P. G. Wodehouse: The Man with Two Left Feet

10. BLACK FOR LUCK (continued)

In her flat, the door closed, she watched her new ally with some anxiety. He had behaved admirably on the journey upstairs, but she would not have been surprised, though it would have pained her, if he had now proceeded to try to escape through the ceiling. Cats were so emotional. However, he remained calm, and, after padding silently about the room for awhile, raised his head and uttered a crooning cry.

'That's right,' said Elizabeth, cordially. 'If you don't see what you want, ask for it. The place is yours.'

She went to the ice-box, and produced milk and sardines. There was nothing finicky or affected about her guest. He was a good trencherman, and he did not care who knew it. He concentrated himself on the restoration of his tissues with the purposeful air of one whose last meal is a dim memory. Elizabeth, brooding over him like a Providence, wrinkled her forehead in thought.

'Joseph,' she said at last, brightening; 'that's your name. Now settle down, and start being a mascot.'

Joseph settled down amazingly. By the end of the second day he was conveying the impression that he was the real owner of the apartment, and that it was due to his good nature that Elizabeth was allowed the run of the place. Like most of his species, he was an autocrat. He waited a day to ascertain which was Elizabeth's favourite chair, then appropriated it for his own. If Elizabeth closed a door while he was in a room, he wanted it opened so that he might go out; if she closed it while he was outside, he wanted it opened so that he might come in; if she left it open, he fussed about the draught. But the best of us have our faults, and Elizabeth adored him in spite of his.

It was astonishing what a difference he made in her life. She was a friendly soul, and until Joseph's arrival she had had to depend for company mainly on the footsteps of the man in the flat across the way. Moreover, the building was an old one, and it creaked at night. There was a loose board in the passage which made burglar noises in the dark behind you when you stepped on it on the way to bed; and there were funny scratching sounds which made you jump and hold your breath. Joseph soon put a stop to all that. With Joseph around, a loose board became a loose board, nothing more, and a scratching noise just a plain scratching noise.

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