If the trick was discovered prematurely, it was called letting the cat out of the bag—if not—he that made the bad bargain was said to have bought a pig in a poke. To turn the Cat in the pan, according to Bacon, is when that which a man says to another he says it as if another had said it to him. There is a kind of ship, too, called a Cat, a vessel formed on the Norwegian model, of about tons burthen.
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Do you remember how sorry you were to find out the truth? Do you recollect what a pang it cost you when first you heard that Robinson Crusoe was not true? I shall never forget how vexed and disappointed I was at hearing that Dick Turpin never did ride to York on his famous mare Black Bess, and that no such person as William Tell ever existed, and that that beautiful story about the apple was only a beautiful story after all. A friendship of years is cancelled in a moment by an accidental tread on the tail. I hate you for ever.
Tread [Pg 16] on his tail, he expresses for a moment the uneasiness of his feelings, but in a moment the complaint is ended: he runs round you, jumps up against you, seems to declare his sorrow for complaining, as it was not intentionally done,—nay, to make himself the aggressor, and begs, by whinings and lickings, that the master will think of it no more. In the same way there are those who would like to beat their wives, and for them to come and kiss the hand that struck them in all humility.
It is not only when hurt by accident that the dog comes whining round its master. The lashed hound crawls back and licks the boot that kicked him, and so makes friends again. Pussy will not do that though.
If you want to be friendly with a cat on Tuesday, you must not kick him on Monday. You must not fondle him one moment and illtreat him the next, or he will be shy of your advances.
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This really human way of behaving makes Pussy unpopular. I am afraid that if it were to occur to one of our legislators to tax the Cats, the feline slaughter would be fearful. Every one is fond of dogs, and yet Mr. Edmund Yates, travelling by water to Greenwich last June, said that the journey was [Pg 17] pleasingly diversified by practical and nasal demonstrations of the efficient working of the Dog-tax.
There are some persons who profess to have a great repugnance to Cats. King Henry III. According to Conrad Gesner, men have been known to lose their strength, perspire violently, and even faint at the sight of a cat. It was supposed that this sensitiveness might be cured by medicine. Let us hope that these gentlemen were all properly physicked.
I myself have often heard men express similar sentiments of aversion [Pg 18] to the feline race; and sometimes young ladies have done so in my hearing.
In both cases I have little doubt but that the weakness is easily overcome. My maternal grandmother had so strong an aversion to Cats that it seemed to endow her with an additional sense. But the Druids of old used to include sympathy and antipathy in the number, a belief which has, no doubt, left its trace in the above popular and otherwise unmeaning expression; and this extra sense of antipathy my grandmother certainly exhibited as regarding Cats. When she was a young and pretty little bride, dinner parties and routs, as is usual on such occasions, were given in her honour.
In those days, [Pg 19] now about eighty years ago, people usually dined early in the afternoon, and you may imagine somewhere in Yorkshire, a large company assembled for a grand dinner by daylight. With all due decorum and old-fashioned stately politeness, the ladies in rustling silks, stately hoops, and nodding plumes, are led to their seats by their respective cavaliers, in bright coloured coats with large gilt buttons. The bustle subsides, the servants remove the covers, the carving-knives are brandished by experienced hands, and the host having made the first incision in a goodly sirloin or haunch, turns to enquire how his fair guest wishes to be helped.
To his surprise, he beholds her pretty face flushed and uneasy, while she lifts the snowy damask and looks beneath the table. H——, we have no Cat! Her brow was crimson—every eye was turned towards her, and she looked ready to cry. This habit of hiding itself in secret places is one of the most unpleasant characteristics of the Cat. I know many instances of it—especially of a night alarm when we were children, ending in a strange cat being found in a clothes bag. Here, indeed, we have truth several degrees stranger than fiction; but this is not the only wonderful story the authoress has to tell.
I will give you some others very slightly abridged. The man died from the injuries. What, I wonder, were the dimensions of this ferocious animal with the iron jaws; and how many courageous souls were engaged in its destruction. If this story is, however, rather hard to swallow, the next is not less so. Says our authoress:—. What do you think of these very strange stories?
If they surprise you, however, what will you say to this one? C——, an Italian gentleman still living in Florence the initial is just a little unsatisfactory , who knew at least one of the parties, related to the authoress the following singular story.
- A Winter Ballad.
- Children bear the promise of a better world -- are we defending their right to health (Children bear the promise of a better world -- [are we defending their right to health)?
- The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, or The Roly-Poly Pudding.
The two priests thought no more of the Cat until the cloth was about to be removed; when the master of the house prepared a plateful of scraps for his forward favourite, and called him by name to come and enjoy his share of the feast. No joyful Cat obeyed the familiar call: his master observed him looking sulkily from the recess of the window, and rose, holding out the plate, and calling to him in a caressing voice.
As he did not approach, however, the old gentleman put the platter aside, saying he might please himself, and sulk instead of dine, [Pg 25] if he preferred it; and then resumed his conversation with his friend. A little later the old gentleman showed symptoms of drowsiness, so his visitor begged that he would not be on ceremony with him, but lie down and take the nap which he knew he was accustomed to indulge in after dinner, and he in the meantime would stroll in the garden for an hour. This was agreed to. The host stretched himself on a couch, and threw his handkerchief over his face to protect him from the summer flies, while the guest stepped through a French window which opened on a terrace and shrubbery.
An hour or somewhat more had passed when he returned, and found his friend still recumbent: he did not at first think of disturbing him, but after a few minutes, considering that he had slept very long, he looked more observantly towards the couch, and was struck by the perfect immobility of the figure, and with something peculiar in the position of the head over which the handkerchief lay disordered. He started back, shocked and dismayed, and for [Pg 26] a few moments remained gazing on the dreadful spectacle almost paralysed.
Then came the speculation who could have done so cruel a deed? An old man murdered sleeping—a good man, beloved by his parishioners and scarcely known beyond the narrow circle of his rural home. It was his duty to investigate the mystery, so he composed his countenance as well as he was able, and going to the door of the room, called for a servant. The man who had waited at table presently appeared, rubbing his eyes, for he, too, had been asleep. He then asked the servant where he had been, and was told in the ante-room.
He next enquired whether any person had been in or out of the house, or if he had heard any movement or voice in the room, and also how many fellow-servants the man had. He was told that he had heard no noise or voices, and that he had two fellow-servants—the cook and a little boy. His reverence demanded that they should be brought in, that he might question them. The priest had been walking all the time in view of the house, and he felt convinced that the murderer could not have passed in or out on that side without his knowledge.
My poor old friend! I command you; and consider that every one of us standing here is liable to the suspicion of complicity in this foul deed; so look to it. Giuseppe was asleep. They crept in, white with fear and stepping noiselessly. They gazed on the shocking spectacle transfixed with horror. The priest desired Giuseppe to look round the premises, and count the plate, and ascertain if there had been a robbery, or if any one was concealed about the house.
The orbs had a fierce malignant expression, which startled him, and at once recalled to his recollection the angry and sullen demeanour of the creature during dinner.
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After many suggestions, they agreed to pass cords round the neck and under the shoulders of the deceased, and carried the ends outside the room door, which was exactly opposite the couch where he lay. They then all quietly left the apartment, almost closing the door, and remained perfectly still. One of the party was directed to keep his eye fixed on the Cat, the others after a short delay slowly pulled the cords, which had the effect of partially raising the head of the corpse. Instantly, at this apparent sign of life, the savage Cat sprang from its corner, and, with a low yell and a single bound, fastened upon the mangled neck of its victim.
At once the sad mystery was solved, the treacherous, ungrateful, cowardly, and revengeful murderer discovered! Well, to such stories as these I have no particular objection, under certain circumstances.
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I have occasionally become rather fond of an individual Cat, but never encounter one, unexpectedly, without a feeling of repugnance; and, as I like, or feel an interest in, every other animal, I regard this peculiarity as hereditary. I suppose, however, that there are few of my fair readers who have not a feeling somewhat akin to repugnance towards snakes, black-beetles, earwigs, spiders, rats, and even poor little, harmless mice; yet ladies have been known to keep white mice, and make pets of them after a time, when the first [Pg 31] timidity was overcome.
There was a captive once, you may remember, who tamed a spider. A man, about ten years ago, who used to go about the streets, got his living by pretending to swallow snakes. He allowed them, while holding tight on their tails, to crawl half-way down his throat and back again. He said they were nice clean animals, and good company. Little boys at school often swallow frogs. An earwig probably has fine social qualities, which only want bringing out: naturalists tell us they make the best of mothers. The black beetle has always been a maligned insect: it is a sort of nigger among insects, apparently born only to be poisoned, drowned, or smashed; but some one ought, decidedly, to take the race in hand and see of what it is capable.