“Are you sure you don’t want some more cheese?”
Lady Mabel Catterton was one who loved to share of the bounty that was the larder at the Catterton home, in a luxurious hedge facing the Arabian Sea. But even Fred Dombeycat, who was no slouch when it came to the consumption of such bounties, had stuffed himself beyond catpacity (that elusive state of having eaten so much that even a fresh tuna does not tempt you any more).
“I…simply could not, Lady Mabel,” said Fred, pawing his collar.
“Are you quite sure, old boy?” asked Sir Alfred, indulgently sitting on his back paws, adjusting his hat so it fell over his right ear. Lady Mab, who often disapproved her husband’s fashion choices, clicked her tongue, but refrained from smacking him on the nose before his young friend.
“Quite sure, Sir Alfred,” replied Fred, and began licking his paws to show he had truly finished.
“Something wrong, eh? You only ate three shawarma’s and four cheese-and-tuna sandwiches.”
“It’s Old Felinity,” confessed Fred, sighing into his fur.
“What did that scoundrel do now?” wondered Sir Alfred, licking the whipped cream that Lady Mabel had set on a plate before him.
“Oh he still refuses to let Felicia marry me. It’s ridiculous, is what it is! I showed him I have a good job, a steady income and can afford a place near the fish market in Dombey Valley. What more can a tomcat do!”
Sir Alfred narrowed his eyes and looked at his young friend. If he had not been a cat, the expression would have been construed as a shrewd one, but since cats almost always look shrewd anyway, Fred did not really notice it.
“You could get into Parliament,” Sir Alfred said at last.
“I could…what?” said Fred, falling off the bench they had been having dinner on. He landed on his feet, of course, and Sir Alfred kept silent till Fred had made the leap back onto the bench, missed his grip, and then made a successful attempt.
“Nothing adds to a lad’s prestige like the letters 'MP' after his name. There’s a general election coming up, and we need good cats, cats of character and intelligence, to take their seats in Parliament and bring down this horrible Home-cat government.” Sir Alfred hissed as he ended, and Fred looked on, amazed. That Sir Alfred was a big cat in politics Fred knew, but had assumed it was due to his family name – and the fact that he was son-in-law of such a heavyweight as Lord Cataganet Pouncer, who virtually ran the Aristocratic Party.
On the other hand, the Home-cat government had been an unmitigated disaster. Prices of fish had gone up, working cats had found it harder and harder to make ends meet, while Home-cats continued to accumulate wealth and human slaves. The ban on eating goldfish had been the most glaring show of power for its own sake, but other things had happened too. There were the suspicious murders of dogs who had sat for the kattze-gruben exams. The installation of Simia Lynxer as Minister of Mouse-hunting when it was well-known she had never killed a mouse in her life. Worst of all was the disdain the Home-cats showed for both the street-cats like Fred himself, as well as the old aristocracy like Sir Alfred.
Yes, even Fred, though not a political cat, had often felt the old government, easy-going and inefficient as it had been, might have been an improvement.
“Very well, Sir Alfred, tell me what I must do,” said young Fred, bowing his head.
Three months later, when the results of the Elections were called, Fred Dombeycat found himself the new MP from Borry Valley. Three months and one day later, he found out that the candidate from the home-cat party he had defeated was a dear, dear friend of the cat he had hoped to make his father-in-law.
“He will never let us marry now!” said poor Felicia, a black-and-white Batman-cat, placing her paws in Fred’s, as they sat in the Three Manx’s Hotel, behind the Pretty Kitty club.
“Oh, little did I know when Sir Alfred proposed…” Fred’s meow trailed off menacingly.
“What’s that feller done now?” The gruff meow belonged to Comrade Katnakoff, who had stopped in for a cup of tea before going to the club.
Through mournful hiccups, Fred and Felecia told their tale of woe, and before the end, the Comrade’s tail-fur was standing on end with anger.
“Of course he knew he was sabotaging your life forever! Catterton always knows what’s what! Don’t you worry, Fred. I may not be able to do anything about your romantic situation, but I shall ensure Sir Alfred gets his just desserts!”
That night, Sir Alfred found himself surrounded by a group of four very tough-looking mogs as he made his way from his home to the Club. A rude shock, for Sir Alfred had wanted to celebrate the gains made by the Aristocratic Party in the election. Indeed, they had not won a majority, but that had been too much to hope for. The home-cats had been thrown into a minority though, and that was something, though they were still the largest party.
“Play with the life of a young working-class cat for your political ends, will you?” he heard the Comrade’s voice, menacing as ever, from under a bush.
“Nothing of the sort!” protested Sir Alfred.
“We will see about that. Teach this excrescence on society a lesson, boys!”
Sir Alfred jumped and turned and ran, chased by the mogs. He gained quickly at first, but years of easy living had left the Baronet of Catterton unable to sustain his pace for long. The mogs were hungry and fit, as indeed, most of the cats of the Communist Party tended to be, used as they were to life on the streets and feeding off scraps. As for the Comrade, he may have been twice Sir Alfred’s age, but was also twice as fit.
By the time they were at Green Park Hotel, his tail had been nipped at twice, and a slash had taken off some of his precious fur. That was when he had the idea – the IDEA that would change Cat Politics forever.
“STOP!” he shouted. “Comrade, we need to talk.”
“What’s to talk about?” growled Katnakoff, whiskers bristling, paw raised to swipe the fur off Sir Alfred’s face.
“How would you like to form a government together? You know as well as I do the Home-cats cannot be allowed another term.”
Comrade Katnakoff stayed his paw.
“I see you’re listening. Now put that paw away, Comrade. You don’t want to start this new innings of collaboration by swiping your next Prime Minister’s son-in-law, do you?”
“Oh, you will be that, will you?” asked Katnakoff, but he dropped his paw.
“Besides, we both want to help Fred,” finished Sir Alfred. “And if we form a government, we can give him a Junior Minister-ship or something. Even an ass like Felinity can’t deny Dombeycat once he’s a Junior Minister. Come now, put your MP’s behind Lord Pouncer’s, and there’s nothing we can’t do! We will be a team!”
And thus was the second step – or paw - towards the great Communist-Aristocratic Team Government taken.