend it at night, then when you come here after
school you can see her. She can sleep right here by the gas heater during
the day. Sheíll be fine."
In the first installment of our story, we met young
Melanie as she discovered a wee kitten caught in a cruel trap. She guided
the rescue of the poor kitten, lost when its mother was fleeing from a
large dog. Jeannie, Melanieís friend, who worked for the local harpmaker,
took over the care of the tiny kitten when Melanie realized she could not
keep it. Spending her nights in Jeannieís home and her days exploring the
harp workshop, the kitten was ready for her next adventure.
Whenever Melanie was not holding her, the wee kitten
loved to be cuddled close by Jeannieís face, and cried when she was
put down. So Jeannie took a shawl, wrapped it round her shoulders, tied a
big knot in front, and snuggled the baby cat down in. It was a funny
sight. The kitten was warm and contented and Jeannie could do her work.
Soon all the crafts people grew used to seeing the kittenís face peeping
out of Jeannieís shawl. She was like a lovely live brooch.
Melanie tried in vain to find the
mother cat, or any other kittens. So the kitten became the harp shop cat.
And, she had a name! Jeannie called her Arpeggio. Such a big name for such
a small cat, but it suited her perfectly. It is an Italian word meaning to
play the tones of a chord in a row, not all at the same time. Everyone
loved the wee creature and they enjoyed playing with her.
David, one of the craftworkers and a
skilled harpmaker, made her a small litter box lined with wood shavings.
She looked so comical when she hopped out of the box with bits of curled
wood trailing from her tail!
Her fur was filling out and fluffing
up, her eye had stopped its weeping, and her tummy was full and warm with
food. Markings were starting to appear - lovely white lines around her
eyes, making them seem even larger than they were; a full white bib and
white fluff peeping from inside her ears. She looked as if she was always
smiling. She was thriving and growing, sleeping most of the time in
Jeannieís shawl, but she liked to nose around the shop as well. They all
had to be careful not to step on the miniature gray ball.
One cold, rainy day, Tim asked
Jeannie to have an extra key made for the shop when she went out for her
lunch break. He had lost his. So she stopped at
the ironmongers and
handed Andy her key for him to duplicate. She put the new one on her ring
for safe keeping and walked quickly back to the shop, the wind whipping
her skirts. She shook the water from her cape, smiled and handed Tim the
key, then hurried to the gas fire to warm herself and to see Arpeggio.
She needed to get some messages on
the way home at the end of the day, so she left
her kitten snoozing
cozily by the fire and bade farewell to her friends at the shop. Jeannie
stopped at the vegmongerís and the butcherís, then nipped into the
newsagent for a paper, where she met a neighbor. They had a bit of a
natter, then Jeannie was off, back to the harp shop. By then everyone had
gone home; being a braw day they were anxious to leave the frigid shop and
go home for their tea.
Jeannie fitted her key into the
lock, turned it, and pushed. It didnít work. Puzzled, she tried again. And
again. Still it would not catch. "How odd." She muttered to herself,
annoyed. She looked carefully at the key, trying to balance her shopping
and brolly. Why, it was the new key! She must have given her old one to
Tim, by mistake. Still, that should not matter. This new one should work.
She rattled both the key and the lock but to no avail. Could Andy have
made an error? Jeannie thought last. She pulled the key out of the lock,
wrapped her cape tightly round her and dashed down the narrow lane to her
own cosy cottage. Maybe Tim was home by now. There had been enough time.
She let herself in and rang him. No
answer. She rang Alec, his nearest neighbor, who was home, thank goodness.
"Oh aye, he was here just now to collect the wife, itís late night
shopping you remember. Theyíve popped into Inverness. She mentioned a bit
supper at the Dickens after the shopping, so I know youíll not be getting
him this evening. Sorry, love." She thanked Alec and rang off. Then she
tried David, the only other one to have a key. His mum informed Jeannie
that David was off with his mates to a disco. So that was out. The only
thing she could do would be to break in, as the kitten was still too young
to stay all night in the shop, especially with this freezing weather.
Arpeggio had snoozed as Tim and all
the others collected their gear to go home. She did not awaken until the
room in which she slept grew cold, then she yawned, stretched and raised
her head. Why, it was dark in the office, the gas fire was out. "Where
everybody?" she thought to herself. "Where is mummy? Why am I here by
myself?" She mewed but no one answered, a rare thing, as she was used to
an immediate response to her tiny cries. Maybe she was a wee bit spoilt,
but when one is only five weeks old and the fluffiest bit of kittenhood in
Scotland, it may well be understood.
She rose from the folds of Jeannieís
old cardigan and hopped out of her box. No one in the office part of the
windy old carriage house. No one in the drying room, only harp bodies
drying from a fresh coat of oil. No one in the room where all the strings
were kept either, only one bit of a red C string on the floor. Ordinarily,
she would have had great fun playing with it, chasing it across the old
boards, but she was too worried to think of fun at the moment. She padded
on her tiny paws into the gallery part of the shop. It was very spooky at
night. All the types of harps that Tim built were here on display. They
loomed tall above her as she crept along noiselessly, with only the wind
whistling through the cracks between the boards and the pounding of the
sleet on the roof for company. She nosed her way to the stairs. Looking
down made her dizzy! She was still too small to manage those; besides
which it was uncharted territory down there.
A loose board slammed with the wind.
She mewed, then scurried as fast as her little legs would carry her to her
box. She burrowed down deep under the wool covering, shaking. Arpeggio
began to sob. Life was unfair! Where was mummy? Where was Uncle Tim? And
Uncle David? And tall Uncle Bill who wrote music books for the shop?
Surely they didnít all desert her. It certainly looked that way. She
wanted her mummy to
stroke her and cuddle her. She wanted to be tucked
inside Jeannieís warm shawl and called Precious Pet, the soothing way that
Jeannie did. She wanted her tea in front of the fire at the cottage with
mummy looking on with a smile. All the sadness, too, of losing Mother Cat
pressed on her little kitten heart as well, causing her to wet her fur
with floods of tears.
So stormy was Arpeggioís grief that
at first she didnít hear the strains of the wire harp being played in the
gallery. Soon, though, she raised her triangular face, looking up out of
her box towards the door leading to the outer room. She saw a bright
scarlet light as the music grew even louder and more jazzy. She had never
heard any harp music like this before!
Cautiously, she crept towards the
door and peeked through. The sight astonished the wee kitten. Seated atop
the Queen Mary harp was a. . .fairy! She was dressed as no fairy ever
rigged herself, before or since. She wore a short red costume of some
sparkly stuff that seemed alive with colour; her hair was trained in peaks
tipped with ruby; her wings shone with a blinding coat of metallic gold,
and a wide belt of the same sheen encircled her waist. A pair of golden
high heeled boots completed the picture. She seemed to be a living flame,
on fire with the music that she demanded from the instrument, on fire with
Arpeggio was entranced. She crept
closer and closer to the Christmas tree light of the fairy. The flashy
movements of the fairy made the harp. . .dance. The beautiful creature
finished her tune with a flourish and slid down the soundboard towards the
wee kitten. Looking at Arpeggio she winked; a bold, saucy wink that
surprised the baby cat even more than the music.
"Wit. .who are you?" Arpeggio asked with a tremor in
her little feline voice."
So far in our story, we have become friends with
Arpeggio, the small kitten who became separated from her mother and found
love and shelter in the harpshop, spending her nights in Jeannieís
cottage. Unfortunately, one night Jeannie locked herself out of the
harpshop, and could not get in to take Arpeggio home. It was in the cold
dark of the shop that Arpeggio heard one of the harps being played, and
looked to find a flashy, bright and very interesting fairy! "Who are you?"
"Why, itís Fiona, am I. Itís a Person of the Hills am
I, which mortals call a fairy. What is it are you?" Her
voice was like a splashing, silvery waterfall, twinkling down over the
"I am called Arpeggio. But you can call me Peggi, if
you care to. Sometimes Mummy calls me that." She hung her tiny head. "She
also calls me her Precious Pet." Arpeggioís voice broke.
"Why sound you so sad if your mummy calls you such a
soppy name?" The fairy had laughter in her tone.
Arpeggio raised her furry little face to the fairy.
"Well, because she went away this evening and she hasnĎt come for me, and
she always comes for me; then we go home - I ride in her shawl, all cozy
and nice then she gives me my tea, and strokes me and loves me. We play in
front of the fire 'till bedtime, then she tucks me into her big bed. I
snuggle down into the duvet - itís so nice - and go asleep Ďtill morning.
But she hasnít come! I donít know what to think."
"Why be thinking anything - sheís a human, and humans
are strange, whatever." Fiona shook her spiked hair in a decided manner.
"Maybe so, Fiona, but she loves me. I donít think she
would ever desert me. Something must be terribly wrong." There was
dejection in every line of the baby catís body. She put her little head
down on her paws, starting to sob afresh.
"Well, to stop your fussing it is now the time, Peggie.
Am I a Person of the Hills. And helping you will I be. Where lives this
paragon of human virtue in this burg?"
"Well, I canít really say, that is, I never see it for
Iím always under Mummyís cape. But itís a lovely cottage, with such a nice
"Ach! Is more help youíll have to be giving me than
that, you kitten silly. Are you not at knowing how many cottages are there
in this village that fit that description? Am I not a magician."
She placed her hands on her hips, staring down at the
cat. Arpeggioís large almond eyes blinked back. "Fiona, Iíve never seen a
fairy such as you before. The ones in Mummyís picture book all dress in
"Ho, those Goody Two Shoes! Am I knowing them all! with
the hair long of gold and the gowns all shimmery. All they want to play on
the harp is such soppy tripe! Itís not on, say I. Itís the jazz and the
blues that alive make a metal harp. My own kind of heavy metal." The fairy
chortled. "Oh and love I the rollicking fast traditional stuff. Fly up
here I do once in a blue moon to go at this. Now drying your eyes you
should be. Aha! I know what will fettle you! A turn or two around the
floor. We Persons of the Hills adore to dance."
The wee cat looked puzzled. "But I donít know how to
"To learn you will never be younger. Iíll show you."
She flew up to the ceiling, then around the room, landing at the
astonished kittenís feet. The fairy began to hum a catchy tune as she
picked up each front paw. She tugged at Arpeggio pulling her forward,
urging her to step in time. Clumsy at first, then the kitten began to hop
a bit and sway. She was soon and dancing, to and fro with the music.
"Yes, thatís it, you wee smartie. Now keep up the toes,
up with the tail!" She flew up to the neck of the harp beginning to play a
snappy number as Arpeggio swayed, entranced with the movement and the
fairyís music. She danced Ďtill her little legs would dance no more, round
and round and round until she was so dizzy she dropped in a furry heap on
the dusty floorboards, She sneezed violently twice, as Fiona laughed and
the harp sang.
"Thatís lovely fun, Fiona. And how well you play!"
The fairy beamed even brighter, a great blast of red
line shone over the room "Youíre liking it, and am I glad!. But tired you
are. Now itís finding your mother; so everything you remember, tell me."
She perched on the foot of the instrument with her ear cocked towards the
Arpeggio gave all the information that she could to the
fairy. She told Fiona everything she knew about Jeannieís cottage, how
long it took them to walk home, and what it looked like inside. She even
grew so bold as to confide to her new friend all about Mother Cat and her
five brothers and sisters, finishing her tale with the facts about the big
dog, and the horrid trap in which she had been caught.
"Itís not worrying you should be. Iíll be at having a
talk with some of the nearby trees. Magic are the People of the Hills!"
She patted Arpeggio on the head and flew up to the
ceiling where there was a fairy-sized hole in the roof. Tim had been
meaning to mend it, but, as he was fond of joking, he couldnít do it on a
wet day and on a dry one it was as good as anybodyís! Fiona flew out of
the hole leaving a banner of ruby light following her. The kitten sighed,
then out of worry and exhaustion, she fell fast asleep.
The fairy was as good as her word. She flew from one
end of the village to the other peeping into windows. She saw families and
children and old age pensioners; she saw dogs and cats on hearth rugs and
budgies in cages. She even saw fish swimming lazily in bowls. Finally she
saw the cottage that the little cat had described to her. yes, there was
the mantle with the old lace, the spinning wheel that had been Jeannieís
grannyís, the basket with the balls of wool which Arpeggio had remembered
with warm affection, all the things that the little kitten had said were
there, were there.
But there was no Jeannie! Fiona peeped into all the
windows to see. Arpeggio had said that her mummy liked to have the
curtains drawn open, to look cheery from the outside, so the fairy was
sure there was no human being in the cottage. Hmm. This might be a
problem. But at least she knew where the place was. Now to see about
Fiona flew towards the allotments to have a bit of a
chat with a linden tree she knew there. He knew not of any particular
family of stray cats, but informed her that there were dozens all over the
sleepy village. She thanked the tree, then checked with several others in
the general area. One venerable oak was able to help her. His cousin was
sheltering a family of strays just over the way by the big meadow, near to
the woods. She thanked him warmly, flying there straightaway.
And O! The luck of the fairies! The great old oak was
there right where his cousin had said, and in the hollow of his belly was
a whole caboodle of kittens! A mother cat was there as well licking one of
her kits. She looked up inquiringly at the scarlet sheen that was Fiona.
"Begging your pardon am I Mother Cat, but has one of your kits gone
Mother Cat stopped licking her baby, and regarded the
fairy with head cocked. "No, Fairy," she replied with sadness in her
voice. "A long time ago one was caught in a trap, my sweetest little one,
but sheís been dead these long weeks Iím sure. I returned again and again
to the spot where I dropped her the day the dog chased us, but she was
never to be found." Tears fell on the fur of one of Arpeggioís brothers.
ĎWell, mistress, giving you good news am I. Iím knowing
your wee one and where she is, pining sorely for you and her other
Mother Cat sat up so fast the kitten she was licking
squeeked. "Oh, where is my darling? Is she all right? Can you take me to
her?" Arpeggioís mother was ecstatic. Fiona told Mother Cat the whole
story as she tucked her other babies cozily in, slipping leaves around
them to keep them warm while she was gone. With Fiona guiding, they were
soon at the harp shop, just in time to see a woman propping a ladder
against the wall. The fairy flew to her side.
"Is yourself called Jeannie?"
"Why, yes." Jeannie was startled but not frightened.
Granny had told her about the fairies. She never expected one to look
quite like this, however.
"Itís Fiona am I. Helping the wee kitten. Sheís not
able to get out on her own."
"Oh Fiona, Iíve been so worried about her. You see, my
key doesnít seem to work right and I couldnít get in to her. I had to go
and take a lend of this ladder - Why, whoís this?" She exclaimed
wonderingly, as Mother Cat rubbed against her legs. She looked just like
Arpeggio only grown much larger and fluffier.
"Seeing that introduction are in order. This is Mother
Cat. Mother Cat, this is Peggioís human, called Jeannie."
Jeannie bent down, scooping the beautiful animal into
her arms for a hug. "Why, youíre only gorgeous! Are you really my Precious
Petís mummy?" The cat purred as loudly as a mixer.
Fiona coughed meaningfully. "Am I thinking we ought to
get the wee one out of the shop."
"Itís right of course you are, Fiona. Will you not
guide me with this ladder? I want to try the small window near the outer
wall, I think there is a bit of a break in it." So the fairy fluttered and
flew, helping to balance the ladder as Jeannie gathered her skirts about
her arid climbed carefully towards the chosen window. When Jeannie had
gained the top, she paused to hold on to a bit of board. The wind was
howling round her, causing the ladder to sway, scaring her.
Fiona scowled up to the sky. "Itís knocking it off for
a bit, you should be. Weíre trying to save a wee creature"
The wind sighed, abashed. "Sorry, sorry, sorry," he
whispered. The fierce blowing stopped. Fiona flew into the hole and Mother
Cat purred anxiously below. In a very few moments, Fiona reappeared with a
wide-eyed kitten in tow. As Jeannie reached up for the precious bundle of
fur, Fiona pushed Arpeggioís bottom out towards her. Just then, Lady Moon,
who had heard about the situation from the wind, peeped out from her thick
fleecy collar of cloud to smile down on them with a special radiance. An
extra long reach from Jeannie, an extra push from. Fiona, and a steadying
paw on the ladder from Mother Cat - it was done!
Arpeggio was hugged as she had never been hugged
before; then Jeannie, with Fiona holding up the corner of her skirts,
backed ever so carefully down the ladder. When she reached the ground, she
burst into tears, happy ones to be sure. Her little cat was safe! Arpeggio
purred, licking Jeannieís face with such vigor as to abrade the skin.
Fiona flew round and round clapping her hands in glee. Mother Cat mewed.
Fiona blushed even redder than her frock. "Am I only
sorry, Mistress. Arpeggio, itís your mother; be taking a close look and
see!" Arpeggio looked, saw, and could not speak for joy. Then a giddy
bouquet of happy kitten mews punctuated the air! Jeannie placed Arpeggio
carefully on the frozen ground. The wee cat licked her mother and Mother
licked her wee cat. Then little Peggio began to dance, she was so happy.
And Fiona danced with her. round and round. Jeannie reached down to Mother
Cat. She lifted her up and hugged her. "Welcome, Mother Cat! Weíre so glad
to see you." Mother Cat smiled at Jeannie, feeling safe and happy.
Soon Jeannie, the fairy and the kitten were on their
way to Jeannieís cottage: Mother Cat went back to the old oak tree to
prepare her other babies for a trip. For they were moving! Jeannie wanted
them all to stay with her in her cozy home. As soon as Jeannie unlocked
the door, Fiona flew straightaway to the fire. With fairy magic, she
coaxed forth roaring flames. They performed a wild bright ballet on the
hearth. The kitten was kissed and cuddled and called Precious Pet, much to
her delight She was purring safely by the fire as Jeannie gathered up her
market basket and a bit of old blanket for the other kits. Fiona explained
to Arpeggio that they would be right back with all of her brothers and
With Jeannie hurrying behind, the fairy flew back to
the big oak that had been Mother Catís bungalow. She was delighted to see
five bright-eyed fluffy babies, all looking up at her and smiling. Mother
Cat had hurriedly washed each one. The old oak shifted his weight, patting
his belly in fond farewell to the kits he had come to love. Carefully,
Jeannie reached in, the Mother Cat watching intently, taking one at a time
and tucking them into the blanket. When they were arranged to Mother Catís
satisfaction, she jumped down to the earth. Fiona flew beside Jeannie to
help supervise in case a baby should be too bold and fall out. Jeannie
turned to wave at the tree and Mother Cat thanked him with her eyes.
"Weíll all come back to see you, dear Oak," she promised.
Arpeggio sprang up at the sound of the key turning in
the lock. She raced to the door to welcome her mummy, her Mother Cat, her
brothers and sisters and her first and best fairy friend. Such a happy
melee! Such scampering and chasing, such friendly washing, such
communication with tails. Jeannieís little cottage was alive with fun and
fur! (And a Person of the Hills, Fiona wants me to add!) it was the
happiest old night in memory. Everybody safe and sound, home and dry.
From that day on Fiona visited the cottage to play her
rollicking music as Jeannie had a wire-strung clarsach. Under Fionaís
direction, all the kittens learned to dance, and they did it well. So, if
you should happen to visit the Highlands, you might peep in at Jeannieís
cottage window. But donít be too surprised if you see a woman with a large
gray cat on her lap, and a room full of happy kits dancing away to the
loud, bright music being played by the jazziest fairy anyone ever saw. And
if Fiona winks at you, be sure to wink back!
©2001 by Cult Oliver