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Concerning Cats by Helen M. Winslow

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My Own and Some Others

By Helen M. Winslow

Editor of "The Club Woman"

To the



I Dedicate this Volume




_Concerning Cats_



She was such a Pretty Lady, and gentle withal; so quiet and eminently
ladylike in her behavior, and yet dignified and haughtily reserved as a
duchess. Still it is better, under certain circumstances, to be a cat
than to be a duchess. And no duchess of the realm ever had more faithful
retainers or half so abject subjects.

Do not tell me that cats never love people; that only places have real
hold upon their affections. The Pretty Lady was contented wherever I,
her most humble slave, went with her. She migrated with me from
boarding-house to sea-shore cottage; then to regular housekeeping; up to
the mountains for a summer, and back home, a long day's journey on the
railway; and her attitude was always "Wheresoever thou goest I will go,
and thy people shall be my people."

I have known, and loved, and studied many cats, but my knowledge of her
alone would convince me that cats love people--in their dignified,
reserved way, and when they feel that their love is not wasted; that
they reason, and that they seldom act from impulse.

I do not remember that I was born with an inordinate fondness for cats;
or that I cried for them as an infant. I do not know, even, that my
childhood was marked by an overweening pride in them; this, perhaps, was
because my cruel parents established a decree, rigid and unbending as
the laws of the Medes and Persians, that we must never have more than
one cat at a time. Although this very law may argue that predilection,
at an early age, for harboring everything feline which came in my way,
which has since become at once a source of comfort and distraction.

After a succession of feline dynasties, the kings and queens of which
were handsome, ugly, sleek, forlorn, black, white, deaf, spotted, and
otherwise marked, I remember fastening my affections securely upon one
kitten who grew up to be the ugliest, gauntest, and dingiest specimen I
ever have seen. In the days of his kittenhood I christened him "Tassie"
after his mother; but as time sped on, and the name hardly comported
with masculine dignity, this was changed to Tacitus, as more befitting
his sex. He had a habit of dodging in and out of the front door, which
was heavy, and which sometimes swung together before he was well out of
it. As a consequence, a caudal appendage with two broken joints was one
of his distinguishing features. Besides a broken tail, he had ears which
bore the marks of many a hard-fought battle, and an expression which for
general "lone and lorn"-ness would have discouraged even Mrs. Gummidge.
But I loved him, and judging from the disconsolate and long-continued
wailing with which he rilled the house whenever I was away, my affection
was not unrequited.

But my real thraldom did not begin until I took the Pretty Lady's
mother. We had not been a week in our first house before a handsomely
striped tabby, with eyes like beautiful emeralds, who had been the pet
and pride of the next-door neighbor for five years, came over and
domiciled herself. In due course of time she proudly presented us with
five kittens. Educated in the belief that one cat was all that was
compatible with respectability, I had four immediately disposed of,
keeping the prettiest one, which grew up into the beautiful,
fascinating, and seductive maltese "Pretty Lady," with white trimmings
to her coat. The mother of Pretty Lady used to catch two mice at a time,
and bringing them in together, lay one at my feet and say as plainly as
cat language can say, "There, you eat that one, and I'll eat this," and
then seem much surprised and disgusted that I had not devoured mine when
she had finished her meal.

We were occupying a furnished house for the summer, however, and as we
were to board through the winter, I took only the kitten back to town,
thinking the mother would return to her former home, just over the
fence. But no. For two weeks she refused all food and would not once
enter the other house. Then I went out for her, and hearing my voice she
came in and sat down before me, literally scolding me for a quarter of
an hour. I shall be laughed at, but actual tears stood in her lovely
green eyes and ran down her aristocratic nose, attesting her grief and
accusing me, louder than her wailing, of perfidy.

I could not keep her. She would not return to her old home. I finally
compromised by carrying her in a covered basket a mile and a half and
bestowing her upon a friend who loves cats nearly as well as I. But
although she was petted, and praised, and fed on the choicest of
delicacies, she would not be resigned. After six weeks of mourning, she
disappeared, and never was heard of more. Whether she sought a new and
more constant mistress, or whether, in her grief at my shameless
abandonment of her, she went to some lonely pier and threw herself off
the dock, will never be known. But her reproachful gaze and tearful
emerald eyes haunted me all winter. Many a restless night did I have to
reproach myself for abandoning a creature who so truly loved me; and in
many a dream did she return to heap shame and ignominy upon my repentant

This experience determined me to cherish her daughter, whom, rather, I
cherished as her son, until there were three little new-born kittens,
which in a moment of ignorance I "disposed of" at once. Naturally, the
young mother fell exceedingly ill. In the most pathetic way she dragged
herself after me, moaning and beseeching for help. Finally, I succumbed,
went to a neighbor's where several superfluous kittens had arrived the
night before, and begged one. It was a little black fellow, cold and
half dead; but the Pretty Lady was beside herself with joy when I
bestowed it upon her. For two days she would not leave the box where I
established their headquarters, and for months she refused to wean it,
or to look upon it as less than absolutely perfect. I may say that the
Pretty Lady lived to be nine years old, and had, during that brief
period, no less than ninety-three kittens, besides two adopted ones; but
never did she bestow upon any of her own offspring that wealth of pride
and affection which was showered upon black Bobbie.

When the first child of her adoption was two weeks old, I was ill one
morning, and did not appear at breakfast. It had always been her custom
to wait for my coming down in the morning, evidently considering it a
not unimportant part of her duty to see me well launched for the day.
Usually she sat at the head of the stairs and waited patiently until she
heard me moving about. Sometimes she came in and sat on a chair at the
head of my bed, or gently touched my face with her nose or paw. Although
she knew she was at liberty to sleep in my room, she seldom did so,
except when she had an infant on her hands. At first she invariably kept
him in a lower drawer of my bureau. When he was large enough, she
removed him to the foot of the bed, where for a week or two her maternal
solicitude and sociable habits of nocturnal conversation with her
progeny interfered seriously with my night's rest. If my friends used to
notice a wild and haggard appearance of unrest about me at certain
periods of the year, the reason stands here confessed.

I was ill when black Bobbie was two weeks old. The Pretty Lady waited
until breakfast was over, and as I did not appear, came up and jumped on
the bed, where she manifested some curiosity as to my lack of active
interest in the world's affairs.

"Now, pussy," I said, putting out my hand and stroking her back, "I'm
sick this morning. When you were sick, I went and got you a kitten.
Can't you get me one?"

This was all. My sister came in then and spoke to me, and the Pretty
Lady left us at once; but in less than two minutes she came back with
her cherished kitten in her mouth. Depositing him in my neck, she stood
and looked at me, as much as to say:--

"There, you can take him awhile. He cured me and I won't be selfish; I
will share him with you."

I was ill for three days, and all that time the kitten was kept with me.
When his mother wanted him, she kept him on the foot of the bed, where
she nursed, and lapped, and scrubbed him until it seemed as if she must
wear even his stolid nerves completely out. But whenever she felt like
going out she brought him up and tucked him away in the hollow of my
neck, with a little guttural noise that, interpreted, meant:--

"There, now you take care of him awhile. I'm all tired out. Don't wake
him up."

But when the infant had dropped soundly asleep, she invariably came back
and demanded him; and not only demanded, but dragged him forth from his
lair by the nape of the neck, shrieking and protesting, to the foot of
the bed again, where he was obliged to go through another course of
scrubbing and vigorous maternal attentions that actually kept his fur
from growing as fast as the coats of less devotedly cared-for kittens

When I was well enough to leave my room, she transferred him to my lower
bureau drawer, and then to a vantage-point behind an old lounge. But she
never doubted, apparently, that it was the loan of that kitten that
rescued me from an untimely grave.

I have lost many an hour of much-needed sleep from my cat's habit of
coming upstairs at four A.M. and jumping suddenly upon the bed; perhaps
landing on the pit of my stomach. Waking in that fashion, unsympathetic
persons would have pardoned me if I had indulged in injudicious
language, or had even thrown the cat violently from my otherwise
peaceful couch. But conscience has not to upbraid me with any of these
things. I flatter myself that I bear even this patiently; I remember to
have often made sleepy but pleasant remarks to the faithful little
friend whose affection for me and whose desire to behold my countenance
was too great to permit her to wait till breakfast time.

If I lay awake for hours afterward, perhaps getting nothing more than
literal "cat-naps," I consoled myself with remembering how Richelieu,
and Wellington, and Mohammed, and otherwise great as well as
discriminating persons, loved cats; I remembered, with some stirrings of
secret pride, that it is only the artistic nature, the truly aesthetic
soul that appreciates poetry, and grace, and all refined beauty, who
truly loves cats; and thus meditating with closed eyes, I courted
slumber again, throughout the breaking dawn, while the cat purred in
delight close at hand.

The Pretty Lady was evidently of Angora or coon descent, as her fur was
always longer and silkier than that of ordinary cats. She was fond of
all the family. When we boarded in Boston, we kept her in a front room,
two flights from the ground. Whenever any of us came in the front door,
she knew it. No human being could have told, sitting in a closed room in
winter, two flights up, the identity of a person coming up the steps and
opening the door. But the Pretty Lady, then only six months old, used to
rouse from her nap in a big chair, or from the top of a folding bed,
jump down, and be at the hall door ready to greet the incomer, before
she was halfway up the stairs. The cat never got down for the wrong
person, and she never neglected to meet any and every member of our
family who might be entering. The irreverent scoffer may call it
"instinct," or talk about the "sense of smell." I call it sagacity.

One summer we all went up to the farm in northern Vermont, and decided
to take her and her son, "Mr. McGinty," with us. We put them both in a
large market-basket and tied the cover securely. On the train Mr.
McGinty manifested a desire to get out, and was allowed to do so, a
stout cord having been secured to his collar first, and the other end
tied to the car seat. He had a delightful journey, once used to the
noise and motion of the train. He sat on our laps, curled up on the seat
and took naps, or looked out of the windows with evident puzzlement at
the way things had suddenly taken to flying; he even made friends with
the passengers, and in general amused himself as any other traveller
would on an all-day's journey by rail, except that he did not risk his
eyesight by reading newspapers. But the Pretty Lady had not travelled
for some years, and did not enjoy the trip as well as formerly; on the
contrary she curled herself into a round tight ball in one corner of the
basket till the journey's end was reached.

Once at the farm she seemed contented as long as I remained with her.
There was plenty of milk and cream, and she caught a great many mice.
She was far too dainty to eat them, but she had an inherent pleasure in
catching mice, just like her more plebeian sisters; and she enjoyed
presenting them to Mr. McGinty or me, or some other worthy object of her

She was at first afraid of "the big outdoors." The wide, wind-blown
spaces, the broad, sunshiny sky, the silence and the roominess of it
all, were quite different from her suburban experiences; and the farm
animals, too, were in her opinion curiously dangerous objects. Big Dan,
the horse, was truly a horrible creature; the rooster was a new and
suspicious species of biped, and the bleating calves objects of her
direst hatred.

The pig in his pen possessed for her the most horrid fascination. Again
and again would she steal out and place herself where she could see that
dreadful, strange, pink, fat creature inside his own quarters. She would
fix her round eyes widely upon him in blended fear and admiration. If
the pig uttered the characteristic grunt of his race, the Pretty Lady at
first ran swiftly away; but afterward she used to turn and gaze
anxiously at us, as if to say:--

"Do you hear that? Isn't this a truly horrible creature?" and in other
ways evince the same sort of surprise that a professor in the Peabody
Museum might, were the skeleton of the megatherium suddenly to accost
him after the manner peculiar to its kind.

It was funnier, even, to see Mr. McGinty on the morning after his
arrival at the farm, as he sallied forth and made acquaintance with
other of God's creatures than humans and cats, and the natural enemy of
his kind, the dog. In his suburban home he had caught rats and captured
on the sly many an English sparrow. When he first investigated his new
quarters on the farm, he discovered a beautiful flock of very large
birds led by one of truly gorgeous plumage.

"Ah!" thought Mr. McGinty, "this is a great and glorious country, where
I can have such birds as these for the catching. Tame, too. I'll have
one for breakfast."

So he crouched down, tiger-like, and crept carefully along to a
convenient distance and was preparing to spring, when the large and
gorgeous bird looked up from his worm and remarked:--

"Cut-cut-cut, ca-dah-cut!" and, taking his wives, withdrew toward the

Mr. McGinty drew back amazed. "This is a queer bird," he seemed to say;
"saucy, too. However, I'll soon have him," and he crept more carefully
than before up to springing distance, when again this most gorgeous bird
drew up and exclaimed, with a note of annoyance:--

"Cut-cut-cut, ca-dah-cut! What ails that old cat, anyway?" And again he
led his various wives barn-ward.

Mr. McGinty drew up with a surprised air, and apparently made a cursory
study of the leading anatomical features of this strange bird; but he
did not like to give up, and soon crouched and prepared for another
onslaught. This time Mr. Chanticleer allowed the cat to come up close to
his flock, when he turned and remarked in the most amicable manner,
"Cut-cut-cut-cut!" which interpreted seemed to mean: "Come now; that's
all right. You're evidently new here; but you'd better take my advice
and not fool with me."

Anyhow, with this, down went McGinty's hope of a bird breakfast "to the
bottom of the sea," and he gave up the hunt. He soon made friends,
however, with every animal on the place, and so endeared himself to the
owners that he lived out his days there with a hundred acres and more as
his own happy hunting-ground.

Not so, the Pretty Lady. I went away on a short visit after a few weeks,
leaving her behind. From the moment of my disappearance she was uneasy
and unhappy. On the fifth day she disappeared. When I returned and found
her not, I am not ashamed to say that I hunted and called her
everywhere, nor even that I shed a few tears when days rolled into weeks
and she did not appear, as I realized that she might be starving, or
have suffered tortures from some larger animal.

There are many remarkable stories of cats who find their way home across
almost impossible roads and enormous distances. There is a saying,
believed by many people, "You can't lose a cat," which can be proved by
hundreds of remarkable returns. But the Pretty Lady had absolutely no
sense of locality. She had always lived indoors and had never been
allowed to roam the neighborhood. It was five weeks before we found
trace of her, and then only by accident. My sister was passing a field
of grain, and caught a glimpse of a small creature which she at first
thought to be a woodchuck. She turned and looked at it, and called
"Pussy, pussy," when with a heart-breaking little cry of utter delight
and surprise, our beloved cat came toward her. From the first, the wide
expanse of the country had confused her; she had evidently "lost her
bearings" and was probably all the time within fifteen minutes' walk of
the farm-house.

When found, she was only a shadow of herself, and for the first and only
time in her life we could count her ribs. She was wild with delight, and
clung to my sister's arms as though fearing to lose her; and in all the
fuss that was made over her return, no human being could have showed
more affection, or more satisfaction at finding her old friends again.

That she really was lost, and had no sense of locality to guide her
home, was proven by her conduct after she returned to her Boston home. I
had preceded my sister, and was at the theatre on the evening when she
arrived with the Pretty Lady. The latter was carried into the kitchen,
taken from her basket, and fed. Then, instead of going around the house
and settling herself in her old home, she went into the front hall which
she had left four months before, and seated herself on the spot where
she always watched and waited when I was out. When I came home at
eleven, I saw through the screen door her "that was lost and is found."
She had been waiting to welcome me for three mortal hours.

I wish those people who believe cats have no affection for people could
have seen her then. She would not leave me for an instant, and
manifested her love in every possible way; and when I retired for the
night, she curled up on my pillow and purred herself contentedly to
sleep, only rising when I did. After breakfast that first morning after
her return, she asked to be let out of the back door, and made me
understand that I must go with her. I did so, and she explored every
part of the back yard, entreating me in the same way she called her
kittens to keep close by her. She investigated our own premises
thoroughly and then crept carefully under the fences on either side into
the neighbor's precincts where she had formerly visited in friendly
fashion; then she came timidly back, all the time keeping watch that she
did not lose me. Having finished her tour of inspection, she went in and
led me on an investigating trip all through the house, smelling of every
corner and base-board, and insisting that every closet door should be
opened, so that she might smell each closet through in the same way.
When this was done, she settled herself in one of her old nooks for a
nap and allowed me to leave.

But never again did she go out of sight of the house. For more than a
year she would not go even into a neighbor's yard, and when she finally
decided that it might be safe to crawl under the fences on to other
territory, she invariably turned about to sit facing the house, as
though living up to a firm determination never to lose sight of it
again. This practice she kept up until at the close of her last mortal
sickness, when she crawled into a dark place under a neighboring barn
and said good-by to earthly fears and worries forever.

_Requiescat in pace_, my Pretty Lady. I wish all your sex had your
gentle dignity, and grace, and beauty, to say nothing of your
faithfulness and affection. Like Mother Michel's "Monmouth," it may be
said of you:--

"She was merely a cat,
But her Sublime Virtues place her on a level with
The Most Celebrated Mortals,
In Ancient Egypt
Altars would have been Erected to her



"Oh, what a lovely cat!" is a frequent expression from visitors or
passers-by at our house. And from the Pretty Lady down through her
various sons and daughters to the present family protector and head,
"Thomas Erastus," and the Angora, "Lady Betty," there have been some
beautiful creatures.

Mr. McGinty was a solid-color maltese, with fur like a seal for
closeness and softness, and with the disposition of an angel. He used to
be seized with sudden spasms of affection and run from one to another of
the family, rubbing his soft cheeks against ours, and kissing us
repeatedly. This he did by taking gentle little affectionate nips with
his teeth. I used to give him a certain caress, which he took as an
expression of affection. After leaving him at the farm I did not see him
again for two years. Then on a short visit, I asked for Mr. McGinty and
was told that he was in a shed chamber. I found him asleep in a box of
grain and took him out; he looked at me through sleepy eyes, turned
himself over and stretched up for the old caress. As nobody ever gave
him that but me, I take this as conclusive proof that he not only knew
me, but remembered my one peculiarity.

Then there was old Pomp, called "old" to distinguish him from the young
Pomp of to-day, or "Pompanita." He died of pneumonia at the age of three
years; but he was the handsomest black cat--and the blackest--I have
ever seen. He had half a dozen white hairs under his chin; but his
blackness was literally like the raven's wing. Many handsome black cats
show brown in the strong sunlight, or when their fur is parted. But old
Pomp's fur was jet black clear through, and in the sunshine looked as if
he had been made up of the richest black silk velvet, his eyes,
meanwhile, being large and of the purest amber. He weighed some fifteen
pounds, and that somebody envied us the possession of him was evident,
as he was stolen two or three times during the last summer of his life.
But he came home every time; only when Death finally stole him, we had
no redress.

"Bobinette," the black kitten referred to in the previous chapter, also
had remarkably beautiful eyes. We used to keep him in ribbons to match,
and he knew color, too, perfectly well. For instance, if we offered him
a blue or a red ribbon, he would not be quiet long enough to have it
tied on; but show him a yellow one, and he would prance across the room,
and not only stand still to have it put on, but purr and evince the
greatest pride in it.

Bobinette had another very pretty trick of playing with the
tape-measure. He used to bring it to us and have it wound several times
around his body; then he would "chase himself" until he got it off, when
he would bring it back and ask plainly to have it wound round him again.
After a little we noticed he was wearing the tape-measure out, and so we
tried to substitute it with an old ribbon or piece of cotton tape. But
Bobinette would have none of them. On the contrary, he repeatedly
climbed on to the table and to the work-basket, and hunted patiently for
his tape-measure, and even if it were hidden in a pocket, he kept up the
search until he unearthed it; and he would invariably end by dragging
forth that particular tape-measure and bringing it to us. I need not say
that his intelligence was rewarded.

Speaking of colors, a friend has a cat that is devoted to blue. When she
puts on a particularly pretty blue gown, the cat hastens to get into her
lap, put her face down to the material, purr, and manifest the greatest
delight; but let the same lady put on a black dress, and the cat will
not come near her.

"Pompanita," the second Pomp in our dynasty, is a fat and billowy black
fellow, now five years old and weighing nineteen pounds. He was the last
of the Pretty Lady's ninety-three children. Only a few of this vast
progeny, however, grew to cat-hood, as she was never allowed to keep
more than one each season. The Pretty Lady, in fact, came to regard this
as the only proper method. On one occasion I had been away all day. When
I got home at night the housekeeper said, "Pussy has had five kittens,
but she won't go near them." When the Pretty Lady heard my voice, she
came and led the way to the back room where the kittens were in the
lower drawer of an unused bureau, and uttered one or two funny little
noises, intimating that matters were not altogether as they should be,
according to established rules of propriety. I understood, abstracted
four of the five kittens, and disappeared. When I came back she had
settled herself contentedly with the remaining kitten, and from that
time on was a model mother.

Pompanita the Good has all the virtues of a good cat, and absolutely no
vices. He loves us all and loves all other cats as well. As for
fighting, he emulates the example of that veteran who boasts that during
the war he might always be found where the shot and shell were the
thickest,--under the ammunition wagon. Like most cats he has a decided
streak of vanity. My sister cut a wide, fancy collar, or ruff, of white
paper one day, and put it on Pompanita. At first he felt much abashed
and found it almost impossible to walk with it. But a few words of
praise and encouragement changed all that.

"Oh, what a pretty Pomp he is now!" exclaimed one and another, until he
sat up coyly and cocked his head one side as if to say:--

"Oh, now, do you really think I look pretty?" and after a few more
assurances he got down and strutted as proudly as any peacock; much to
the discomfiture of the kitten, who wanted to play with him. And now he
will cross the yard any time to have one of those collars on.

But Thomas Erastus is the prince of our cats to-day. He weighs seventeen
pounds, and is a soft, grayish-maltese with white paws and breast. One
Saturday night ten years ago, as we were partaking of our regular Boston
baked beans, I heard a faint mew. Looking down I saw beside me the
thinnest kitten I ever beheld. The Irish girl who presided over our
fortunes at the time used to place the palms of her hands together and
say of Thomas's appearance, "Why, mum, the two sides of 'im were just
like that." I picked him up, and he crawled pathetically into my neck
and cuddled down.

"There," said a friend who was sitting opposite, "he's fixed himself
now. You'll keep him."

"No, I shall not," I said, "but I will feed him a few days and give him
to my cousin." Inside half an hour, however, Thomas Erastus had assumed
the paternal air toward us that soon made us fear to lose him. Living
without Thomas now would be like a young girl's going out without a
chaperone. After that first half-hour, when he had been fed, he chased
every foreign cat off the premises, and assumed the part of a watch-dog.
To this day he will sit on the front porch or the window-sill and growl
if he sees a tramp or suspicious character approaching. He always goes
into the kitchen when the market-man calls, and orders his meat; and at
exactly five o'clock in the afternoon, when the meat is cut up and
distributed, leads the feline portion of the family into the kitchen.

Thomas knows the time of day. For six months he waked up one housekeeper
at exactly seven o'clock in the morning, never varying two minutes. He
did this by seating himself on her chest and gazing steadfastly in her
face. Usually this waked her, but if she did not yield promptly to that
treatment he would poke her cheeks with the most velvety of paws until
she awoke. He has a habit now of going upstairs and sitting opposite the
closed door of the young man who has to rise hours before the rest of us
do, and waiting until the door is opened for him. How he knows at what
particular moment each member of the family will wake up and come forth
is a mystery, but he does.

How do cats tell the hour of day, anyway? The old Chinese theory that
they are living clocks is, in a way, borne out by their own conduct. Not
only have my cats shown repeatedly that they know the hour of rising of
every member of the family, but they gather with as much regularity as
the ebbing of the tides, or the setting of the sun, at exactly five
o'clock in the afternoon for their supper. They are given a hearty
breakfast as soon as the kitchen fire is started in the morning. This
theoretically lasts them until five. I say theoretically, because if
they wake from their invariable naps at one, and smell lunch, they
individually wheedle some one into feeding them. But this is only
individually. Collectively they are fed at five.

They are the most methodical creatures in the world. They go to bed
regularly at night when the family does. They are waiting in the kitchen
for breakfast when the fire is started in the morning. Then they go out
of doors and play, or hunt, or ruminate until ten o'clock, when they
come in, seek their favorite resting-places, and sleep until four.
Evidently, from four to five is a play hour, and the one who wakes first
is expected to stir up the others. But at exactly five, no matter where
they may have strayed to, every one of the three, five, or seven (as the
number may happen to be) will be sitting in his own particular place in
the kitchen, waiting with patient eagerness for supper. For each has a
particular place for eating, just as bigger folk have their places at
the dining table. Thomas Erastus sits in a corner; the space under the
table is reserved especially for Jane. Pompanita is at his mistress's
feet, and Lady Betty, the Angora, bounds to her shoulder when their meat
appears. Their table manners are quite irreproachable also. It is
considered quite unpardonable to snatch at another's piece of meat, and
a breach of the best cat-etiquette to show impatience while another is
being fed.

I do not pretend to say that this is entirely natural. They are taught
these things as kittens, and since cats are as great sticklers for
propriety and gentle manners as any human beings can be, they never
forget it. Doubtless, this is easier because they are always well fed,
but Thomas Erastus or Jane would have to be on the verge of starvation,
I am sure, before they would "grab" from one of the other cats. And as
for the Pretty Lady, it was always necessary to see that she was
properly served. She would not eat from a dish with other cats, or,
except in extreme cases, from one they had left. Indeed, she was
remarkable in this respect. I have seen her sit on the edge of a table
where chickens were being dressed and wait patiently for a tidbit; I
have seen her left alone in the room, while on that table was a piece of
raw steak, but no temptation was ever great enough to make her touch any
of these forbidden things. She actually seemed to have a conscience.

Only one thing on the dining table would she touch. When she was two or
three months old, she somehow got hold of the table-napkins done up in
their rings. These were always to her the most delightful playthings in
the world. As a kitten, she would play with them by the hour, if not
taken away, and go to sleep cuddled affectionately around them. She got
over this as she grew older; but when her first kitten was two or three
months old, remembering the jolly times she used to have, she would
sneak into the dining room and get the rolled napkins, carry them in her
mouth to her infant, and endeavor with patient anxiety to show him how
to play with them. Throughout nine years of motherhood she went through
the same performance with every kitten she had. They never knew what to
do with the napkins, or cared to know, and would have none of them. But
she never got discouraged. She would climb up on the sideboard, or into
the china closet, and even try to get into drawers where the napkins
were laid away in their rings. If she could get hold of one, she would
carry it with literal groans and evident travail of spirit to her
kitten, and by further groans and admonitions seem to say:--

"Child, see this beautiful plaything I have brought you. This is a part
of your education; it is just as necessary for you to know how to play
with this as to poke your paw under the closet door properly. Wake up,
now, and play with it."

Sometimes, when the table was laid over night, we used to hear her
anguished groans in the stillness of the night. In the morning every
napkin belonging to the family would be found in a different part of the
house, and perhaps a ring would be missing. These periods, however, only
lasted as long, in each new kitten's training, as the few weeks that she
had amused herself with them at their age. Then she would drop the
subject, and napkins had no further interest than the man in the moon
until another kitten arrived at the age when she considered them a
necessary part of his education.

Professor Shaler in his interesting book on the intelligence of animals
gives the cat only the merest mention, intimating that he considers them
below par in this respect, and showing little real knowledge of them. I
wish he might have known the Pretty Lady.

Once our Lady Betty had four little Angora kittens. She was probably the
most aristocratic cat in the country, for she kept a wet nurse. Poor
Jane, of commoner strain, had two small kittens the day after the Angora
family appeared. Jane's plebeian infants promptly disappeared, but she
took just as promptly to the more aristocratic family and fulfilled the
duties of nurse and maid. Both cats and four kittens occupied the same
bureau drawer, and when either cat wanted the fresh air she left the
other in charge; and there was a tacit understanding between them that
the fluffy, fat babies must never be left alone one instant. Four small
and lively kittens in the house are indeed things of beauty, and a joy
as long as they last. Four fluffy little Angora balls they were Chin,
Chilla, Buffie, and Orange Pekoe, names that explain their color. And
Jane, wet nurse and waiting-maid, had to keep as busy as the old woman
that lived in a shoe. Jane it was who must look after the infants when
Lady Betty wished to leave the house. Jane it was who must scrub the
furry quartet until their silky fur stood up in bunches the wrong way
all over their chubby little sides; Jane must sleep with them nights,
and be ready to furnish sustenance at any moment of day or night; and
above all, Jane must watch them anxiously and incessantly in waking
hours, uttering those little protesting murmurs of admonition which
mother cats deem so necessary toward the proper training of kittens.
And, poor Jane! As lady's maid she must bathe Lady Betty's brow every
now and then, as the more finely strung Angora succumbed to the nervous
strain of kitten-rearing, and she turned affectionately to Jane for
comfort. A prettier sight, or a more profitable study of the love of
animals for each other was never seen than Lady Betty, her infants, and
her nurse-maid. And yet, there are people who pronounce cats stupid.

One evening I returned from the theatre late and roused up the four
fluffy kittens, who, seeing the gas turned on, started in for a frolic.
The lady mother did not approve of midnight carousals on the part of
infants, and protested with mild wails against their joyful caperings.
Finally, Orange Pekoe got into the closet and Lady Betty pursued him.
But suddenly a strange odor was detected. Sitting on her haunches she
smelled all over the bottom of the skirt which had just been hung up,
stopping every few seconds to utter a little worried note of warning to
the kittens. The infants, however, displayed a quite human disregard of
parental authority and gambolled on unconcernedly under the skirt;
reminding one of the old New England primer style of tales, showing how
disobedient children flaunt themselves in the face of danger, despite
the judicious advice of their elders. Lady Betty could do nothing with
them, and grew more nervous and worried every minute in consequence.
Suddenly she bethought herself of that never-failing source of strength
and comfort, Jane. She went into the next room, and, although I had not
heard a sound, returned in a moment with the maltese. Jane was ushered
into the closet, and soon scented out the skirt. Then she too sat on her
haunches and gave a long, careful sniff, turned round and uttered one
"purr-t-t," and took the Angora off with her. Jane had discovered that
there was no element of danger in the closet, and had imparted her
knowledge to the finely strung Angora in an instant. And so, taking her
back to bed, she "bathed her brow" with gentle lappings until Lady Betty
sank off to quiet sleep, soothed and comforted.

It is not easy to study a cat. They are like sensitive plants, and shut
themselves instinctively away from the human being who does not care for
them. They know when a man or a woman loves them, almost before they
come into the human presence; and it is almost useless for the
unsympathetic person to try to study a cat. But the thousands who do
love cats know that they are the most individual animals in the world.
Dogs are much alike in their love for mankind, their obedience,
faithfulness, and, in different degrees, their sagacity. But there is as
much individuality in cats as in people.

Dogs and horses are our slaves; cats never. This does not prove them
without affection, as some people seem to think; on the contrary, it
proves their peculiar and characteristic dignity and self-respect.
Women, poets, and especially artists, like cats; delicate natures only
can realize their sensitive nervous systems.

The Pretty Lady's mother talked almost incessantly when she was in the
house. One of her habits was to get on the window-seat outside and
demand to be let in. If she was not waited upon immediately, she would,
when the door was finally opened, stop when halfway in and scold
vigorously. The tones of her voice and the expression of her face were
so exactly like those of a scolding, vixenish woman that she caused many
a hearty laugh by her tirades.

Thomas Erastus, however, seldom utters a sound, and at the rare
intervals when he condescends to purr, he can only be heard by holding
one's ear close to his great, soft sides. But he has the most remarkable
ways. He will open every door in the house from the inside; he will even
open blinds, getting his paw under the fastening and working patiently
at it, with his body on the blind itself, until the hook flies back and
it finally opens. One housekeeper trained him to eat his meat close up
in one corner of the kitchen. This custom he kept up after she went
away, until new and uncommonly frisky kittens annoyed him so that his
place was transferred to the top of an old table. When he got hungry in
those days, however, he used to go and crowd close up in his corner and
look so pathetically famished that food was generally forthcoming at
once. Thomas was formerly very much devoted to the lady who lived next
door, and was as much at home in her house as in ours. Her family rose
an hour or two earlier than ours in the morning, and their breakfast
hour came first. I should attribute Thomas's devotion to Mrs. T. to this
fact, since he invariably presented himself at her dining-room window
and wheedled her into feeding him, were it not that his affection seemed
just as strong throughout the day. It was interesting to see him go over
and rattle her screen doors, front, back, or side, knowing perfectly
well that he would bring some one to open and let him in.

Thomas has a really paternal air toward the rest of the family. One
spring night, as usual on retiring, I went to the back door to call in
the cats. Thomas Erastus was in my sister's room, but none of the others
were to be seen; nor did they come at once, evidently having strayed in
their play beyond the sound of my voice. Thomas, upstairs, heard my
continued call and tried for some time to get out. M. had shut her door,
thinking to keep in the one already safe. But the more I called, the
more persistently determined he became to get out. At last M. opened her
window and let him on to the sloping roof of the "L," from which he
could descend through a gnarled old apple tree. Meanwhile I left the
back door and went on with my preparations for the night. About ten
minutes later I went and called the cats again. It was a moonlight night
and I saw six delinquent cats coming in a flock across the open field
behind the house,--all marshalled by Mr. Thomas. He evidently hunted
them up and called them in himself; then he sat on the back porch and
waited until the last kit was safely in, before he stalked gravely in
with an air which said as plainly as words:--

"There, it takes _me_ to do anything with this family."

None of my cats would think of responding to the call of "Kitty, Kitty,"
or "Puss, Puss." They are early taught their names and answer to them.
Neither would one answer to the name of another, except in occasional
instances where jealousy prompts them to do so. We have to be most
careful when we go out of an evening, not to let Thomas Erastus get out
at the same time. In case he does, he will follow us either to the
railroad station or to the electric cars and wait in some near-by nook
until we come back. I have known him to sit out from seven until
midnight of a cold, snowy winter evening, awaiting our return from the
theatre. When we alight from the cars he is nowhere to be seen. But
before we have gone many steps, lo! Thomas Erastus is behind or beside
us, proudly escorting his mistresses home, but looking neither at them,
nor to the right or left. Not until he reaches the porch does he allow
himself to be petted. But on our way to the cars his attitude is
different. He is as frisky as a kitten. In vain do we try to "shoo" him
back, or catch him. He prances along, just out of reach, but
tantalizingly close; when we get aboard our car, we know he is safe in
some corner gazing sadly after us, and that no danger can drive him home
until we reappear.

Both Thomas and Pompanita take a deep interest in all household affairs,
although in this respect they do not begin to show the curiosity of the
Pretty Lady. Never a piece of furniture was changed in he house that she
did not immediately notice, the first time she came into the room
afterward; and she invariably jumped up on the article and thoroughly
investigated affairs before settling down again. Every parcel that came
in must be examined, and afterward she must lie on the paper or inside
the box that it came in, always doing this with great solemnity and
gazing earnestly out of her large, intelligent dark eyes. Toward the
close of her life she was greatly troubled at any unusual stir in the
household. She liked to have company, but nothing disturbed her more
than to have a man working in the cellar, putting in coal, cutting wood,
or doing such work. She used then to follow us uneasily about and look
earnestly up into our faces, as if to say:--

"Girls, this is not right. Everything is all upset here and 'a' the
world's gang agley.' Why don't you fix it?"

She was the politest creature, too. That was the reason of her name. In
her youth she was christened "Pansy"; then "Cleopatra," "Susan," "Lady
Jane Grey" and the "Duchess." But her manners were so punctiliously
perfect, and she was such a "pretty lady" always and everywhere;
moreover she had such a habit of sitting with her hands folded politely
across her gentle, lace-vandyked bosom that the only sobriquet that ever
clung was the one that expressed herself the most perfectly. She was in
every sense a "Pretty Lady." For years she ate with us at the table. Her
chair was placed next to mine, and no matter where she was or how
soundly she had been sleeping, when the dinner bell rang she was the
first to get to her seat. Then she sat patiently until I fixed a dainty
meal in a saucer and placed it in the chair beside her, when she ate it
in the same well-bred way she did everything.

Thomas Erastus hurt his foot one day. Rather he got it hurt during a
matutinal combat at which he was forced, being the head of the family,
to be present, although he is far above the midnight carousals of his
kind. Thomas Erastus sometimes loves to consider himself an invalid.
When his doting mistress was not looking, he managed to step off on that
foot quite lively, especially if his mortal enemy, a disreputable black
tramp, skulked across the yard. But let Thomas Erastus see a feminine
eye gazing anxiously at him through an open window, and he immediately
hobbled on three legs; then he would stop and sit down and assume so
pathetic an expression of patient suffering that the mistress's heart
would melt, and Thomas Erastus would find himself being borne into the
house and placed on the softest sofa. Once she caught him down cellar.
There is a window to which he has easy access, and where he can go in
and out a hundred times a day. Evidently he had planned to do so at that
moment. But seeing his fond mistress, he sat down on the cellar floor,
and with his most fetching expression gazed wistfully back and forth
from her to the window. And of course she picked him up carefully and
put him on the window ledge. Thomas Erastus has all the innocent guile
of a successful politician. He could manage things slicker than the
political bosses, an' he would.

One summer Thomas Erastus moved--an event of considerable importance in
his placid existence. He had to travel a short distance on the
steam-cars; and worse, he needs must endure the indignity of travelling
that distance in a covered basket. But his dignity would not suffer him
to do more than send forth one or two mournful wails of protest. After
being kept in his new house for a couple of days, he was allowed to go
out and become familiar with his surroundings--not without fear and
trepidation on the part of his doting mistress that he might make a bold
strike for his former home. But Thomas Erastus felt he had a mission to
perform for his race. He would disprove that mistaken theory that a cat,
no matter how kindly he is treated, cares more for places than for
people. Consequently he would not dream of going back to his old haunts.

No; he sat down in the front yard and took a long look at his
surroundings, the neighboring lots, a field of grass, a waving
corn-field. He had already convinced himself that the new house was
home, because in it were all the old familiar things, and he had been
allowed to investigate every bit of it and to realize what had happened.
So after looking well about him he made a series of tours of
investigation. First, he took a bee-line for the farthest end of the
nearest vacant lot; then he chose the corn-field; then the beautiful
broad grounds of the neighbor below; then across the street; but between
each of these little journeys he took a bee-line back to his
starting-point, sat down in front of the new house, and "got his
bearings," just as evidently as though he could have said out loud,
"This is my home and I mustn't lose it." In this way he convinced
himself that where he lives is the centre of the universe, and that the
world revolves around him. And he has since been as happy as a
cricket,--yea, happier, for death and destruction await the unfortunate
cricket where Thomas Erastus thrives.

But don't say a cat can't or won't be moved. It's your own fault if he



Every observing reader of Mrs. Harriet Prescott Spofford's stories knows
that she is fond of cats and understands them. Her heroines usually
have, among other feminine belongings and accessories, one or more cats.
"Four great Persian cats haunted her every footstep," she says of Honor,
in the "Composite Wife." "A sleepy, snowy creature like some
half-animated ostrich plume; a satanic thing with fiery eyes that to Mr.
Chipperley's perception were informed with the very bottomless flames;
another like a golden fleece, caressing, half human; and a little
mouse-colored imp whose bounds and springs and feathery tail-lashings
not only did infinite damage among the Venetian and Dresden
knick-knackerie, but among Mr. Chipperley's nerves."

In her beautiful, old-fashioned home at Newburyport, Mass., she has two
beloved cats. But I will not attempt to improve on her own account of

"As for my own cats,--their name has been legion, although a few remain
preeminent. There was Miss Spot who came to us already named, preferring
our domicile to the neighboring one she had. Her only son was so black
that he was known as Ink Spot, but her only daughter was so altogether
ideal and black, too, that she was known as Beauty Spot. Beauty Spot led
a sorrowful life, and was fortunately born clothed in black or her
mourning would have been expensive, as she was always in a bereaved
condition, her drowned offspring making a shoal in the Merrimac,
although she had always plenty left. She solaced herself with music. She
would never sit in any one's lap but mine, and in mine only when I sang;
and then only when I sang 'The Last Rose of Summer.' This is really
true. But she would spring into my husband's lap if he whistled. She
would leave her sleep reluctantly, start a little way, and retreat,
start and retreat again, and then give one bound and light on his knee
or his arm and reach up one paw and push it repeatedly across his mouth
like one playing the jew's-harp; I suppose to get at the sound. She
always went to walk with us and followed us wherever we went about the

"Lucifer and Phosphor have been our cats for the last ten years:
Lucifer, entirely black, Phosphor, as yellow as saffron, a real golden
fleece. My sister lived in town and going away for the summer left her
cat in a neighbor's care, and the neighbor moved away meanwhile and left
the cat to shift for herself. She went down to the apothecary's, two
blocks away or more. There she had a family of kittens, but apparently
came up to reconnoitre, for on my sister's return, she appeared with one
kitten and laid it down at Kate's feet; ran off, and in time came with
another which she left also, and so on until she had brought up the
whole household. Lucifer was one of them.

"He was as black as an imp and as mischievous as one. His bounds have
always been tremendous: from the floor to the high mantel, or to the top
of a tall buffet close under the ceiling. And these bounds of his,
together with a way he has of gazing into space with his soulful and
enormous yellow eyes, have led to a thousand tales as to his nightly
journeyings among the stars; hurting his foot slumping through the
nebula in Andromeda; getting his supper at a place in the milky way,
hunting all night with Orion, and having awful fights with Sirius. He
got his throat cut by alighting on the North Pole one night, coming down
from the stars. The reason he slumps through the nebula is on account of
his big feet; he has six toes (like the foot in George Augustus Sala's
drawing) and when he walks on the top of the piazza you would think it
was a burglar.

"Lucifer's Mephistophelian aspect is increased not only by those feet,
but by an arrow-pointed tail. He sucks his tail,--alas, and alas! In
vain have we peppered it, and pepper-sauced it, and dipped it in
Worcestershire sauce and in aloes, and done it up in curl papers, and
glued on it the fingers of old gloves. At last we gave it up in despair,
and I took him and put his tail in his mouth and told him to take his
pleasure,--and that is the reason, I suppose, that he attaches himself
particularly to me. He is very near-sighted with those magnificent orbs,
for he will jump into any one's lap, who wears a black gown, but jump
down instantly, and when he finds my lap curl down for a brief season.
But he is not much of a lap-loving cat. He puts up his nose and smells
my face all over in what he means for a caress, and is off. He is not a
large eater, although he has been known to help himself to a whole steak
at the table, being alone in the dining room; and when poultry are in
the larder he is insistent till satisfied. But he wants his breakfast
early. If the second girl, whose charge he is, does not rise in season,
he mounts two flights of stairs and seats himself on her chest until she
does rise. Then if she does not wait on him at once, he goes into the
drawing-room, and springs to the top of the upright piano, and
deliberately knocks off the bric-a-brac, particularly loving to
encounter and floor a brass dragon candlestick. Then he springs to the
mantel-shelf if he has not been seized and appeased, and repeats
operations, and has even carried his work of destruction around the room
to the top of a low bookcase and has proved himself altogether the wrong
sort of person in a china-shop.

"However, it is conceded in the family that Phosphor is not a cat
merely: he is a person, and Lucifer is a spirit. Lucifer seldom purrs--I
wonder if that is a characteristic of black cats?" [No; my black cats
fairly roar.] "A little thread of sound, and only now and then, when
very happy and loving, a rich, full strain. But Phosphor purrs like a
windmill, like an electric car, like a tea-kettle, like a whole boiled
dinner. When Phosphor came, Lucifer, six weeks her senior (Phosphor's
excellencies always incline one to say 'she' of him), thought the little
live yellow ball was made only for him to play with, and he cuffed and
tossed him around for all he was worth, licked him all over twenty times
a day, and slept with his arms about him. During those early years
Phosphor never washed himself, Lucifer took such care of him, and they
were a lovely sight in each other's arms asleep. But of late years a
coolness has intervened, and now they never speak as they pass by. They
sometimes go fishing together, Lucifer walking off majestically alone,
always dark, mysterious, reticent, intent on his own affairs, making you
feel that he has a sort of lofty contempt for yours. Sometimes, the mice
depositing a dead fish in the crannies of the rocks, Lucifer appears
with it in the twilight, gleaming silver-white in his jaws, and the
great eyes gleaming like fire-balls above it. Phosphor is, however, a
mighty hunter: mice, rats by the score, chipmunks,--all is game that
comes to his net. He has cleaned out whole colonies of catbirds (for
their insolence), and eaten every golden robin on the island.

"It used to be very pretty to see them, when they were little, as El
Mahdi, the peacock, spread his great tail, dart and spring upon it, and
go whirling round with it as El Mahdi, fairly frantic with the little
demons that had hold of him, went skipping and springing round and
round. But although so fierce a fighter, so inhospitable to every other
cat, Phosphor is the most affectionate little soul. He is still very
playful, though so large, and last summer to see him bounding on the
grass, playing with his tail, turning somersaults all by himself, was
quite worth while. When we first happened to go away in his early years
he wouldn't speak to us when we came back, he felt so neglected. I went
away for five months once, before Lucifer was more than a year old. He
got into no one's lap while I was gone, but the moment I sat down on my
return, he jumped into mine, saluted me, and curled himself down for a
nap, showing the plainest recognition. Now when one comes back, Phosphor
is wild with joy--always in a well-bred way. He will get into your arms
and on your shoulder and rub his face around, and before you know it his
little mouth is in the middle of your mouth as much like a kiss as
anything can be. Perhaps it isn't so well bred, but his motions are so
quick and perfect it seems so. When you let him in he curls into heaps
of joy, and fairly stands on his head sometimes. He is the most
responsive creature, always ready for a caress, and his wild, great
amber eyes beam love, if ever love had manifestation. His beauty is
really extraordinary; his tail a real wonder. Lucifer, I grieve to say,
looks very moth-eaten. Phosphor wore a bell for a short time once--a
little Inch-Cape Rock bell--but he left it to toll all winter in a tall
tree near the drawing-room window.

"A charm of cats is that they seem to live in a world of their own, just
as much as if it were a real dimension of space; and speaking of a
fourth dimension, I am living in the expectation that the new
discoveries in the matter of radiant energy will presently be revealing
to all our senses the fact that there is no death.

"We had some barn kittens once that lived in the hen-house, ate with the
hens, and quarrelled with them for any tidbit. They curled up in the egg
boxes and didn't move when the hens came to lay, and evidently had no
idea that they were not hens.

"Oh, there is no end to the cat situation. It began with the old fellow
who put his hand under the cat to lift her up, and she arched her back
higher and higher until he found it was the serpent Asgard, and it won't
end with you and me. I don't know but she _is_ the serpent Asgard.
I don't know if you have hypnotized or magnetized me, but I am writing
as if I had known you intimately all my life, and feel as though I had.
It is the freemasonry of cats. I always said they were possessed of
spirits, and they use white magic to bring their friends together."

Mrs. Spofford's "barn kittens" bring to mind an incident related by Mrs.
Wood, the beautiful wife of Professor C.G. Wood, of the Harvard Medical
School. At their summer place on Buzzard's Bay she has fifteen cats,
mostly Angoras, Persians, and coons, with several dogs. These cats
follow her all about the place in a regular troop, and a very handsome
troop they are, with their waving, plumy tails tipped gracefully over at
the ends as if saluting their superior officer. Among the dogs is a
spaniel named Gyp that is particularly friendly with the cats. There are
plenty of hens on the farm, and one spring a couple of bantams were
added to the stock. The cats immediately took a great fancy to these
diminutive bipeds, and watched them with the greatest interest. Finally
the little hen had a flock of chickens. As the weather was still cold,
the farmer put them upstairs in one of the barns, and every day Gyp
would take seven or eight of those cats up there to see the fluffy
little things. Dog and cats would seat themselves around the bantam and
her brood and watch them by the hour, never offering to touch the
chickens except when the little things were tired and went for a nap
under their mother's wings; and then some cat--first one and then
another--would softly poke its paw under the hen and stir up the family,
making them all run out in consternation, and keeping things lively once
more. The cats didn't dream of catching the chickens, only wanting,
evidently, that they should emulate Joey and keep moving on.

A writer in the _London Spectator_ tells of a favorite bantam hen
with which the house cat has long been accustomed to play. This bantam
has increased and multiplied, and keeps her family in a "coop" on the
ground,--into which rats easily enter. At bedtime, however, pussy takes
up her residence there, and bantam, the brood of chickens, and pussy
sleep in happy harmony nightly. If any rats arrive, their experience
must be sad and sharp. Another writer in the same number tells of a cat
in Huddersfield, England, belonging to Canon Beardsley, who helps
himself to a reel of cotton from the work-basket, takes it on the floor,
and plays with it as long as he likes, and then jumps up and puts the
reel back in its place again; just as our Bobinette used to get his
tape-measure, although the latter never was known to put it away.

Miss Sarah Orne Jewett is a cat-lover, too, and the dear old
countrywomen "down in Maine," with whom one gets acquainted through her
books, usually keep a cat also. Says she:--

"I look back over so long a line of family cats, from a certain poor
Spotty who died an awful death in a fit on the flagstones under the
library window when I was less than five years old, to a lawless,
fluffy, yellow and white coon cat now in my possession, that I find it
hard to single out the most interesting pussy of all. I shall have to
speak of two cats at least, one being the enemy and the other the friend
of my dog Joe. Joe and I grew up together and were fond companions,
until he died of far too early old age and left me to take my country
walks alone.

"Polly, the enemy, was the best mouser of all: quite the best business
cat we ever had, with an astonishing intellect and a shrewd way of
gaining her ends. She caught birds and mice as if she foraged for our
whole family: she had an air of responsibility and a certain impatience
of interruption and interference such as I have never seen in any other
cat, and a scornful way of sitting before a person with fierce eyes and
a quick, ominous twitching of her tail. She seemed to be measuring one's
incompetence as a mouse-catcher in these moments, or to be saying to
herself, 'What a clumsy, stupid person; how little she knows, and how I
should like to scratch her and hear her squeak.' I sometimes felt as if
I were a larger sort of helpless mouse in these moments, but sometimes
Polly would be more friendly, and even jump into our laps, when it was a
pleasure to pat her hard little head with its exquisitely soft, dark
tortoise-shell fur. No matter if she almost always turned and caught the
caressing hand with teeth and claws, when she was tired of its touch,
you would always be ready to pat her next time; there was such a
fascination about her that any attention on her part gave a thrill of
pride and pleasure. Every guest and stranger admired her and tried to
win her favor: while we of the household hid our wounds and delighted in
her cleverness and beauty.

"Polly was but a small cat to have a mind. She looked quite round and
kittenish as she sat before the fire in a rare moment of leisure, with
her black paws tucked under her white breast and her sleek back looking
as if it caught flickers of firelight in some yellow streaks among the
shiny black fur. But when she walked abroad she stretched out long and
thin like a little tiger, and held her head high to look over the grass
as if she were threading the jungle. She lashed her tail to and fro, and
one turned out of her way instantly. You opened a door for her if she
crossed the room and gave you a look. She made you know what she meant
as if she had the gift of speech: at most inconvenient moments you would
go out through the house to find her a bit of fish or to open the cellar
door. You recognized her right to appear at night on your bed with one
of her long-suffering kittens, which she had brought in the rain, out of
a cellar window and up a lofty ladder, over the wet, steep roofs and
down through a scuttle into the garret, and still down into warm
shelter. Here she would leave it and with one or two loud, admonishing
purrs would scurry away upon some errand that must have been like one of
the border frays of old.

"She used to treat Joe, the dog, with sad cruelty, giving him a sharp
blow on his honest nose that made him meekly stand back and see her add
his supper to her own. A child visitor once rightly complained that
Polly had pins in her toes, and nobody knew this better than poor Joe.
At last, in despair, he sought revenge. I was writing at my desk one
day, when he suddenly appeared, grinning in a funny way he had, and
wagging his tail, until he enticed me out to the kitchen. There I found
Polly, who had an air of calling everything in the house her own. She
was on the cook's table, gobbling away at some chickens which were being
made ready for the oven and had been left unguarded. I caught her and
cuffed her, and she fled through the garden door, for once tamed and
vanquished, though usually she was so quick that nobody could administer
justice upon these depredations of a well-fed cat. Then I turned and saw
poor old Joe dancing about the kitchen in perfect delight. He had been
afraid to touch Polly himself, but he knew the difference between right
and wrong, and had called me to see what a wicked cat she was, and to
give him the joy of looking on at the flogging.

"It was the same dog who used sometimes to be found under a table where
his master had sent him for punishment in his young days of lawless
puppy-hood for chasing the neighbor's chickens. These faults had long
been overcome, but sometimes, in later years, Joe's conscience would
trouble him, we never knew why, and he would go under the table of his
own accord, and look repentant and crestfallen until some forgiving and
sympathetic friend would think he had suffered enough and bid him come
out to be patted and consoled.

"After such a house-mate as Polly, Joe had great amends in our next cat,
yellow Danny, the most amiable and friendly pussy that ever walked on
four paws. He took Danny to his heart at once: they used to lie in the
sun together with Danny's head on the dog's big paws, and I sometimes
used to meet them walking as coy as lovers, side by side, up one of the
garden walks. When I could not help laughing at their sentimental and
conscious air, they would turn aside into the bushes for shelter. They
respected each other's suppers, and ate together on the kitchen hearth,
and took great comfort in close companionship. Danny always answered if
you spoke to him, but he made no sound while always opening his mouth
wide to mew whenever he had anything to say, and looking up into your
face with all his heart expressed. These affectations of speech were
most amusing, especially in so large a person as yellow Danny. He was
much beloved by me and by all his family, especially poor Joe, who must
sometimes have had the worst of dreams about old Polly, and her sharp,
unsparing claws."

Miss Mary E. Wilkins is also a great admirer of cats. "I adore cats,"
she says. "I don't love them as well as dogs, because my own nature is
more after the lines of a dog's; but I adore them. No matter how tired
or wretched I am, a pussy-cat sitting in a doorway can divert my mind.
Cats love one so much: more than they will allow; but they have so much
wisdom they keep it to themselves."

Miss Wilkins's "Augustus" was moved with her from Brattleboro, Vt.,
after her father's death and when she went to Randolph, Mass., to live.
He had been the pet of the family for a long time, but he came to an
untimely end.

"I hope," says Miss Wilkins, "people's unintentional cruelty will not be
remembered against them." Since living in Randolph she has had two
lovely yellow and white cats, "Punch and Judy." The latter was shot by a
neighbor, but Punch, the right-hand cat with the angelic expression,
still survives.

"I am quite sure," says his mistress, "he loves me better than anybody
else, although he is so very close about it. Punch Wilkins has one
accomplishment. He can open a door with an old-fashioned latch: but he
cannot shut it."

Louise Imogen Guiney is famous for her love and good comradeship with
dogs, especially her setters and St. Bernards, but she is too thoroughly
a poet not to be captivated by the grace and beauty of a cat.

"I love the unsubmissive race," she says, "and have had much edification
out of the charming friendships between our St. Bernards and our cats.
Annie Clarke [the actress] once gave me two exquisite Angoras, little
persons of character equal to their looks; but they died young and we
have not since had the heart to replace them. I once had another coon, a
small, spry, gray fellow named Scot, the tamest and most endearing of
pets, always on your shoulder and a' that, who suddenly, on no
provocation whatever, turned wild, lived for a year or more in the woods
next our garden, hunting and fishing, although ceaselessly chased, and
called, and implored to revisit his afflicted family. He associated
sometimes with the neighbor's cat, but never, never more with humanity,
until finally we found his pathetic little frozen body one Christmas
near the barn. Do you remember Arnold's Scholar Gypsy? Our Scot was his
feline equivalent.... Have you counted in Prosper Merimee among the
confirmed lovers of cats? I remember a delightful little paragraph out
of one of his letters about _un vieux chat noir, parfaitement laid,
mais plein d'esprit et de discretion. Seulement il n'a eu que des gens
vulgaires et manque d'usage._"

Mrs. A.D.T. Whitney, who has written so many helpful stories for girls,
is another lover of cats. Cats do not lie curled up on cushions
everywhere in her books, as they do in Mrs. Spofford's. But in "Zerub
Throop's Experiment" there is an amusing cat story, which, she declares,
got so much mixed up with a ghost story that nobody ever knew which was
which. And the incident is true in every particular, except the finding
of a will or codicil, or something at the end, which is attached for
purposes of fiction.

A great deal has been written about the New York _Sun's_ famous
cats. At my request, Mr. Dana furnished the following description of the
interesting _Sun_ family. I can only vouch for its veracity by
quoting the famous phrase, "If you see it in the _Sun_, it is so."

"_Sun_ office cat (_Felis Domestica; var. Journalistica_).
This is a variation of the common domestic cat, of which but one family
is known to science. The habitat of the species is in Newspaper Row; its
lair is in the _Sun_ building, its habits are nocturnal, and it
feeds on discarded copy and anything else of a pseudo-literary nature
upon which it can pounce. In dull times it can subsist upon a meagre
diet of telegraphic brevities, police court paragraphs, and city
jottings; but when the universe is agog with news, it will exhibit the
insatiable appetite which is its chief distinguishing mark of difference
from the common _felis domestica_. A single member of this family
has been known, on a 'rush' night, to devour three and a half columns of
presidential possibilities, seven columns of general politics, pretty
much all but the head of a large and able-bodied railroad accident, and
a full page of miscellaneous news, and then claw the nether garments of
the managing editor, and call attention to an appetite still in good
working order.

"The progenitrix of the family arrived in the _Sun_ office many
years ago, and installed herself in a comfortable corner, and within a
few short months she had noticeably raised the literary tone of the
paper, as well as a large and vociferous family of kittens. These
kittens were weaned on reports from country correspondents, and the
sight of the six children and the mother cat sitting in a semicircle was
one which attracted visitors from all parts of the nation. Just before
her death--immediately before, in fact--the mother cat developed a
literary taste of her own and drank the contents of an ink-bottle. She
was buried with literary honors, and one of her progeny was advanced to
the duties and honors of office cat. From this time the line came down,
each cat taking the 'laurel greener from the brows of him that uttered
nothing base,' upon the death of his predecessor. There is but one blot
upon the escutcheon of the family, put there by a recent incumbent who
developed a mania at once cannibalistic and infanticidal, and set about
making a free lunch of her offspring, in direct violation of the Raines
law and the maternal instinct. She died of an overdose of chloroform,
and her place was taken by one of the rescued kittens.

"It is the son of this kitten who is the present proud incumbent of the
office. Grown to cat-hood, he is a creditable specimen of his family,
with beryl eyes, beautiful striped fur, showing fine mottlings of
mucilage and ink, a graceful and aspiring tail, an appetite for copy
unsurpassed in the annals of his race, and a power and perseverance in
vocality, chiefly exercised in the small hours of the morning, that,
together with the appetite referred to, have earned for him the name of
the Mutilator. The picture herewith given was taken when the animal was
a year and a half old. Up to the age of one year the Mutilator made its
lair in the inside office with the Snake Editor, until a tragic ending
came to their friendship. During a fortnight's absence of the office cat
upon important business, the Snake Editor cultivated the friendship of
three cockroaches, whom he debauched by teaching them to drink beer
spilled upon his desk for that purpose. On the night of the cat's
return, the three bugs had become disgracefully intoxicated, and were
reeling around the desk beating time with their legs to a rollicking
catch sung by the Snake Editor. Before the muddled insects could crawl
into a crack, the Mutilator was upon them, and had bolted every one.
Then with a look of reproach at the Snake Editor, he drew three
perpendicular red lines across that gentleman's features with his claws
and departed in high scorn, nor could he ever thereafter be lured into
the inner office where the serpent-sharp was laying for him with a space
measure. Since that time he has lived in the room occupied by the
reporters and news editors.

"Many hundreds of stories, some of them slanderous have been told about
the various _Sun_ office cats, but we have admitted here none of
these false tales. The short sketch given here is beyond suspicion in
all its details, as can be vouched for by many men of high position who
ought to know better."



The nearest approach to the real French Salon in America is said to be
found in Mrs. Louise Chandler Moulton's Boston drawing-room. In former
days, at her weekly Fridays, Sir Richard Coeur de Lion was always
present, sitting on the square piano amidst a lot of other celebrities.
The autographed photographs of Paderewski, John Drew, and distinguished
litterateurs, however, used to lose nothing from the proximity of Mrs.
Moulton's favorite maltese friend, who was on the most intimate terms
with her for twelve years, and hobnobbed familiarly with most of the
lions of one sort or another who have visited Boston and who invariably
find their way into this room. If there were flowers on the piano,
Richard's nose hovered near them in a perfect abandon of delight.
Indeed, his fondness for flowers was a source of constant contention
between him and his mistress, who feared lest he knock the souvenirs of
foreign countries to the floor in his eagerness to climb wherever
flowers were put. He was as dainty about his eating as in his taste for
the beautiful, scorning beef and mutton as fit only for coarser mortals,
and choosing, like any _gourmet_, to eat only the breast of
chicken, or certain portions of fish or lobster. He was not proof
against the flavor of liver, at any time; but recognized in it his one
weakness,--as the delicate lady may who takes snuff or chews gum on the
sly. When Mrs. Moulton first had him, she had also a little dog, and the
two, as usual when a kitten is brought up with a dog, became the
greatest of friends.

That Richard was a close observer was proved by the way he used to wag
his tail, in the same fashion and apparently for the same reasons as the
dog. This went on for several years, but when the dog died, the fashion
of wagging tails went out, so far as Richard Coeur de Lion was

He had a fashion of getting up on mantels, the tops of bookcases, or on
shelves; and his mistress, fearing demolition of her household Lares and
Penates, insisted on his getting down, whereupon Richard would look
reproachfully at her, apparently resenting this treatment for days
afterward, refusing to come near her and edging off if she tried to make
up with him.

When Richard was getting old, a black cat came to Mrs. Moulton, who kept
him "for luck," and named him the Black Prince. The older cat was always
jealous of the newcomer, and treated him with lofty scorn. When he
caught Mrs. Moulton petting the Black Prince, who is a very affectionate
fellow Richard fiercely resented it and sometimes refused to have
anything to do with her for days afterward, but finally came around and
made up in shamefaced fashion.

Mrs. Moulton goes to London usually in the summer, leaving the cats in
the care of a faithful maid whom she has had for years. After she
sailed, Richard used to come to her door for several mornings, and not
being let in as usual, understood that his beloved mistress had left him
again, whereupon he kept up a prolonged wailing for some time. He was
correspondingly glad to see her on her return in October.

Mrs. Moulton tells the following remarkable cat story:--

"My mother had a cat that lived to be twenty-five years old. He was
faithful and fond, and a great pet in the family, of course. About two
years before his death, a new kitten was added to the family. This
kitten, named Jim, immediately conceived the greatest affection for old
Jack, and as the old fellow's senses of sight and smell failed so that
he could not go hunting himself, Jim used to do it for both. Every day
he brought Jack mice and squirrels and other game as long as he lived.
Then, too, he used to wash Jack, lapping him all over as a mother cat
does her kitten. He did this, too, as long as he lived. The feebler old
Jack grew the more Jim did for him, and when Jack finally died of old
age, Jim was inconsolable."

Twenty-five years might certainly be termed a ripe old age for a cat,
their average life extending only to ten or twelve years. But I have
heard of one who seems to have attained even greater age. The mother of
Jane Andrews, the writer on educational and juvenile subjects, had one
who lived with them twenty-four years. He had peculiar markings and
certain ways of his own about the house quite different from other cats.
He disappeared one day when he was twenty-four, and was mourned as dead.
But one day, some six or seven years later, an old cat came to their
door and asked to be let in. He had the same markings, and on being let
in, went directly to his favorite sleeping-places and lay down. He
seemed perfectly familiar with the whole place, and went on with his
life from that time, just as though he had never been away, showing all
his old peculiarities. When he finally died, he must have been
thirty-three years old.

Although in other days a great many noted men have been devoted to cats,
I do not find that our men of letters to-day know so much about cats.
Mr. William Dean Howells says: "I never had a cat, pet or otherwise. I
like them, but know nothing of them." Judge Robert Grant says, "My
feelings toward cats are kindly and considerate, but not ardent."

Thomas Bailey Aldrich says, "The only cat I ever had any experience with
was the one I translated from the French of Emile de La Bedollierre many
years ago for the entertainment of my children." [Footnote: "Mother
Michel's Cat."] Brander Matthews loves them not. George W. Cable answers,
when asked if he loves the "harmless, necessary cat," by the Yankee method,
and says, "If you had three or four acres of beautiful woods in which were
little red squirrels and chipmunks and fifty or more kinds of nesting
birds, and every abutting neighbor kept a cat, and none of them kept their
cat out of those woods--_would you like cats?_" which is, indeed,
something of a poser.

Colonel Thomas W. Higginson, however, confesses to a great fondness for
cats, although he has had no remarkable cats of his own. He tells a
story told him by an old sailor at Pigeon Cove, Mass., of a cat which
he, the sailor, tried in vain to get rid of. After trying several
methods he finally put the cat in a bag, walked a mile to Lane's Cove,
tied the cat to a big stone with a firm sailor's knot, took it out in a
dory some distance from the shore, and dropped the cat overboard. Then
he went back home to find the cat purring on the doorstep.

Those who are familiar with Charles Dudley Warner's "My Summer in a
Garden" will not need to be reminded of Calvin and his interesting
traits. Mr. Warner says: "I never had but one cat, and he was rather a
friend and companion than a cat. When he departed this life I did not
care to do as many men do when their partners die, take a 'second.'" The
sketch of him in that delightful book is vouched for as correct.

Mr. Edmund Clarence Stedman, too, is a genuine admirer of cats and
evidently knows how to appreciate them at their true value. At his home
near New York, he and Mrs. Stedman have one who rejoices in the name
"Babylon," having originated in Babylon, Long Island. He is a fine large
maltese, and attracted a great deal of attention at the New York Cat
Show in 1895. "We look upon him as an important member of our family,"
says Mrs. Stedman, "and think he knows as much as any of us. He despises
our two other cats, but he is very fond of human beings and makes
friends readily with strangers. He is always present at the family
dinner table at meal-time and expects to have his share handed to him
carefully. He has a favorite corner in the study and has superintended a
great deal of literary work." Mrs. Stedman's long-haired, blue Kelpie
took a prize in the show of '95.

Gail Hamilton was naturally a lover of cats, although in her crowded
life there was not much time to devote to them. In the last year of her
noble life she wrote to a friend as follows: "My two hands were eager to
lighten the burden-bearing of a burdened world--but the brush fell from
my hand. Now I can only sit in a nook of November sunshine, playing with
two little black and white kittens. Well, I never before had time to
play with kittens as much as I wished, and when I come outdoors and see
them bounding toward me in long, light leaps, I am glad that they leap
toward me and not away from me, little soft, fierce sparks of infinite
energy holding a mystery of their own as inscrutable as life. And I
remember that with all our high art, the common daily sun searches a man
for one revealing moment, and makes a truer portrait than the most
laborious painter. The divine face of our Saviour, reflected in the pure
and noble traits of humanity, will not fail from the earth because my
hand has failed in cunning."

One would expect a poet of Ella Wheeler Wilcox's temperament to be
passionately fond of cats, just as she is. One would expect, too, that
only the most beautiful and luxurious of Persians and Angoras would
satisfy her demand for a pet. This is also justifiable, as she has
several magnificent cats, about whom she has published a number of
interesting stories. Her Madame Ref is quite a noted cat, but Mrs.
Wilcox's favorite and the handsomest of all is named Banjo, a gorgeous
chinchilla and white Angora, with a silken coat that almost touches the
floor and a ruff, or "lord mayor's chain," that is a finger wide. His
father was Ajax, his mother was Madame Ref, and Mrs. Wilcox raised him.
She has taught him many cunning tricks. He will sit up like a bear, and
when his mistress says, "Hug me, Banjo," he puts both white paws around
her neck and hugs her tight. Then she says, "Turn the other cheek," and
he turns his furry chops for her to kiss. He also plays "dead," and
rolls over at command. He, too, is fond of literary work, and
superintends his mistress's writing from a drawer of her desk. Goody
Two-eyes is another of Mrs. Wilcox's pets, and has one blue and one
topaz eye.

Who has not read Agnes Repplier's fascinating essays on "Agrippina" and
"A Kitten"? I cannot quite believe she gives cats credit for the
capacity for affection which they really possess, but her description of
"Agrippina" is charming:--

"Agrippina's beautifully ringed tail flapping across my copy distracts
my attention and imperils the neatness of my penmanship. Even when she
is disposed to be affable, turns the light of her countenance upon me,
watches with attentive curiosity every stroke I make, and softly, with
curved paw, pats my pen as it travels over the paper, even in these
halcyon moments, though my self-love is flattered by her condescension,
I am aware that I should work better and more rapidly if I denied myself
this charming companionship. But, in truth, it is impossible for a lover
of cats to banish these alert, gentle, and discriminating little
friends, who give us just enough of their regard and complaisance to
make us hunger for more. M. Fee, the naturalist, who has written so
admirably about animals, and who understands, as only a Frenchman can
understand, the delicate and subtle organization of a cat, frankly
admits that the keynote of its character is independence. It dwells
under our roofs, sleeps by our fire, endures our blandishments, and
apparently enjoys our society, without for one moment forfeiting its
sense of absolute freedom, without acknowledging any servile relation to
the human creature who shelters it.

"Rude and masterful souls resent this fine self-sufficiency in a
domestic animal, and require that it shall have no will but theirs, no
pleasure that does not emanate from them.

"Yet there are people, less magisterial, perhaps, or less exacting, who
believe that true friendship, even with an animal, may be built up on
mutual esteem and independence; that to demand gratitude is to be
unworthy of it; and that obedience is not essential to agreeable and
healthy intercourse. A man who owns a dog is, in every sense of the
word, its master: the term expresses accurately their mutual relations.
But it is ridiculous when applied to the limited possession of a cat. I
am certainly not Agrippina's mistress, and the assumption of authority
on my part would be a mere empty dignity, like those swelling titles
which afford such innocent delight to the Freemasons of our severe

"How many times have I rested tired eyes on her graceful little body,
curled up in a ball and wrapped round with her tail like a parcel; or
stretched out luxuriously on my bed, one paw coyly covering her face,
the other curved gently inwards, as though clasping an invisible
treasure. Asleep or awake, in rest or in motion, grave or gay, Agrippina
is always beautiful; and it is better to be beautiful than to fetch and
carry from the rising to the setting of the sun.

"But when Agrippina has breakfasted and washed, and sits in the sunlight
blinking at me with affectionate contempt, I feel soothed by her
absolute and unqualified enjoyment. I know how full my day will be of
things that I don't want particularly to do, and that are not
particularly worth doing; but for her, time and the world hold only this
brief moment of contentment. Slowly the eyes close, gently the little
body is relaxed. Oh, you who strive to relieve your overwrought nerves
and cultivate power through repose, watch the exquisite languor of a
drowsy cat, and despair of imitating such perfect and restful grace.
There is a gradual yielding of every muscle to the soft persuasiveness
of slumber: the flexible frame is curved into tender lines, the head
nestles lower, the paws are tucked out of sight: no convulsive throb or
start betrays a rebellious alertness: only a faint quiver of unconscious
satisfaction, a faint heaving of the tawny sides, a faint gleam of the
half-shut yellow eyes, and Agrippina is asleep. I look at her for one
wistful moment and then turn resolutely to my work. It were ignoble to
wish myself in her place: and yet how charming to be able to settle down
to a nap, _sans peur et sans reproche_, at ten o'clock in the

And again: "When I am told that Agrippina is disobedient, ungrateful,
cold-hearted, perverse, stupid, treacherous, and cruel, I no longer
strive to check the torrent of abuse. I know that Buffon said all this,
and much more, about cats, and that people have gone on repeating it
ever since, principally because these spirited little beasts have
remained just what it pleased Providence to make them, have preserved
their primitive freedom through centuries of effete and demoralizing
civilization. Why, I wonder, should a great many good men and women
cherish an unreasonable grudge against one animal because it does not
chance to possess the precise qualities of another? 'My dog fetches my
slippers for me every night,' said a friend, triumphantly, not long ago.
'He puts them first to warm by the fire, and then brings them over to my
chair, wagging his tail, and as proud as Punch. Would your cat do as
much for you, I'd like to know?' Assuredly not. If I waited for
Agrippina to fetch me shoes or slippers, I should have no other resource
save to join as speedily as possible one of the barefooted religious
orders of Italy. But after all, fetching slippers is not the whole duty
of domestic pets.

"As for curiosity, that vice which the Abbe Galiani held to be unknown
to animals, but which the more astute Voltaire detected in every little
dog that he saw peering out of the window of its master's coach, it is
the ruling passion of the feline breast. A closet door left ajar, a box
with half-closed lid, an open bureau drawer,--these are the objects that
fill a cat with the liveliest interest and delight. Agrippina watches
breathlessly the unfastening of a parcel, and tries to hasten matters by
clutching actively at the string. When its contents are shown to her,
she examines them gravely, and then, with a sigh of relief, settles down
to repose. The slightest noise disturbs and irritates her until she
discovers its cause. If she hears a footstep in the hall, she runs out
to see whose it is, and, like certain troublesome little people I have
known, she dearly loves to go to the front door every time the bell is
rung. From my window she surveys the street with tranquil scrutiny, and
if the boys are playing below, she follows their games with a steady,
scornful stare, very different from the wistful eagerness of a friendly
dog, quivering to join in the sport. Sometimes the boys catch sight of
her, and shout up rudely at her window; and I can never sufficiently
admire Agrippina's conduct upon these trying occasions, the well-bred
composure with which she affects neither to see nor to hear them, nor to
be aware that there are such objectionable creatures as children in the
world. Sometimes, too, the terrier that lives next door comes out to sun
himself in the street, and, beholding my cat sitting well out of reach,
he dances madly up and down the pavement, barking with all his might,
and rearing himself on his short legs, in a futile attempt to dislodge
her. Then the spirit of evil enters Agrippina's little heart. The window
is open and she creeps to the extreme edge of the stone sill, stretches
herself at full length, peers down smilingly at the frenzied dog,
dangles one paw enticingly in the air, and exerts herself with quiet
malice to drive him to desperation. Her sense of humor is awakened by
his frantic efforts and by her own absolute security; and not until he
is spent with exertion, and lies panting and exhausted on the bricks,
does she arch her graceful back, stretch her limbs lazily in the sun,
and with one light bound spring from the window to my desk."

And what more delightful word did ever Miss Repplier write than her
description of a kitten? It, she says, "is the most irresistible
comedian in the world. Its wide-open eyes gleam with wonder and mirth.
It darts madly at nothing at all, and then, as though suddenly checked
in the pursuit, prances sideways on its hind legs with ridiculous
agility and zeal. It makes a vast pretence of climbing the rounds of a
chair, and swings by the curtains like an acrobat. It scrambles up a
table leg, and is seized with comic horror at finding itself full two
feet from the floor. If you hasten to its rescue, it clutches you
nervously, its little heart thumping against its furry sides, while its
soft paws expand and contract with agitation and relief:--

"'And all their harmless claws disclose,
Like prickles of an early rose.'

"Yet the instant it is back on the carpet it feigns to be suspicious of
your interference, peers at you out of 'the tail o' its e'e,' and
scampers for protection under the sofa, from which asylum it presently
emerges with cautious, trailing steps as though encompassed by fearful
dangers and alarms."

Nobody can sympathize with her in the following description better than
I, who for years was compelled by the insistence of my Pretty Lady to
aid in the bringing up of infants:--

"I own that when Agrippina brought her first-born son--aged two
days--and established him in my bedroom closet, the plan struck me at
the start as inconvenient. I had prepared another nursery for the little
Claudius Nero, and I endeavored for a while to convince his mother that
my arrangements were best. But Agrippina was inflexible. The closet
suited her in every respect; and, with charming and irresistible
flattery, she gave me to understand, in the mute language I knew so
well, that she wished her baby boy to be under my immediate protection.

"'I bring him to you because I trust you,' she said as plainly as looks
can speak. 'Downstairs they handle him all the time, and it is not good
for kittens to be handled. Here he is safe from harm, and here he shall
remain,' After a few weak remonstrances, the futility of which I too
clearly understood, her persistence carried the day. I removed my
clothing from the closet, spread a shawl upon the floor, had the door
taken from its hinges, and resigned myself, for the first time in my
life, to the daily and hourly companionship of an infant.

"I was amply rewarded. People who require the household cat to rear her
offspring in some remote attic or dark corner of the cellar have no idea
of all the diversion and pleasure that they lose. It is delightful to
watch the little, blind, sprawling, feeble, helpless things develop
swiftly into the grace and agility of kittenhood. It is delightful to
see the mingled pride and anxiety of the mother, whose parental love
increases with every hour of care, and who exhibits her young family as
if they were infant Gracchi, the hope of all their race. During Nero's
extreme youth, there were times when Agrippina wearied both of his
companionship and of her own maternal duties. Once or twice she
abandoned him at night for the greater luxury of my bed, where she slept
tranquilly by my side, unmindful of the little wailing cries with which
Nero lamented her desertion. Once or twice the heat of early summer
tempted her to spend the evening on the porch roof which lay beneath my
windows, and I have passed some anxious hours awaiting her return, and
wondering what would happen if she never came back, and I were left to
bring up the baby by hand.

"But as the days sped on, and Nero grew rapidly in beauty and
intelligence, Agrippina's affection for him knew no bounds. She could
hardly bear to leave him even for a little while, and always came
hurrying back to him with a loud, frightened mew, as if fearing he might
have been stolen in her absence. At night she purred over him for hours,
or made little gurgling noises expressive of ineffable content. She
resented the careless curiosity of strangers, and was a trifle
supercilious when the cook stole softly in to give vent to her fervent
admiration. But from first to last she shared with me her pride and
pleasure; and the joy in her beautiful eyes, as she raised them to mine,
was frankly confiding and sympathetic. When the infant Claudius rolled
for the first time over the ledge of the closet and lay sprawling on the
bedroom floor, it would have been hard to say which of us was the more
elated at his prowess."

What became of these most interesting cats, is only hinted at; Miss
Repplier's sincere grief at their loss is evident in the following:--

"Every night they retired at the same time and slept upon the same
cushion, curled up inextricably into one soft, furry ball. Many times I
have knelt by their chair to bid them both good night; and always when I
did so, Agrippina would lift her charming head, purr drowsily for a few
seconds, and then nestle closer still to her first-born, with sighs of
supreme satisfaction. The zenith of her life had been reached. Her cup
of contentment was full.

"It is a rude world, even for little cats, and evil chances lie in wait
for the petted creatures we strive to shield from harm. Remembering the
pangs of separation, the possibilities of unkindness or neglect, the
troubles that hide in ambush on every unturned page, I am sometimes glad
that the same cruel and selfish blow struck both mother and son, and
that they lie together, safe from hurt or hazard, sleeping tranquilly
and always, under the shadow of the friendly pines."

Probably no modern cat has been more written about than Miss Mary L.
Booth's Muff. There was a "Tippet," but he was early lost. Miss Booth,
as the editor of _Harper's Bazar_, was the centre of a large circle
of literary and musical people. Her Saturday evenings were to New York
what Mrs. Moulton's Fridays are to Boston, the nearest approach to the
French salon possible in America. At these Saturday evenings Muff always
figured prominently, being dressed in a real lace collar (brought him
from Yucatan by Madame la Plongeon, and elaborate and expensive enough
for the most fastidious lady), and apparently enjoying the company of
noted intellectual people as well as the best of them. And who knows, if
he had spoken, what light he might have shed on what seemed to mere
mortals as mysterious, abstruse, and occult problems? Perhaps, after
all, he liked that "salon" because in reality he found so much to amuse
him in the conversation; and perhaps he was, under that guise of
friendly interest in noted scientists, reformers, poets, musicians, and
litterateurs, only whispering to himself, "O Lord, what fools these
mortals be!"

"For when I play with my cat," says Montaigne, "how do I know whether
she does not make a jest of me?"

But Muff was a real nobleman among cats, and extraordinarily handsome.
He was a great soft gray maltese with white paws and breast--mild,
amiable, and uncommonly intelligent. He felt it his duty to help
entertain Miss Booth's guests, always; and he more than once, at the
beginning of a reception, came into the drawing-room with a mouse in his
mouth as his offering to the occasion. Naturally enough "he caused the
stampede," as Mrs. Spofford puts it, "that Mr. Gilbert forgot to put
into 'Princess Ida' when her Amazons wild demonstrate their courage."

As one of Miss Booth's intimate friends, Mrs. Spofford was much at her
house and became early a devoted admirer of Muff's.

"His latter days," she says, "were rendered miserable by a little silky,
gray creature, an Angora named Vashti, who was a spark of the fire of
the lower regions wrapped round in long silky fur, and who never let him
alone one moment: who was full of tail-lashings and racings and leapings
and fury, and of the most demonstrative love for her mistress. Once I
made them collars with breastplates of tiny dangling bells, nine or ten;
it excited them nearly to madness, and they flew up and down stairs like
unchained lightning till the trinkets were taken off."

In a house full of birds Muff never touched one, although he was an
excellent mouser (who says cats have no conscience?). He was, although
so socially inclined toward his mistress's guests, a timid person, and
the wild back-yard cats filled him with terror.

"But as one must see something of the world," continues Mrs. Spofford,
"he used to jump from lintel to lintel of the windows of the block, if
by chance his own were left open, and return when he pleased."

Muff died soon after the death of Miss Booth. Vashti, who was very much
admired by all her mistress's literary friends, was given to Miss Juliet

Miss Edna Dean Proctor, the poet, is another admirer of fine cats. Her
favorite, however, was the friend of her childhood called Beauty.

"Beauty was my grandmother's cat," says Miss Proctor, "and the delight
of my childhood. To this far-off day I remember her as distinctly as I
do my aunt and cousins of that household, and even my dear grandmother
herself. I know nothing of her ancestry and am not at all sure that she
was royally bred, for she came, one chill night, a little wanderer to
the door. But a shred of blue ribbon was clinging to her neck, and she
was so pretty, and silky, and winsome that we children at once called
her Beauty, and fancied she had strayed from some elegant home where she
had been the pet of the household, lapping her milk from finest china
and sleeping on a cushion of down. When we had warmed, and fed, and
caressed her, we made her bed in a flannel-lined box among our dolls,
and the next morning were up before the sun to see her, fearing her
owners would appear and carry her away. But no one arrived to claim her,
and she soon became an important member of the family, and grew
handsomer, we thought, day by day. Her coat was gray with tiger
markings, but paws and throat and nose were snowy white, and in spite of
her excursions to barns and cellars her constant care kept them
spotless--indeed, she was the very Venus of cats for daintiness and
grace of pose and movement. To my grandmother her various attitudes had
an undoubted meaning. If in a rainy day Beauty washed her face toward
the west, her observant mistress would exclaim: 'See, kitty is washing
her face to the west. It will clear.' Or, even when the sky was blue, if
Beauty turned eastward for her toilet, the comment would be: 'Kitty is
washing her face to the east. The wind must be getting "out" (from the
sea), and a storm brewing.' And when in the dusk of autumn or winter
evenings Beauty ran about the room, chasing her tail or frolicking with
her kittens instead of sleeping quietly by the fire as was her wont, my
grandmother would look up and say: 'Kitty is wild to-night. The wind
will blow hard before morning.' If I sometimes asked how she knew these
things, the reply would be, 'My mother told me when I was a little
girl.' Now her mother, my great-grandmother, was a distinguished
personage in my eyes, having been the daughter of Captain Jonathan
Prescott who commanded a company under Sir William Pepperell at the
siege of Louisburg and lost his life there; and I could not question the
wisdom of colonial times. Indeed, to this hour I have a lingering belief
that cats can foretell the weather.

"And what a mouser she was! Before her time we often heard the rats and
mice in the walls, but with her presence not one dared to peep, and
cupboard and pantry were unmolested. Now and then she carried her forays
to hedge and orchard, and I remember one sad summer twilight that saw
her bring in a slender brown bird which my grandmother said was the
cuckoo we had delighted to hear in the still mornings among the alders
by the river. She was scolded and had no milk that night, and we never
knew her to catch a bird again.

"O to see her with her kittens! She always hid them in the haymows, and
hunting and finding them brought us no end of excitement and pleasure.
Twice a day, at least, she would come to the house to be fed, and then
how we watched her returning steps, stealing cautiously along the path
and waiting behind stack or door the better to observe her--for pussy
knew perfectly well that we were eager to see her darlings, and enjoyed
misleading and piquing us, we imagined, by taking devious ways. How well
I recall that summer afternoon when, soft-footed and alone, I followed
her to the floor of the barn. Just as she was about to spring to the mow
she espied me, and, turning back, cunningly settled herself as if for a
quiet nap in the sunny open door. Determined not to lose sight of her, I
threw myself upon the fragrant hay; but in the stillness, the faint
sighing of the wind, the far-off ripple of the river, the hazy outline
of the hills, the wheeling swallows overhead, were blended at length in
an indistinct dream, and I slept, oblivious of all. When I woke, pussy
had disappeared, the sun was setting, the cows were coming from the
pastures, and I could only return to the house discomfited. That
particular family of kittens we never saw till a fortnight later, when
the proud mother brought them in one by one, and laid them at my
grandmother's feet.

"What became of Beauty is as mysterious as the fate of the Dauphin. To
our grief, she disappeared one November day, and we never saw her more.
Sometimes we fancied she had been carried off by an admiring traveller:
at others we tortured ourselves with the belief that the traditional
wildcat of the north woods had devoured her. All we knew was that she
had vanished; but when memory pictures that pleasant country home and
the dear circle there, white-throated Beauty is always sleeping by the

Miss Fidelia Bridges, the artist, is another devoted cat lover, and at
her home at Canaan, Ct., has had several interesting specimens.

"Among my many generations of pet cats," says Miss Bridges, "one
aristocratic maltese lady stands out in prominence before all the rest.
She was a cat of great personal beauty and independence of character--a
remarkable huntress, bringing in game almost as large as herself,
holding her beautiful head aloft to keep the great wings of pigeons from
trailing on the ground. She and her mother were fast friends from birth
to death. When the young maltese had her first brood of kittens, her
mother had also a family in another barrel in the cellar. When we went
to see the just-arrived family, we found our Lady Malty's bed empty, and
there in her mother's barrel were both families and both mothers. A
delightful arrangement for the young mother, who could leave her
children in the grandmother's care and enjoy her liberty when it pleased
her to roam abroad. The young lady had an indomitable will, and when she
decided to do a thing nothing would turn her aside. She found a favorite
resting-place on a pile of blankets in a dark attic room. This being
disapproved of by the elders, the door was kept carefully closed. She
then found entrance through a stove-pipe hole, high up on the wall of an
adjoining room. A cover was hung over the hole. She sprang up and
knocked it off. Then, as a last resort, the hole was papered over like
the wall-paper of the room. She looked, made a leap, and crashed through
the paper with as merry an air as a circus-rider through his papered
hoop. She had a habit of manoeuvring to be shut out of doors at
bed-time, and then, when all was still, climbing up to my window by
means of a porch over a door beneath it, to pass the night on my bed. In
some alterations of the house, the porch was taken away. She looked with
dismay for a moment at the destruction of her ladder, then calmly ran up
the side of the house to my window, which she always after continued to

"Next in importance, perhaps, is my present intimate companion, now ten
years old and absolutely deaf, so that we communicate with signs. If I
want to attract his attention I step on the floor: if to go to his
dinner, I show him a certain blue plate: to call him in at night, I take
a lantern outside the door, and the flash of light attracts his
attention from a great distance. On one occasion he lived nine months
alone in the house while I made a trip to Europe, absolutely refusing
all the neighbors' invitations to enter any other house. A friend's
gardener brought him his daily rations. As warm weather came, he spent
his days in the fields, returning in the night for his food, so that at
my return it was two or three days before he discovered that the house
was open. The third evening he entered the open door, looked wildly
about for a moment, but when I put my hand on him suddenly recognized me
and overwhelmed me with affectionate caresses, and for two days and
nights would not allow me out of his sight, unable to eat or sleep
unless I was close at hand, and following me from room to room and chair
to chair. And people say that cats have no affection!"

At the Quincy House in Boston may be seen in the office an oil painting
of an immense yellow cat. The first time I noticed the picture, I was
proceeding into the dining room, and while waiting for dinner, was
amused at seeing the original of the picture walk sedately in, all
alone, and going to an empty table, seat himself with majestic grace in
a chair. The waiter, seeing him, came forward and pushed up the chair as
he would do for any other guest. The cat then waited patiently without
putting his paws on the table, or violating any other law of table
etiquette, until a plate of meat came, cut up to suit his taste (I did
not hear him give his order), and then, placing his front paws on the
edge of the table, he ate from his plate. When he had finished, he
descended from his table and stalked out of the room with much dignity.
He was always regular at his meals, and although he picked out a good
seat, did not always sit at the same table. He was in appearance
something like the famous orange cats of Venice, and attracted much
attention, as might be expected, up to his death, at a ripe old age.

Miss Frances Willard was a cat-lover, too, and had a beautiful cat which
is known to all her friends.

"Tootsie" went to Rest Cottage, the home of Frances Willard, when only a
kitten, and there he lived, the pet of the household and its guests,
until several years ago, when Miss Willard prepared to go abroad. Then
she took Tootsie in her arms, carried him to the Drexel kennels in
Chicago, and asked their owner, Mrs. Leland Norton, to admit him as a
member of her large cat family, where he still lives. To his praise be
it spoken, he has never forgotten his old friends at Rest Cottage. To
this day, whenever any of them come to call upon him, he honors them
with instant and hearty recognition. Miss Willard was sometimes forced
to be separated from him more than a year at a time, but neither time
nor change had any effect upon Tootsie. At the first sound of her voice
he would spring to her side. He is a magnificent Angora, weighing
twenty-four pounds, with the long, silky hair, the frill, or lord
mayor's chain, the superb curling tail, and the large, full eyes of the
thoroughbred. Then he has proved himself of aristocratic tendencies, has
beautiful manners, is endowed with the human qualities of memory and
discrimination, and is aesthetic in his tastes.

Being the privileged character that he is, Tootsie always eats at the
table with the family. He has his own chair and bib, and his manners are
said to be exquisite.



It is quite common for writers on the cat to say, "The story of
Theophile Gautier's cats is too familiar to need comment." On the
contrary, I do not believe it is familiar to the average reader, and
that only those who know Gautier's "Menagerie In-time" in the original,
recall the particulars of his "White and Black Dynasties." For this
reason they shall be repeated in these pages. I use Mrs. Cashel-Hoey's
translation, partly in a selfish desire to save myself time and labor,
but principally because she has preserved so successfully the
sympathetic and appreciative spirit of M. Gautier himself.

"Dynasties of cats, as numerous as those of the Egyptian kings,
succeeded each other in my dwelling," says he. "One after another they
were swept away by accident, by flight, by death. All were loved and
regretted: but life is made up of oblivion, and the memory of cats dies
out like the memory of men." After making mention of an old gray cat who
always took his part against his parents, and used to bite Madame
Gautier's legs when she presumed to reprove her son, he passes on at
once to the romantic period, and the commemoration of Childebrand.

"This name at once reveals a deep design of flouting Boileau, whom I did
not like then, but have since become reconciled to. Has not Nicholas

"'O le plaisant projet d'un poete ignorant
Que de tant de heros va choisir Childebrant!'

"Now I considered Childebrand a very fine name indeed, Merovingian,
mediaeval, and Gothic, and vastly preferable to Agamemnon, Achilles,
Ulysses, or any Greek name whatsoever. Romanticism was the fashion of my
early days: I have no doubt the people of classical times called their
cats Hector, Ajax, or Patroclus. Childebrand was a splendid cat of
common kind, tawny and striped with black, like the hose of Saltabadil
in 'Le Rois' Amuse.' With his large, green, almond-shaped eyes, and his
symmetrical stripes, there was something tigerlike about him that
pleased me. Childebrand had the honor of figuring in some verses that I
wrote to 'flout' Boileau:--

"Puis je te decrirai ce tableau de Rembrandt
Que me fait tant plaisir: et mon chat Childebrand,
Sur mes genoux pose selon son habitude,
Levant sur moi la tete avec inquietude,
Suivra les mouvements de mon doigt qui dans l'air
Esquisse mon recit pour le rendre plus clair.

"Childebrand was brought in there to make a good rhyme for Rembrandt,
the piece being a kind of confession of the romantic faith made to a
friend, who was then as enthusiastic as myself about Victor Hugo, Sainte
Beuve, and Alfred de Musset.... I come next to Madame Theophile, a 'red'
cat, with a white breast, a pink nose, and blue eyes, whom I called by
that name because we were on terms of the closest intimacy. She slept at
the foot of my bed: she sat on the arm of my chair while I wrote: she
came down into the garden and gravely walked about with me: she was
present at all my meals, and frequently intercepted a choice morsel on
its way from my plate to my mouth. One day a friend who was going away
for a short time, brought me his parrot, to be taken care of during his
absence. The bird, finding itself in a strange place, climbed up to the
top of its perch by the aid of its beak, and rolled its eyes (as yellow
as the nails in my arm-chair) in a rather frightened manner, also moving
the white membranes that formed its eyelids. Madame Theophile had never
seen a parrot, and she regarded the creature with manifest surprise.
While remaining as motionless as a cat mummy from Egypt in its swathing
bands, she fixed her eyes upon the bird with a look of profound
meditation, summoning up all the notions of natural history that she had
picked up in the yard, in the garden, and on the roof. The shadow of her
thoughts passed over her changing eyes, and we could plainly read in
them the conclusion to which her scrutiny led, 'Decidedly this is a
green chicken.'

"This result attained, the next proceeding of Madame Theophile was to
jump off the table from which she had made her observations, and lay
herself flat on the ground in a corner of the room, exactly in the
attitude of the panther in Gerome's picture watching the gazelles as

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