Short Stories » The Pathetic Story of Madame Catalini
The Pathetic Story of Madame Catalini
To begin with, my friend, I am descended from an ancient family, and my ancestors, if numbered, would prove numerous enough to astonish you.
While still quite young, I was the favorite of the family in whose mansion my mother resided, and well remember the soft-cushioned chairs and sofas on which I frisked or reposed as inclination prompted, and the fringes, cords, and tassels with which I used to play. There were also work-baskets and boxes, containing every kind of device that would entertain a kitten of lively nature, pet dogs, and singing-birds; but my most pleasant playmates were the little master and mistress, who carried me in their arms, shared delicate morsels of food with me, and often rocked me to sleep. Thus my childhood was passed in-doors, with an occasional romp at butterflies (who looked as though they would taste delicious), with fluttering leaves, or a peek-a-boo game among the vines with my little human friends.
As I grew older, I had many admirers, but knew nothing of the sorrows of life. The first unpleasant surprise to my feelings was the way in which some of our visitors were treated, on the occasion of a serenade to myself. A singular-looking article, called a boot-jack, was hurled by a servant at Signer Tomcoto, a vocalist of great note in our neighborhood. The professor luckily escaped injury, but the fine troupe of singers was completely broken up, at least for that occasion.
Several years passed after this event, during which I learned many serious and important things, for I gained quite an understanding of the human family, on whose bounty we depended, and whose very expression of face and tone of voice mean so much to us. I learned how they can pet us one week and go off on a pleasure trip the next, leaving us shut up inside a tight house, with no water to drink, and nothing to eat but mice ; and, oh, how lonesome a house can be to a cat when the family are gone, and not even the canary or parrot left for company !
I have known them to cruelly treat or even kill our little ones, but we must not even scratch back.
I have heard them speak in a heartless tone of " fur trimmings made from pussy's coat," but hardly under- stood what was meant; also something about violin and guitar strings being made from some part of our physical structure.
I once cautiously examined a guitar while my mistress was absent from the room, but I did not see any- thing about it that I could recognize, and when I softly drew my paw across the strings, they made a startling sound, and one snapped. When my young master re-entered the room, he said, "This catgut string is broken; let's have another." Now although I do not understand exactly what he meant, I often wonder how the change takes place between a cat and a guitar string; it is one of the mysteries to me. Another thing. Why is the natural melody of a cat's own voice at night-time more objectionable than the sounds produced in an unnatural manner from an instrument that is, in some way, part wood and part cat, and to the sounds of which happy-hearted persons will listen with delight, or dance the hours away, keeping up such a disturbance that no cat can sleep long.
There goes a boy who always throws a stone at a cat, no matter how quiet she is. There is an old woman who would say "Scat!" in church if "she dared, and there is a little girl in whose care I could trust my own kittens, and be happy. I will tell you something about her, and it is as true as anything ever was. One day, for some reason that I could not understand, her good mother reproved, and, oh ! slapped her. My little mistress went and sat down in a corner, and was crying softly to herself, when my son Thomas gently approached her. After a moment he slipped into her lap, slid one paw and then another around her neck, and snuggled his head up close to her cheek. Little mistress felt the caress, and, knowing it was sympathy, clasped him in her arms, exclaiming, " O Tommy, you're the only friend I have in this world!" Then she rose up and walked away with him in her arms, and the next time I saw her the trouble was all over.
We animals have to be on our guard, and learn to study faces, for there are many kinds of persons.
I have heard my little master read of a cat who made her master rich, and he became Lord Mayor of London-town. His name was Whittington, and he had her portrait painted, sitting on the arm of his chair. I have also heard of men who made books, and had cats for their favorite pets ; but strangest of all, in a country named Egypt, they even worshiped them ! However, ancient history is not my theme ; the present time will suffice.
Why is it that ladies will patronize the killing of birds to get plumage for their hats, but blame us cats for killing common birds to feed our crying little ones? Young ladies ought to be more refined in sentiment than cats -ought, and great strong men who could work ought to be above killing little birds by the thousand, I think ; but then what amount of moralizing ever accomplished a reform when the wrong- doer was the strongest party? I feel that I must resign myself to my lot with all the patience I have, continuing thankful for my good home ; but, oh, that I could speak to girls and boys, and ask them to be merciful to the helpless creatures that are willing to be useful when possible, and ready always to romp and play for their diversion !
At this point Madame Catalini seemed quite weary. It was a hot day in July, and everyone felt the effect. Madame Catalini arose and walked toward the kitchen stove, under which she stretched her languid frame, and resigned herself to repose. "Well," said cook kindly, " ain't it strange how a cat can sleep in a place like that this hot day? Now / would rather have gone into the cellar. Let her alone; she'll make the mice fly after that nap ! "