Grassus had evicted Max from the kitchen earlier in the day. ‘It’s going to be hectic in here today,’ said the cook. ‘The last thing we need is people tripping over you when they’re carrying hot things, so you’ll have to make yourself scarce until this dinner party’s over.’
Max had gazed up at Grassus, a bit bewildered. Where was he supposed to go?
‘Come on, scoot, out of here,’ insisted the cook, gently pushing the large cat towards the door with the end of his broom, as he swept the floor. ‘You can come back again tonight after all the work’s finished.’
Max hovered in the doorway, looking up and down the corridor uncertainly. Which way? He had absolutely no idea where he could spend the day, safe from discovery. He set out across the peristylium. Ah, fresh air after the smoky kitchen – that was rather nice. It was a bit hot out in the sun though! He ambled over to the fountain in the centre of the garden and stood up on his hind legs so he could lean in for a drink of the cool, tumbling water. A sudden shout made him leap out of his skin and he almost fell into the small pool.
‘Hey! Furcifer! Leave those fish alone, you scoundrel! How did you get in here anyway?’
Max turned to see the steward, Sabinus, bearing down on him with a furious expression on his face. What fish? He wasn’t touching any fish. He hadn’t even noticed the goldfish and wouldn’t have tried to catch them if he had – he wasn’t really into that sort of thing.
‘I don’t know who let you in the house, my friend, but you’re heading straight back out,’ said Sabinus, grabbing a surprised Max by the scruff of the neck. ‘By Jupiter, how many of those goldfish have you eaten? You weigh a ton.’ He marched through the villa with Max dangling from his outstretched arms. ‘Open the door, Janus!’ The old doorkeeper shuffled out of his cubby hole and began sliding back the bolts. As soon as the door was open, the steward flung the bewildered cat out on to the pavement. ‘And don’t come back!’
Slightly dazed, Max picked himself up, staring at the front door which was now well and truly locked, barred and bolted. It had all happened so fast he still couldn’t quite take it in.
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