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Emma Laybourn

Copyright 2013 Emma Laybourn Smashwords Edition

Table of Contents Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Fi e Chapter Si! Chapter Se en

Chapter One The huge rat "rou"hed with its ba"# to the wall$ %ts red eyes glittered balefully as it bared its i"ious teeth at &obbins$ %t was nearly the same si'e as the little ginger "at$ &obbins had "ornered it (uite by a""ident$ )nd now he had no idea what to do$ *+ust my lu"#,- he thought$ *% "ome down to the yard for a bit of pea"e and (uiet. and surprise the biggest rat in the whole mill,%f he didn/t #ill the rat. the other "ats would ne er stop laughing at him$ &ut he/d ne er ta"#led anything as big and fier"e as this$ &obbins too# two slow. "autious steps towards the rat$ )ll his ginger fur stood on end$ 0e saw the rat bun"h its mus"les. getting ready to leap$ *%/ e got to leap first,- thought &obbins$ *&ut it/s nearly as big as % am$ Help!0e "losed his eyes and poun"ed$ The huge rat/s fur slipped through his "laws1 its sharp teeth met in his ear$ &obbins s(uealed. trying to twist away$ Letting go of him. the rat bolted for the safety of the drain$ )s &obbins fell ba"#wards on to the "obbles. a pale grey strea# flashed past him$ %t sprang on the fleeing rat$ There was a shrill s"ream2 and then the rat/s lifeless body was tossed aside$ The grey "at. Spindle. ar"hed her ba"# and smiled$ *Thats how you #ill a rat. &ob.- she said$ *%t. it surprised me.- stammered &obbins$ *)nd it bit my ear,*3ah, 4hat/s an ear5 %f a rat bites you. you bite it ba"#.- said Spindle$ *)ny more of them there5- Lean and hungry. she stal#ed along the gutter and peered up the drain$ *Come out. "ome out. where er you are,- she muttered$ *Come out and tal# to Spindle,- 0er pale eyes gleamed with hate$ For Spindle hated rats with a "old. relentless passion$ The other "ats in the 6ill agreed that no rat that "ame within poun"ing distan"e had e er es"aped from her deadly "laws$

*Cowardy. "owardy "ustard,&obbins loo#ed up. flin"hing at the taunt$ That wasn/t Spindle who had "alled out$ %t was Loom1 a hea y bla"# and white tom"at lounging on the windowsill$ &ob/s heart san#$ So Loom had seen his failure too$$$ *S"aredy7"at,- sneered Loom$ *Cowardy "ustard. marmalade mustard, 0e/s not a "at at all$ 0e/s a mouse in disguise$ %sn/t he. Spindle5Spindle did not answer$ She was "rou"hing by the drain with her tail twit"hing$ Loom went on. *&ob/s nothing but a mouse, That/s why he ne er #ills any,*% do too.- retorted &obbins. although he had only #illed two mi"e in his whole time at the 6ill 8 and they had both been so old and slow that they were probably about to drop dead in any "ase$ )s for rats. he/d always been afraid of them$ 0e/d #ept well away from rats until today$ *Old man )lfie/ll get rid of you if you don/t wat"h out,- 9eered Loom$ *4e don/t need four "ats in this mill$ %/ e heard him "omplaining about you$ 0e/ll ha e you drowned,*:o. he won/t.- protested &ob$ *Oh yes. he will, 0e only too# you be"ause of that grand7daughter of his 8 that stupid Flossie with the orange hair$ 4hat an idioti" "olour. for a human or a "at$ She/s a marmalade mustard. 9ust li#e you,*;on/t you "all Flossie names,- fired ba"# &ob$ 0e sprang up to the windowsill to try and push Loom off$ &ut Loom was mu"h bigger and hea ier than &ob. and had no intention of being pushed off$ 0e ga e &ob a "uff with his fat paw$ &ob felt himself tumbling ba"# to the ground$ 0e only 9ust managed to twist round in time to land on his feet$ *4imp.- hissed Loom$ 0e was about to leap after &obbins when a sound made him stop dead$ Something was rumbling$ %t was as deep as thunder. but it "ame from underground$ The rumble gathered speed and olume until it almost deafened &ob$ 0e "ould feel ibrations running through the "obbles. up his legs and along his whole body. ma#ing him 9udder$ )nd with the rumble "ame the sound of a rushing torrent1 of leaping. foaming water$

&ob shuddered$ 0e/d li ed in the mill for three months now. and he would ne er get used to that sound$ 4hene er he heard it. he wished he was ba"# at Flossie/s house$ &ut Flossie/s mother had been allergi" to "ats1 &obbins made her snee'e$ That was why Flossie had to gi e him away 8 and he had ended up in the mill with this rumbling monster$ *There goes the water7wheel.- said Spindle. listening$ *Old man )lfie/s started it up early today$ ) s"hool group must ha e 9ust arri ed$*) s"hool group5 That means "a#e,- "ried Loom$ *3a"#ed lun"hes. "risps. and sti"#y buns, 0ere % "ome,- 0e dropped from the windowsill with a hea y thud and lolloped up the stone stair"ase into the 6ill$ *That means mice.- hissed Spindle hungrily$ *4here "rumbs go. mi"e follow$)nd li#e a pale shadow. she glided after Loom$ *That means "hildren.- &obbins said$ *% li#e "hildren$ 6aybe one of them will ha e red hair,)nd he followed the other two up the stair"ase and into the roaring. thumping. grinding 6ill$

Chapter Two 0alf way up the steps. &ob stopped to loo# through the grating in the wall$ On the other side of it. he "ould see the huge waterwheel slowly turning. its groans and "langs e"hoing in the ast bri"# "hamber along with the splashing of the water$ Three times a wee# this happened$ The rest of the time there was only a tri"#le of water and the wheel stood silent$ &ut on 4ednesdays. Thursdays and Saturdays. when the mill was open to isitors. old man )lfie unlo"#ed a slui"e7gate to let the water in$ The stream ra"ed under the mill and set the great wheel turning$ )nd then <although &ob did not understand how= the whole mill "ame to life. banging and "lan#ing and grinding along with the wheel$ )ll along its wooden floors. strange ma"hines designed to frighten "ats sprang into a"tion$ &ob left the "lan#ing wheel and bounded up the last few steps$ 0e "rept in through the door to see the "hildren$ They were "rowded round one of the fearsome ma"hines$ >wen. )lfie/s white7 haired wife. sat in the middle of it. li#e a spider in a giant web$ 0er hands flashed to and fro$ &ob shran# ba"#$ 0e was terrified of the rattle and thump of her ma"hine$ %t was so loud that >wen had to shout to be heard$ *This is a power7loom.- she shouted o er the "lan#s and bangs$ *This is a flying shuttle that %/m using to "arry the thread from side to side$ % "an wea e a ni"e. wide pie"e of "loth that way$ See how fast the shuttle goes,The little group of "hildren in green 9umpers all stared and nodded$ &ob noted that none of them had red hair$ 0e "rept away from the "lan#ing loom. past other twirling. whirling. rattling ma"hines. and down to the far end of the 6ill. where another bun"h of "hildren had gathered$ 0ere. old man )lfie leaned on a rail while he addressed them$ Li#e >wen. he had to shout$ *% wor#ed in this mill fifty years ago.- he said$ *&y then it used ele"tri"ity$ &ut in the old days. two hundred years ago when it was built. all its power "ame from the waterwheel$ )nd half its manpower "ame from little "hildren 9ust li#e you,-

The "hildren ga'ed at him. mouths open$ :ot a red head among them$$$ )ll the same. &ob wound in and out of their legs. purring hopefully in "ase they/d li#e to stro#e him$ &ut they "ouldn/t hear his purrs o er the ma"hines. and in any "ase they were transfi!ed by )lfie$ *0ow would you li#e that5- he as#ed them$ *?ou/d start at si! in the morning. and spend all day minding the spinning7mules. with forty7eight spindles to tend to$ Forty7eight threads to mend when they bro#e 8 whi"h was often 8 and forty7eight bobbins to see to and repla"e$&ob ga e a meow on re"ognising his own name$ :obody heard him$ )lfie #ept on tal#ing loudly$ *?ou "an ha e half an hour for a hun# o/ bread at lun"htime$ Then ba"# to your wor# until se en in the e ening, )nd all for tenpen"e a wee#,Old man )lfie bent and pi"#ed up +enny. the fourth mill "at. who was prowling under the ma"hine$ )lfie stro#ed her gently$ She was his fa ourite "at1 a slee#. good7 natured tabby. who had no tail$ *The "ats are the only wor#ers left here now.- he told the "hildren$ *Cotton "loth gets made in great big fa"tories now. mostly in other "ountries far away$ This old mill 9ust runs three times a wee#. for isitors to see$ %f we ran it e ery day. it/d sha#e itself to pie"es$ The rest of the time. it/s left to the "ats$One girl put her hand up$ *3lease. what do you ha e the "ats here for5*To #eep down the rats and mi"e.- said )lfie$ *:ow. this is a "arding engine8*4hat are their names5- as#ed a boy$ *This one/s +enny$ The others are Spindle. Loom and that/s &obbins s#ul#ing round your feet$ :ow. this "arding engine is what "ombs the "otton8*4hy do most of your "ats ha e funny names5*They/re named after things in the mill$ 6y +enny/s short for spinning79enny.said )lf. stro#ing her fondly$ *Loom/s named for a loom li#e you saw ba"# there$ Spindle/s what you spin the new thread onto$*4hat about &obbins5)lfie laughed$ 0e turned round. too# something from a big bo! nearby and held it in the air$ %t was a long. thin tube$

*@now what this is5 %t/s a bobbin$ That/s what the "otton/s wound onto before it/s spun$ ?ou "an ha e that one$*Ooh. "an %5- The girl too# it eagerly$ *0a e as many as you li#e$ 4e/ e got hundreds of the things$ They/re worth nowt$ )nd neither is that "at$ S"ared of his own shadow. he is, %/ e wat"hed him run away from a mouse$ That/s why he/s "alled &obbins1 be"ause it means something useless 8 li#e that "at$E ery single head turned to ga'e at &ob$ :ot one hand rea"hed out to stro#e him$ 0e ba"#ed away. and then fled for the stair"ase$ &lindly he plunged down it. desperate to get away from the "hildren/s stares and )lfie/s "a"#ling laughter$

Chapter Three &obbins ra"ed down the steps into the yard. heedless of any rats that might be lur#ing$ From there he hurtled down a se"ond stone stair"ase into the basement$ 0e "ould hide here$ This was where the "ats had their beds. in a "ouple of old dog7bas#ets$ &ob buried himself in the bas#et that he usually shared with Loom$ 0e lay there shi ering$ Useless! Scaredy-cat! Scared of his own shadow! The words hurt$ They hurt all the more be"ause &ob feared they might be true$ 0e lay with his head "urled in his paws. wishing he was ba"# at his old home 8 although in truth. he "ouldn/t remember mu"h about it apart from sau"ers of mil# and a gentle oi"e amidst a fri'' of orange hair$ )nd he remembered there had been something "alled a washing ma"hine. that rumbled and groaned li#e a tiny waterwheel and made him tremble$ 0e/d been frightened. e en then$ 0e/d been frightened all his life$ 0e would ne er stop being frightened$ Suddenly &ob was angry$ 0e sat bolt upright in his bas#et$ *%/m not going to be frightened any more,- he announ"ed furiously. e en though there was nobody to hear him$ *%/ll learn to "at"h mi"e 8 and rats too, %/ll pra"tise until %/m better than Loom. and better than +enny. and 8 and almost as good as Spindle,0is ows e"hoed around the gloomy basement$ %t had on"e been a storeroom. but now it was furnished as a mill7wor#er/s "ottage for isitors to loo# at$ So it had a stone sin#. a tin bath hanging on the wall. a shelf with two "hipped "hina dogs. and a table on whi"h stood an inedible plaster loaf$ The "ats/ bas#ets were underneath the table$ +ust then. there was a "latter and a shout$ The "hildren were "oming out of the mill and hurrying a"ross the yard to see the basement room$ &ob "ouldn/t bear to stay and be laughed at yet again$ +umping out of his bas#et. he ra"ed up the steps before the "hildren rea"hed them$ 0e strea#ed to the other end of the yard and darted through the turnstile$ Then he "rept stealthily past the #ios# <where Loom sat hopefully waiting for stray "risps= and. unseen by anyone. made his way down to the stream$ 0e pattered along its ban# towards the millpond$

0ere it was (uiet$ There were no people$ 4hen the stream rushed under the mill. it turned into a surging beast1 but here it made a gentle. gurgling pond$ Small animals rustled in the undergrowth nearby$ On the slopes abo e the far side of the millpond stood a white bungalow$ That was where )lfie and >wen li ed$ &ob had often seen them in the garden. but right now they were busy in the mill$ *% "an pra"tise poun"ing here.- thought &ob. *and nobody will #now, So %/m s"ared of my own shadow. am %5 4e/ll see about that,)nd to pro e it was a lie. he whirled round suddenly to leap upon his shadow and pin it to the grass$ Gotcha!- 0e poun"ed on his shadow time after time. and it ne er got away$ &ob felt ery pleased with himself$ *Stage one.- he said. panting$ *:ow let/s try "at"hing something harder, &ut not too hard$) trail of ants pro ided an answer$ &ob leapt and poun"ed again until the ants were in disarray and blundering into ea"h other$ &ob was ery satisfied$ *Stage two.- he said$ *:ow let/s loo# for a mouse$0e lay low in the grass by the water. wat"hing and listening$ 0e #ept (uite still apart from the merest fli"# of his tail$ +enny had told him that mi"e were to be easily found here$ &ut it seemed a long wait until. between a blin# of his eye and its opening. a small. brown. furry shape appeared ne!t to the pond$ %t loo#ed fatter than the mi"e in the mill2 but it was "ertainly not a rat$ )s slowly as a snail. &ob gathered his limbs beneath him$ The mouse rustled in the grass. sat up and groomed its whis#ers$ &ob poun"ed$ The mouse s(uealed as &ob/s "laws fastened on its tail$ %t wriggled from his grasp and di ed into the pond$ &efore he "ould stop himself. &ob leapt after it 8 straight into the water$ %t was so sho"#ingly "old that he forgot to breathe$ That was 9ust as well. sin"e the water was o er his head$ %t rushed through his ears and gripped his body in "old fists$ Franti"ally s"rabbling with all his legs. at last &ob managed to get his head abo e the surfa"e$

*Miaow!- 0e yowled for help. but there was nobody to hear$ 0e would ha e to get himself out$ &y paddling all four paws as hard as he "ould. he struggled slowly to the shore and at last hea ed himself out on to the ban#$ 0e was trembling all o er$ 0e "ollapsed in a dripping heap$ On the far side of the pond. the strange mouse emerged from the water. ga e itself a (ui"# sha#e and disappeared into a burrow in the ban#$ *%t/s not a mouse at all,- thought &ob$ *%t/s one of those other "reatures +enny on"e told me about$ ) mole or a ole$ ) ole. % thin#$0e remembered what +enny had said1 one li#ed water. one li#ed earth. but they were both impossible to "at"h$ *4ell. % nearly "aught it.- said &ob. standing up and trying to sha#e himself the way the ole had$ *)nd % got myself out of the water$ % swam 8 sort of$Spindle "ould probably swim li#e a fish. he thought ruefully2 and +enny must be able to swim. too. if she/d been "hasing water7 oles$ Then a sudden thought hit &obbins li#e a thunderbolt$ *%f % learn to swim. )lfie "an/t drown me,)nd with this thought. he leapt straight in again$ This time the sho"# wasn/t (uite so bad$ The water didn/t feel so "old$ &ut when &ob tried to breathe it in. he floundered to the surfa"e "oughing and "ho#ing. before sin#ing again li#e a stone$ 0is paws tou"hed pebbles on the bottom1 he tried to 9ump. and pushed himself ba"# up again$ Then he paddled to the ban# and slumped there. gasping$ *% "an/t do it, %t/s too hard$ %t/s too wet.- 0e lay there wearily for a few minutes$ Then he sat up$ 0e wasn/t going to gi e up yet$ Seeing the ole di e in again from the far ban#. &ob wat"hed it "arefully$ *%f a little thing li#e that "an swim. surely % "an too, 0ow does it do it5 Eyes out. nose up. loo#s li#e it/s running underwater$$$&ob stared at it for a while$ *0ead out. that/s the thing.- he said. before 9umping in for the third time$ This time he put his nose out before he breathed$ 0e tried running underwater$ )nd he "ould do it, 0e was swimming, 0e managed a small "ir"le before pulling himself out onto the grass again. e!hausted$ Swimming was hard wor# 8 mu"h harder than running on land$

*%/ll "ome here e ery day.- owed &ob. *and swim a little more. until % "an get right a"ross the pond$ Then maybe %/ll "at"h a ole, That/ll show them, +enny said they were un"at"hable$0e padded slowly ba"# towards the 6ill. dripping. but mu"h happier than before$ *That/s two things % "an do.- he told himself$ *% "an "at"h my own shadow 8 and % "an swim,-

Chapter Four )lthough &ob "ould "at"h his own shadow. howe er. he still "ouldn/t "at"h mi"e$ 0e lur#ed for hours in dusty "orners. waiting for them$ 0e s#ul#ed behind the silent looms$ 0e hid amongst the bales of "otton and listened to the mi"e s(uea#ing and rustling in their nests within$ )nd whene er one appeared. he poun"ed$$$ $$$and missed$ *?ou need to hate them.- Spindle said. her pale eyes glittering$ *?ou ha e to really want that mouse dead$- She sat by a little pile of mousy "orpses in the middle of the wea ing7room$ &ob didn/t hate mi"e$ 6aybe that was the problem$ *They ha e to be afraid of you.- snarled Loom. settling down beside a mousehole to wait$ The mi"e were "ertainly afraid of Loom$ The sight of him seemed to hypnotise them into terror until he swatted them with a hea y paw$ *They/re not afraid of me.- sighed &ob$ *0ow do you "at"h mi"e. +enny5*% 9ust do.- said +enny$ She #illed mi"e with neat effi"ien"y. then tended to forget them and left their bodies lying round the mill$ Sometimes &ob would drag one of these small abandoned "orpses o er to )lfie. pretending it was his own wor#$ *Caught one today. ha e you5- )lfie would say sar"asti"ally$ *)ma'ing$ ;id it ha e a wooden leg5- &ob was sure he knew$ )nd these were 9ust mi"e$ 0e didn/t e en dare to thin# about a rat$ )ll the same. he #ept doggedly pra"tising$ 0e poun"ed on s"raps of "otton until his legs a"hed$ 0e "hased rolling bobbins around the floor until his heart was thumping$ E ery day he went out to the pond when nobody was wat"hing. and tried to "at"h the water ole$ 0e ne er got "lose to it 8 but he was getting better at swimming$ This meant that he was less s"ared of water$ 0e no longer hated the rain$ This was useful. sin"e it rained e ery day for a wee#$ 4hen there was a thunderstorm. &ob made himself go out in it$ )fter all. it wasn/t as wet as the millpond2 and the thunder was no louder than the rumbling of the water wheel$

*% shouldn/t be afraid of anythin .- &ob told himself$ *%/ll ta"#le the ma"hines ne!t$So on Saturday. when the mill was full of the shouts of "hildren and the grinding roar of the water7wheel 8 to say nothing of the drumming of the rain 8 &ob "rept up to the wea ing room$ 0e was determined to master his fear of the ma"hines$ 0e s"ampered o er to the big loom where >wen usually sat$ She wasn/t sitting here now. though2 she/d 9ust got up to show her group of isitors an old spinning wheel$ 0er ba"# was turned$ &ob sprang up onto her "hair and glowered at the loom with its broad web of threads$ 0e/d tea"h it to s"are him with its bang and "latter, 0e wasn/t afraid of it. not one bit$ To pro e it. he poun"ed upon the web and began to tear and bite and pull the threads$ They resisted him. but he was stronger, This ma"hine wouldn/t get the better of him, The loom began to grind and groan$ &ob/s feet slipped between the tight rows of thread and "aught there$ 0e "ouldn/t pull them out$ The more he struggled. the more entwined he be"ame. until he ended up in a massi e multi7"oloured tangle$ Then he heard >wen/s angry oi"e$ *>et out of there, ?ou naughty "at. what do you thin# you/re doing5- She hauled &ob out of the loom. s"raping his legs. and dumped him on the floor$ E eryone was laughing at him$ Children giggled. teenagers sni"#ered. and grandads "hu"#led$ *Let me tell you.- >wen s"olded him. *if you were a mill7hand and you made that mess. you/d be out on your ear,)t that. the "rowd laughed louder$ &ob s"ampered off. feeling most indignant$ >wen shouldn/t ha e interfered$ 0e/d been 9ust about to get the better of the loom, %n another minute or two. it would ha e been defeated$ )s it was. he still needed to pro e he wasn/t afraid of the ma"hines$ So ne!t &ob ran past the spinning 9ennies to where the great spinning7mule stood$ &a"#wards and forwards it slowly rolled on "lan#ing iron wheels$ E ery time it rolled out. it drew out forty7eight long strands of "otton. spinning them to ma#e them thin and strong$ Then it rolled ba"# in. with enormous "langs and bangs$

*This is good for stal#ing pra"ti"e.- &obbins thought. as he wat"hed the rolling iron wheel$ 0e began to stal# the wheel along its tra"#. following it$ 4hen it turned and "ame ba"# towards him. he planned to poun"e and "at"h it$ The big wheel grated to a halt. and paused$ Then it started trundling ba"#. bearing the huge iron frame abo e it$ &ob stood in its path. tensed and ready to spring8 8when something hit him hard in the stoma"h. and sent him flying a"ross the wooden floor$ 0e sprawled there. panting. all the breath #no"#ed out of him$ 4hen he loo#ed up. he saw +enny "rou"hing o er him$ 0er fur stood up on end$ She ar"hed her ba"# and spat angrily$ *4hat did you do that for5- "ried &ob$ *% was 9ust about to "at"h it,*Cat"h it5 ?ou "an/t "at"h that ma"hine,- hissed +enny *%t/ll "at"h you,*&ut %8*0ow do you thin# % lost my tail5- +enny loo#ed so fier"e that &ob shran# away$ 0e stared at the huge iron wheel trundling down its tra"#$ *0a en/t you listened to )lfie5 Two "hildren died long ago. sweeping underneath that mule. when the "arriage "aught them, %f it "an "rush "hildren. what "han"e would a "at ha e5- +enny snapped at him$ *;on/t you dare do that again,&ob had ne er seen +enny loo# so furious$ )bashed. he turned and ran$

Chapter Fi e &ob ra"ed down to the yard. whi"h was full of puddles$ Spindle sat there. shi ering$ Aain was pouring down2 the water wheel boomed angrily behind its grating$ )nd then. suddenly. out of the drains "ame a stream of rats$ Fi e or si! of them shot out a"ross the yard$ %mmediately. Spindle poun"ed. leaping this way and that. twisting and turning in mid7air$ Bnable to de"ide whi"h rat to "at"h. for on"e she failed to "at"h any at all$ The rats all disappeared through the turnstile where Loom lay snoring$ 0e wo#e up with a start. but too late to poun"e on any of the rats$ *4here did they "ome from5- he "ried$ *The drains must ha e flooded and dri en them out.- said Spindle. spitting with annoyan"e$ &edraggled and angry. she stal#ed down the steps to the basement and threw herself into one of the "ats/ bas#ets$ &ob followed to try and "heer her up$ *;on/t worry$ ?ou/ll get them ne!t time,*% would ha e "aught them for you.- said Loom. plodding down the steps and sprawling la'ily in the other bas#et. *but %/m too stiff with the damp$ Aheumatism$ % "an hardly mo e$*?ou/re ta#ing all the bas#et up,- protested &ob$ *Sho e o er,*% 9ust told you.- yawned Loom$ *% "an/t mo e$*!ou ne er "at"h rats anyway.- &ob told him defiantly$ *?ou only "at"h mi"e$ ?ou run away from rats$*% do not. you little8,- Loom 9umped up in annoyan"e$ &ob promptly lay down in his pla"e$ *Thought you "ouldn/t mo e.- said Spindle i"ily$ Loom flopped into the bas#et right on top of &ob. almost smothering him$ &ob had to s(uee'e to the edge$ *?ou #now what5- Loom whispered. his green eyes gleaming$ *)lfie/s grand7 daughter/s "ome to isit him$ That girl with the stupid marmalade hair$*Flossie,- &ob/s heart filled with 9oy$ 0e began to purr$ *)nd you #now what else5- Loom went on$ *)lfie/s going to tell her what a useless "at you are$ 0e/ll tell her that he/s going to get rid of you$*Then he/ll gi e me ba"# to Flossie,-

*:o. he won/t$ ?ou ma#e her mother ill$ That/s why you/re li ing here. dumbo$ They/ll 9ust ha e to drown you.- said Loom with satisfa"tion$ *)lfie "an/t drown me.- said &ob$ *4hy not5&ob was 9ust wondering whether to tell Loom his se"ret about learning to swim. when +enny "ame leaping down the steps$ *The mill/s "losing early.- she said$ *E eryone/s going home$ There/s too mu"h rain$ )lfie says the stream/s too high. and he/s shut the water wheel down$- Sure enough. the "lan#ing wheel had gone (uiet$ *Time for a snoo'e. then.- yawned Loom. shuffling in the bas#et so as to ta#e e en more of the spa"e$ &ob de"ided not to tell them about his swimming$ Loom would only sneer and laugh$ %n any "ase. ten minutes later. the other three "ats were fast asleep$ ;espite being so s(uashed in his bas#et. &ob began to drift off too$ 0e dreamt a happy dream of water7 oles and mill7ponds$ 0e was swimming after the ole. with rain gently splashing all around him. when he wo#e with a sudden start$ *4here am %5- he thought. da'ed$ *4hat/s happened5 )m % in the pond5For he was surrounded by water$

Chapter Si! The basement floor was awash$ ;irty water swirled and lapped at the "ats/ bas#ets1 the body of a dead rat floated past$ *4a#e up,- &ob "ried$ *Flood, There/s a flood,Loom hea ed himself up as water sloshed into his bas#et$ 0e leapt a"ross into Spindle/s bas#et with a "urse$ *%/m all wet, 4hat ha e you done5- 0e glared at &ob$ *0e hasn/t done anything$ Listen, % "an hear the water7wheel going round.- said +enny$ *&ut % thought )lfie had lo"#ed it to stop it turning$)ll four "ats listened$ Sure enough. they "ould hear the hollow "lan# and grind of the great wheel e"hoing through the building$ They "ould hear the water rushing past its blades$ )nd. worst of all. they "ould see the water in the basement start to rise$ :ow it began to seep into Spindle/s bas#et$ 4ith a yowl. Spindle leapt out onto the nearby "hair. and then sprang up to the table$ The other "ats followed. until all four stood there. loo#ing down at the filthy. swirling water$ *4e need to get to the stairs,- said +enny$ Spindle shoo# her head$ *4e "an/t 9ump that far$ 4e/ll fall in$0uddled on the table. they wat"hed the water "ontinue its slow rise up the table legs$ *)lfie will "ome and get us.- +enny said$ *&ut what if he doesn/t5- wailed Loom$ *0e/ll ha e too mu"h to worry about to thin# of us.- said Spindle$ *4e/d better run for it.- said &ob$ *Aun5- s(uealed Loom$ *Through that5 %t/s way too deep,*)nd rising fast.- muttered Spindle$ She ar"hed her ba"# and stared down bitterly at the water as if it were a deadly enemy. worse e en than the rats$ *)ll right$ 4e/ll swim. then.- said &ob. a little pu''led$ *Swim5 Swim5- said Loom hysteri"ally$ *Listen to him, 0e wants us all to drown,*&ob. "ats "an/t swim.- said +enny$

)s she spo#e. the table ro"#ed beneath their feet$ The plaster loaf slid off and fell into the mur#y water with a splash$ The four "ats. "lawing desperately at the table. nearly followed$ Soon the table would be afloat and at the mer"y of the swelling tide$ *4hat do you mean. "ats "an/t swim5- as#ed &ob$ *Common #nowledge.- Spindle said$ *Help!- She grabbed at Loom as the table lur"hed again$ *This table/s going to tip us off at any minute,*4e need a boat.- said &ob$ *?ou need a brain.- sneered Loom$ &ob shrugged. trotted to the table/s edge and di ed into the water$ %t was no "older than the mill pond$ &ut it was full of strange whirling "urrents that su"#ed and pulled at him$ %t was not easy to swim through2 he was glad to rea"h the shelf on the other side of the room$ Climbing out. he per"hed on the shelf$ :ow he was "lose to the tin bath hanging on the wall$ The tin bath was his target$ %t was already half afloat. but still atta"hed to its hoo# by a pie"e of string$ &ob leapt up onto the end of the bath and gnawed at the string abo e him. until it finally ga e way$ &oth bath and "at plunged down into the water and landed with a tremendous splash$ &ob found himself. not in the bath. but in the water ne!t to it$ 0e heard +enny s(ueal in horror$ *>et out, ?ou/ll drown,&ob had no intention of drowning$ 0e swam behind the bobbing bath. pushing it with his head$ %t was hard wor#2 but slowly. slowly the bath drifted towards the table and the s"ree"hing "ats$ *+ump in,- &ob panted$ +enny leapt and landed in the bath$ %t ro"#ed but did not "apsi'e$ Spindle was ne!t$ She "losed her eyes tight. too# a mighty leap 8 and missed the tub entirely$ She landed in the water. sending up a huge shower of spray$ *Spindle,- wailed +enny$ Spindle "ame to the surfa"e$ 4ith her eyes still s"rewed shut. she twisted and gasped and tried to bite the water before going under again$ &ob di ed$ 0is eyes stung as he opened them underwater2 but he "ould see the shape of Spindle thrashing around$ Sei'ing the s"ruff of her ne"# in his teeth. as if she was a #itten. he hauled her to the surfa"e$ Sin"e he "ould not lift her into the tin bath. he pushed her onto the lur"hing table. whi"h was now almost afloat$

*Try again,- he gasped$ *Eyes open,Spindle was shi ering$ &ut she too# a deep breath. opened her eyes and leapt again$ This time she made it$ The bath boun"ed in the water as she landed s(uarely in it$ Loom still "owered on the table$ *% "an/t do it,*?es. you "an,- gasped &ob$ *+ust "ump!Loom hesitated$ Then a iolent surge of water upended the table li#e a see7saw$ 4ith a yowl. Loom shot off it and fell into the bath on top of the other two$ The three "ats were safe 8 for the moment$ &ut now they had to get outside$ &ob pushed the tub towards the steps$ %t was so hea y now that he needed all his strength to shift it$ E entually it began to float towards the doorway$ &ut &obbins was nearly e!hausted$ 0e spluttered. san#. and thrashed his way ba"# to the surfa"e$ 0e was panting for breath$ 0e "ouldn/t stay up any longer$ 0e "ould feel the i"y "urrents tugging and pulling at him. dragging him down. down. down$

Chapter Se en The "old water "lut"hed at him. and he began to sin#$ Then he felt sharp teeth fasten in the ba"# of his ne"#$ +ust as he had hauled Spindle up. now he was hauled up himself 8 out of the water. o er the edge of the tin bath and thud into its base$ Spindle let go of him$ +enny let go of Spindle$ Loom let go of +enny$ They had formed a "hain of "ats to rea"h him$ *Than#s.- &ob murmured faintly. before a fit of "oughing o erwhelmed him$ 0e lay there helplessly and loo#ed up at the "eiling$ %t was spinning$ The bathtub was going round in a "ir"le$ 0e felt it s"rape against the wall. nudging up the stairs on the surging tide$ %t rea"hed the doorway$ For a moment it stu"#. wedged there 8 but the "urrent was too strong for it$ 4ith a last s"rape and a bang. the bath tub full of "ats shot out into the yard$ The "ats sat up in their tin boat and stared$ For the yard was now a la#e1 a dar#. oily7loo#ing. seething la#e. adrift with empty "risp pa"#ets and plasti" "ups. dead lea es and dead rats$ )nd they "ould still hear the thunder of the water wheel. its sound une en now$ %t was at the mer"y of the newly raging ri er$ &ob shi ered$ *4here has all this water "ome from5- he wondered$ *The slui"e gate must ha e burst.- said Spindle hoarsely$ She sounded s"ared$ *%t/s happened before$ % heard )lfie tal# about it$ The whole ri er flowed into the mill$*The >reat Flood.- whispered +enny$ *4here/s )lfie5 ;o you thin# he/s safe5*4ho "ares5 #ere all right.- said Loom$ *% wouldn/t be so sure.- groaned Spindle$ The bath spun round again as the flood "arried it a"ross the yard$ The turnstile had bro#en1 there was a gap where it on"e used to be$ )nd the torrent of dirty water was surging through it$ The "ats "owered in the bottom of the bath as it was buffeted through the gap and tossed past the tattered awnings of the #ios#$ %t s#ittered out on the swirling flood. spinning li#e a top$ ;i''y and distressed. the "ats yowled in fear$

)t last the wild spinning and ro"#ing of the bath began to slow$ &ob re"o ered enough to peer o er its rim$ 4hat he saw astonished him$ *That/s the mill pond, &ut it/s hu e! 4here ha e its ban#s gone5For the mill pond had swollen to the si'e of a small la#e$ The water lapped right up to the fen"e of the white bungalow$ *% feel si"#.- moaned Loom$ *Can/t you stop us going round and round5 This is all your fault. &obbins,) grey paw shot out and #no"#ed Loom o er$ Spindle hissed at him fero"iously$ *&e (uiet. you big useless lump, %t was &ob who sa ed us$ 4hat did you do e!"ept yowl in fright5 )nd % wasn/t mu"h better$ %t/s than#s to &ob that we/re not at the bottom of that.- She fli"#ed her tail at the pond$ Loom lay in the tin bath staring at her with his mouth open$ *4ell5- said Spindle. standing o er him$ *Say thank you$ %o&,*Than# you. &ob.- Loom mumbled$ *That/s all right.- said &ob$ 0e was ga'ing out to see where they might land$ The bath tub was still re ol ing slowly. so that the world swept past him$ *0owe er did you learn to swim5- as#ed +enny$ *% taught myself$ % "opied a ole % saw swimming o er there$- 0e pointed at the far side of the pond$ )nd then he saw them$ Three figures1 humans. standing by the fen"e. 9ust abo e the waterline. wa ing at them$ >wen and )lfie. and a smaller figure. with a fu'' of orange hair. who was 9umping up and down$ The bath spun round again. but now it was drifting "loser$ ) few moments later. it was "lose enough to shore for )lfie to wade out and "at"h it$ *4ell. bless my soul, Four "ats in a tin tub, 4ho would ha e belie ed it5 % thought you must all ha e drowned 8 and % "ouldn/t get into the basement to find out,)lfie began to pull the tub towards the shore$ *The "ats are safe,- he "alled$ *Than# hea ens.- said >wen$ *0owe er did they manage it5*>oodness #nows$ >et some blan#ets, They/re "old and wet$*)re they all there5 )ll four5- "ried the smallest person an!iously$

)lfie did not answer$ 0e was breathless with tugging the tin bath ba"# to land$ &ut &ob "ould not wait$ 0e s"rambled to the bath7tub/s edge and di ed o erboard$ This time there was barely any "urrent. and he swam strongly and "onfidently towards the shore$$$ $$$towards the hands that rea"hed out for him. s"ooped him up and "uddled him. all dripping as he was$ ) fri'' of orange hair bent o er him as Flossie #issed him on the nose$ *Oh. &ob. you "le er "at,- she said$ *?ou really are the bra est. "le erest "at of all,T0E E:; Than# you for reading %o&&ins. %f you en9oyed this story. you "an find more boo#s by Emma Laybourn at all good eboo# retailers$ Or please isit Emma/s website www$megamouseboo#s$"om CCC

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