Chapter 1: The Visitors Gareth was a black cat with orange eyes. Sometimes, when he hunched his shoulders and put down his ears, he looked like an owl. When he stretched, he looked like a trickle of oil or a pair of black silk pajamas. When he sat on a window ledge, his eyes half-shut and his tail curled around him, he looked like a secret. He belonged to a boy named Jason, who loved him and believed Gareth could do anything in the world. As things turned out, Jason was right-not entirely, but almost. It happened this way. In the middle of a sunny afternoon, Jason sat in his room on the end of his bed, with his chin in his hands, and wished the past five minutes had never happened. Downstairs, in that space of time, he had accomplished the following: 1. Spilled paint on the dining-room table. 2. Dropped his model airplane and stepped on it. 3. Coated the inside of one pocket of his jacket with glue, when the tube he had been saving for emergencies had come uncapped. 4. Torn his shirt. 5. Punched his younger brother in the ribs for laughing at him. 6. Talked back to his mother, who had not agreed his brother needed punching. 7. Begun to cry, a thing Jason despised because he considered himself too old for it. There had been other details he preferred to forget. In any case, he had been told to go to his room, which he did, feeling put down and miserably sorry for himself. Gareth, who had been drowsing on top of Jason's pillow, uncurled and climbed onto the boy's lap. Jason stroked the cat and ran his finger over Gareth's only white spot-on his chest, a T-shaped mark with a loop over the crossbar. "Lucky Gareth," Jason sighed, lying back and closing his eyes, "I wish I had nine lives." The cat stopped purring. "I wish I did, too," he said. Jason started up in surprise. Not because Gareth had spoken. Jason had always been sure he could if he wanted to. It was what Gareth had said. "You mean you really don't have nine lives?" Jason asked, disappointed. "I'm afraid not,' said the cat, in a very matter-of-fact way. "But, since you mention it, I'll tell you a secret. I only have one life. With a difference: I can visit." "Visit?" Jason said. "Yes," Gareth went on, "I can visit nine different lives. Anywhere, any time, any country, any century." "Oh, Gareth!" Jason clapped his hands. "Can all cats do that?" "Where do you think cats go when you're looking all over and can't find them?" Gareth replied. "And have you ever noticed a cat suddenly appear in a room when you were sure the room was empty? Or disappear, and you can't imagine where he went?" "And you've actually gone to a lot of different countries?" Jason asked. No, not yet," Gareth said. "I've been waiting for - oh, I don't know, a special occasion, you might say. I never saw much sense in just going as a tourist. It's better to wait until there's some important reason." "I guess you're right," Jason nodded. He looked over at Gareth. "I was wondering if you thought there might be a special occasion coming up soon?" "There might be" said Gareth. "Gareth, listen," Jason said eagerly, "if it were a special occasion and somebody else, somebody you liked, wanted very much to go, could you take him with you?" Gareth did not answer immediately. He began looking like an owl and stayed that way for a while. Finally, he said. "Yes, I suppose I could." "Would you take me?" Gareth was silent again. "I could take you with me," he said, after a moment, "but I have to warn you of this. You'd be on your own, you wouldn't have any kind of protection. Neither of us would. Naturally, I'd help you every way I could; we'd be able to talk to each other, but only when no one else was around. Aside from that, what happens, happens. And you couldn't change your mind in the middle. "Oh, there's something else. Whatever you did, you wouldn't dare be separated from me for any length of time. Otherwise, you'd never see home again. Now, if you accept the conditions ... "Oh, Gareth, I accept!" "Are you sure?" the cat asked. "Think carefully." Jason nodded. "Very well," said the cat. "Look into my eyes." And he gave Jason a long, slow wink. copyright (c) Lloyd Alexander, 1963; Published by Puffin Books, a member of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers.