There is a small fluffy mewing thing in the Vet’s waiting room. It is the sweetest thing that I have ever seen. Apparently it is a Mabel. When I sniff at it it curls up and stares at me with limpid eyes, and I feel an urge to lay both my cloak and my faithful sidekick Caspar at its feet.
Caspar is already there, recognising a soulmate in fluff. We should adopt a Mabel of our own, he says. It could look after the Supercave whilst we save the world, and perhaps have supper on the table when we get home.
Caspar has been reading Enid Blyton again. But that does not mean we could not adopt a Mabel.
I ask the Owner if we can adopt a Mabel and she says well, we could look into it. But, she says, do I realise that this Mabel is not a Dog?
I am indignant. Of course I realise that the Mabel is not a Dog. She is even fluffier than Caspar, who has been set at Maximum Possible on the Fluffometer where Dogs are concerned, I assume she is some kind of stoat. Dogs are not capable of making that wonderful throaty engine sound that Mabel made when I sniffed her little paws.
Purring, says the Owner. That was purring.
I said I did not know that stoats could purr.
Stoats cannot purr, says the Owner. Mabel is a kitten. I thought that you and Caspar did not like Cats.
Of course we do not like Cats, I say, we are Moral Dogs that were once relentlessly pursued by Ancestral Cats with Sabre Teeth and Killer Claws. Modern Cats may have undergone relative shrinkage, but at heart they are unchanged. But what does this have to do with the Mabel?
She is a cat says the Owner.
I say a Mabel of such cuteness could not possibly be a cat.
Well, says the Owner, she will turn into a cat when she grows up.
Turn into one? I say. Things do not simply turn into other things. Otherwise where on earth would we be? You could set out one morning with your umbrella and discover, when it rained, that you were carrying a turnip.
Kittens, says the Owner, turn into cats. Caterpillars turn into butterlies. Tadpoles turn into frogs.
And what about Moral Dogs? I ask in horror. What do Moral Dogs turn into? Suddenly I can see a whole realm of new and alarming possibilities for my future. Is the Owner suggesting that I might, upon growing up, wake up one morning to find I have become become a rabbit or a hippopotamus or possibly, Heaven forbid, a duck?
No Hergest, says the Owner, you will never be a duck, you are a Moral Dog all the way through. It is different for the Mabel. The Ancestral Cat is already inside the Mabel, waiting to come out. It will simply emerge when you least expect it.
This is the most dastardly infiltration plot I have ever heard of. To hide an Ancestral Cat inside a Mabel. This makes the Creature in Alien look like a minor misunderstanding in space. I look at the Mabel with new eyes. I can now see it has retractable claws.
So, says the Owner, would you and Caspar still like me to adopt a Mabel?
Good Lord no, I say. We definitely cannot adopt a Mabel if it comes with an Ancestral Cat inside. Imagine how unpleasant things would be if it emerged when I am having lunch. Not even Sigourney Weaver could sort out that mess.
The Owner rolls her eyes. I am turning the movie channel off right now, she says.
It’s lucky I’ve already seen it, then. The Moral Dog. Not so easily Deceived.
Hergest the Hound
I am a dog of many thoughts.