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Lords of the Housetops: Thirteen Cat Tales

Carl Van Vechten

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    Attention all cat lovers!! (That would be me.) This is a fine collection of cat stories written by authors who obviously loved cats, or at least had great respect for them. Many of them are very well known, including Mark Twain and Edgar Allan Poe. Others are known by me because of the widely varied book reviews I write. A few were totally unfamiliar. I took profuse notes, so I will say at least a little about all thirteen. I liked or loved all of them except one which was terrible and should have been omitted. As I read, I related the different personalities with my cat menagerie (five), and the stories even helped me to understand the sometimes difficult complexities I encounter, especially with my female stray, Maggie.
    But what I did not realize is that the editor was actually himself a very well-known author, particularly in the 1910s to early 1930s, on themes such as the Harlem Renaissance, and numerous other interests. In fact, he also wrote about cats—a book called The Tiger in the House, which I found for free at Internet Archive. He was even more famous as a photographer. Be sure to check out his Wikipedia page to view his photos of famous people, including many African-Americans, many in his social circle. His photo gallery covers the 1930s to 1950s. He died in 1964. So, in all, reading this collection was quite a delight. Here is what the Good Readers at Goodreads had to say about it.
    There were some aspects of it that I found irritating. One is that the author's name does not appear until the end of the story. Since I was reading a digital version, I didn't feel like jumping back and forth to the Table of Contents, so I ended up jotting the author's names down in my notebook. There were other things I had issues with, too, but that mostly concerned the authors, who seemed to have certain false stereotypes in their minds concerning cats, the worst being that when they are hungry you give them a saucer of milk or cream. AAAAARGH!!! PLEASE don't feed that to your cat. The only milk a cat should ever drink is what a kitten sucks out of its mommy's nipple. Cow's milk is not good for cats!! It's not good for people. It is good for baby cows. Another irritation was that there were too many "Toms." But other than a few minor complaints, the positive aspects far outweighed the negative. Cats were portrayed in all their multitude of personalities, from wild and feral, to ultra-spoiled and pampered; from fiercely loyal to totally fickle; (and that can be present in the same cat!); from loving and affectionate to "don't even consider petting me unless I request it." Yep, they got it right. Over decades of personal cat relationships, I've seen it all!
    And one other thing I really liked about these stories is that many of the cats were black. I am blessed with two black precious babies, Goblin and Jasmyne, both fifteen years old. Their brother, Grizzly Bear, is grey.
    These stories were taken from various sources, although not all are acknowledged. One is actually an excerpt from a novel, which I found and downloaded. I will mention these as I do each review.
The Cat, by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
    This story is from the work Understudies, which is not available at Project Gutenberg. It was published in 1901. Wilkins Freeman is one of my regular authors, and I chose this work as my 2021 contribution to her Index Page. Her cat story is truly unique among the others included here, in that it portrays a starving, lonely cat, determined to sit out a terrible snowstorm on a mountainside in order to catch the rabbit he is certain will emerge. What I particularly liked was Freeman's descriptions, such as the raging storm which begins the story. It brought a sense of realism to the tale.

   So he sat down and waited, and he waited still in the white night, listening angrily to the north wind starting in the upper heights of the mountains with distant screams, then swelling into an awful crescendo of rage, and swooping down with furious white wings of snow like a flock of fierce eagles into the valleys and ravines. The Cat was on the side of a mountain, on a wooded terrace. Above him a few feet away towered the rock ascent as steep as the wall of a cathedral. The Cat had never climbed it—trees were the ladders to his heights of life. He had often looked with wonder at the rock, and miauled bitterly and resentfully as man does in the face of a forbidding Providence. At his left was the sheer precipice. Behind him, with a short stretch of woody growth between, was the frozen perpendicular wall of a mountain stream. Before him was the way to his home.

    The cat does have a home, but his elderly master leaves for the winter, to return in the spring. The cat knows how to enter by climbing up a pine tree and into a little window under the eaves. He must now do it while carrying the heavy rabbit. But something happens after he enters. Someone bangs on the door and eventually gets in. After the initial shock, the cat brings the rabbit to the old ragged and starving tramp. He lights the fire and cooks it, dividing it in half to share with the cat. The two become fast friends—two of a kind, perhaps. The cat continues to catch food, and the old man cooks and shares it.
Zut, by Guy Wetmore Carryl
    These stories vary in mood, and about half of them are funny. This is one. I have to say, not all of them were easy to read, especially the ones set in France, which always makes one adjust to the different culture, names and places. It takes patience to read this story, but is worth it. The main subject of the tale is two businesses, both run by women. One is Salon Malakoff, which has been carefully remodeled, is spic and span, and filled with cheerful and friendly people. Espérance is described as "fresh, smiling and prosperous," while Alexandrine's shop "smells of raw vegetables, cheese and dried fish." It is a shop which has deteriorated, and the female proprietor has been known to sell inferior products, which was a very bad business decision in Paris. The wife who runs her husband's salon is totally unaware of the jealously that is eating away at her neighbor.

   In the existence of Madame Caille there was one emphatic consolation for all misfortunes, the which was none other than Zut, a white angora cat of surpassing beauty and prodigious size. She had come into Alexandrine's possession as a kitten, and, what with much eating and an inherent distaste for exercise, had attained her present proportions and her superb air of unconcern. It was from the latter that she derived her name, the which, in Parisian argot, at once means everything and nothing, but is chiefly taken to signify complete and magnificent indifference to all things mundane and material: and in the matter of indifference Zut was past-mistress. Even for Madame Caille herself, who fed her with the choicest morsels from her own plate, brushed her fine fur with excessive care, and addressed caressing remarks to her at minute intervals throughout the day, Zut manifested a lack of interest that amounted to contempt. As she basked in the warm sun at the shop door, the round face of her mistress beamed upon her from the little desk, and the voice of her mistress sent fulsome flattery winging toward her on the heavy air. Was she beautiful, mon Dieu! In effect, all that one could dream of the most beautiful! And her eyes, of a blue like the heaven, were they not wise and calm? Mon Dieu, yes! It was a cat among thousands, a mimi almost divine.

    So, not only have Madame Caille's customers abandoned her, but one day her cat does, too, finding the atmosphere of Salon Malakoff more refreshing! Then things come to a head! This story is from Zut and Other Parisians, 1903.
A Psychical Invasion, by Algernon Blackwood
    This one is more like a novelette, and probably my favorite in all. Algernon Blackwood wrote a set of six, "John Silence" stories, published originally in one collection, I believe. I have them in two sets of three stories each from Project Gutenberg, and am now inspired to read them. John Silence is a physician, but his practice is psychic. He is very wealthy and only takes on clients that have something outside the realm of physical illness, in other words, something from the non-physical world afflicting them. So, all through the story, I could totally relate, from my own personal experience. Wow! Actually there were many aspects of this one that struck a tender chord within me. The good doctor, having no need for money, only takes clients who cannot pay. Everything he does is for the benefit of others. And even better is his deep compassion for animals. In solving this psychic mystery, and dispelling the evil force, his two working partners are a cat, Smoke, and a dog, Flame, just two out of his large family of pets.
    Well, when I reviewed my notes on this one, I saw I had made lots of additional annotations in the margin, including arrows, exclamation points, and the word YES. I found so much here with which I could relate, but will have to pare it down for this review. However, I plan to tear out my notes and keep them for when I review that entire set. I do not have an Index Page for Blackwood as of this writing, but he is on my list to create one.
    Here is a synopsis of the story: A woman who is a friend of John Silence comes to him for help, not for herself, but for a young newly-married author who writes comedy. She had been friends with his wife before the marriage, and now is distraught over what she sees happening. Suddenly, this popular writer has been struck unable to write, and what he does write is so filled with evil it cannot be published. He is in terror of something that has disrupted his ability to function. Dr. Silence agrees to take the case, always being curious of these psychic events, and he is convinced there has been an invasion.
    Felix Pender's wife greets the doctor when he arrives until her husband returns home, and they speak a little about the massive personality changes which have taken place in Felix. But when Pender arrives home and they go off for a private consultation, much more is revealed. In fact Pender is quite aware, in many aspects, of what has overtaken him.
    He made the bad decision to try hashish, having heard that it could increase his humor. At first nothing happened, he relates, but then, everything became funny, roaring funny. He also experienced alterations of time and other nasty stuff that drugs do, then went to sleep. But upon awakening, the humor had turned to horror. He realized he was no longer alone, but a malevolent force of incredible power had attached herself to him, and therefore, his "humorous" writing became permeated with deeply evil undertones. At the point he was now, he literally could not make a living any more.
    Dr. Silence, first, warns him against using drugs, (GOOD MAN, Dr, Silence!), then tells him the evil is in the house and Pender and his wife must vacate it. The benevolent doctor sets them up in another house, which he supplies, then he, his dog, and his cat spend the night, all alone, in the house. It is a very scary story. Both animals are aware of the invasive spirit, the cat, actually seeing her, and quite pleased to be friends, and the dog scared out of his wits. Here are a few quotes. First, here is a description of Dr. Silence. I liked him from the start.

   By his friends John Silence was regarded as an eccentric, because he was rich by accident, and by choice—a doctor. That a man of independent means should devote his time to doctoring, chiefly doctoring folk who could not pay, passed their comprehension entirely. The native nobility of a soul whose first desire was to help those who could not help themselves, puzzled them. After that, it irritated them, and, greatly to his own satisfaction, they left him to his own devices.

    Here's another to which I can certainly relate. Being clairsentient is even worse!

   "It connotes a slightly increased sensibility, nothing more," he would say. "The true clairvoyant deplores his power, recognizing that it adds a new horror to life, and is in the nature of an affliction. And you will find this always to be the real test."

    But as I said, I will save the rest for when I review the John Silence series, and since this collection is about cats, here's two appropriate quotes.

   Cats, in particular, he believed, were almost continuously conscious of a larger field of vision, too detailed even for a photographic camera, and quite beyond the reach of normal human organs. He had, further, observed that while dogs were usually terrified in the presence of such phenomena, cats on the other hand were soothed and satisfied. They welcomed manifestations as something belonging peculiarly to their own region.
   The cat he chose, now full grown, had lived with him since kittenhood, a kittenhood of perplexing sweetness and audacious mischief. Wayward it was and fanciful, ever playing its own mysterious games in the corners of the room, jumping at invisible nothings, leaping sideways into the air and falling with tiny mocassined feet on to another part of the carpet, yet with an air of dignified earnestness which showed that the performance was necessary to its own well-being, and not done merely to impress a stupid human audience. In the middle of elaborate washing it would look up, startled, as though to stare at the approach of some Invisible, cocking its little head sideways and putting out a velvet pad to inspect cautiously. Then it would get absent-minded, and stare with equal intentness in another direction (just to confuse the onlookers), and suddenly go on furiously washing its body again, but in quite a new place. Except for a white patch on its breast it was coal black. And its name was—Smoke.

The Afflictions of an English Cat, by Honoré de Balzac
    This was the only story not originally written in English. It was translated from the French by the editor of this collection. It is a funny story and would have been funnier had I known a bit more about English Victorian stuffiness and stifling social mores. There is no additional information given here about it, such as its publication date, and I haven't been able to find anything else either.
    It is written in the voice of a female cat who has suffered through humiliation and punishment for committing social blunders, which served to create the perfect lady. But in the end, she falls for a suave French cat of lower standing, though he was descended from the noble Puss in Boots. Here is a quote which began her training.

   One morning I, a poor little daughter of Nature, attracted by a bowl of cream, covered by a muffin, knocked the muffin off with my paw, and lapped the cream. Then in joy, and perhaps also on account of the weakness of my young organs, I delivered myself on the waxed floor to the imperious need which young Cats feel. Perceiving the proofs of what she called my intemperance and my faults of education, the old woman seized me and whipped me vigorously with a birchrod, protesting that she would make me a lady or she would abandon me.
   "Permit me to give you a lesson in gentility," she said. "Understand, Miss Beauty, that English Cats veil natural acts, which are opposed to the laws of English respectability, in the most profound mystery, and banish all that is improper, applying to the creature, as you have heard the Reverend Doctor Simpson say, the laws made by God for the creation. Have you ever seen the Earth behave itself indecently? Learn to suffer a thousand deaths rather than reveal your desires; in this suppression consists the virtue of the saints. The greatest privilege of Cats is to depart with the grace that characterizes your actions, and let no one know where you are going to make your little toilets. Thus you expose yourself only when you are beautiful. Deceived by appearances, everybody will take you for an angel. In the future when such a desire seizes you, look out of the window, give the impression that you desire to go for a walk, then run to a copse or to the gutter."

    Please note that normally I wouldn't find anything humorous about abusing an animal, but this story is so silly, it didn't matter. And it is mocking people, not cats. Here are two more quotes from after Beauty has become civilized.

   "Beauty is entirely moral; she is a little angel," she said. "Although she is very beautiful she has the air of not knowing it. She never looks at anybody, which is the height of a fine aristocratic education. When she does look at anybody it is with that perfect indifference which we demand of our young girls, but which we obtain only with great difficulty. She never intrudes herself unless you call her; she never jumps on you with familiarity; nobody ever sees her eat, and certainly that monster of a Lord Byron would have adored her. Like a tried and true Englishwoman she loves tea, sits, gravely calm, while the Bible is being explained, and thinks badly of nobody, a fact which permits one to speak freely before her. She is simple, without affectation, and has no desire for jewels. Give her a ring and she will not keep it. Finally, she does not imitate the vulgarity of the hunter. She loves her home and remains there so perfectly tranquil that at times you would believe that she was a mechanical Cat made at Birmingham or Manchester, which is the ne plus ultra of the finest education."
   What these men and old women call education is the custom of dissimulating natural manners, and when they have completely depraved us they say that we are well-bred. One evening my mistress begged one of the young ladies to sing. When this girl went to the piano and began to sing I recognized at once an Irish melody that I had heard in my youth, and I remembered that I also was a musician. So I merged my voice with hers, but I received some raps on the head while she received compliments. I was revolted by this sovereign injustice and ran away to the garret. Sacred love of country! What a delicious night! I at last knew what the roof was. I heard Toms sing hymns to their mates, and these adorable elegies made me feel ashamed of the hypocrisies my mistress had forced upon me. Soon some of the Cats observed me and appeared to take offence at my presence, when a Tom with shaggy hair, a magnificent beard, and a fine figure, came to look at me and said to the company, "It's only a child!" At these condescending words, I bounded about on the tiles, moving with that agility which distinguishes us; I fell on my paws in that flexible fashion which no other animal knows how to imitate in order to show that I was no child. But these calineries were a pure waste of time. "When will some one serenade me?" I asked myself. The aspect of these haughty Toms, their melodies, that the human voice could never hope to rival, had moved me profoundly, and were the cause of my inventing little lyrics that I sang on the stairs. But an event of tremendous importance was about to occur which tore me violently from this innocent life. I went to London with a niece of my mistress, a rich heiress who adored me, who kissed me, caressed me with a kind of madness, and who pleased me so much that I became attached to her, against all the habits of our race. We were never separated and I was able to observe the great world of London during the season. It was there that I studied the perversity of English manners, which have power even over the beasts, that I became acquainted with that cant which Byron cursed and of which I am the victim as well as he, but without having enjoyed my hours of leisure.

Gipsy, by Booth Tarkington
    This story is an excerpt from a novel, Penrod and Sam, 1916. Gipsy is one mean cat.

   This cat was, for a cat, needlessly tall, powerful, independent, and masculine. Once, long ago, he had been a roly-poly pepper-and-salt kitten; he had a home in those days, and a name, "Gipsy," which he abundantly justified. He was precocious in dissipation. Long before his adolescence, his lack of domesticity was ominous, and he had formed bad companionships. Meanwhile, he grew so rangy, and developed such length and power of leg and such traits of character, that the father of the little girl who owned him was almost convincing when he declared that the young cat was half broncho and half Malay pirate—though, in the light of Gipsy's later career, this seems bitterly unfair to even the lowest orders of bronchos and Malay pirates.
   No; Gipsy was not the pet for a little girl. The rosy hearthstone and sheltered rug were too circumspect for him. Surrounded by the comforts of middle-class respectability, and profoundly oppressed, even in his youth, by the Puritan ideals of the household, he sometimes experienced a sense of suffocation. He wanted free air and he wanted free life; he wanted the lights, the lights, and the music. He abandoned the bourgeoisie irrevocably. He went forth in a May twilight, carrying the evening beefsteak with him, and joined the underworld.

    He shows up on Penrod's porch, where his little old dog, Duke is napping. The cook had been careless, and the backbone of a three-pound whitefish lay at the foot of the refuse-can. Gipsy is determined to have it. Duke, however, thinks otherwise and a fight ensues, and had not Penrod intercepted, Gipsy might have won.
    The details of the fight are hilarious, but what is funnier, it when Gipsy realizes he is outnumbered by two human enemies, and takes a great leap, landing in the open well.
    Van Vechten assures us in the Preface that Gipsy doesn't drown, as we would know if we were reading the whole book and not just an excerpt.
The Blue Dryad, by G.H. Powell
    This was the one bad story of the bunch, so the less said about it, the better. I'm not sure if it was meant to be . . . humorous?
    It is about a lady in "delicate health," which usually meant pregnant back then. Her husband, who had just returned from a scientific and "sporting" expedition in South America, brings back a deadly snake called a "blue dryad," which apparently isn't actually real. Anyways, he and a cousin accidentally leave it in a basket and leave the door open, so it gets into Mrs. Warburton-Kinneir's bedroom. It kills her dog, but the cat saves her, and the men are amused. Do you think that's a good story? I wasn't able to find anything on Powell, either, and that is probably good.
Dick Baker's Cat, by Mark Twain
    As with Freeman, I also chose this collection to provide a 2021 contribution to my Mark Twain Index Page. With Mark Twain, you either like him or you don't. He had three levels of humor. The first was clever and witty. The second, silly. And the third, downright goofy, often all three appearing in the same book. Well, this is just a very short story, so goofy stood alone. It is one of the two stories in this collection that was set in the U.S. West during the gold rush. The other is a serious tragedy. This one, however, is about a cat, Tom Quartz, who was quite adept concerning gold mining, but when the craze for quartz came along, he didn't like it one bit. One quote should give you an idea . . . . This story is from Roughing It, 1871-1899, which Project Gutenberg has for free on their Mark Twain pages.

   "Gentlemen, I used to have a cat here, by the name of Tom Quartz, which you'd 'a' took an interest in, I reckon—, most anybody would. I had him here eight year—and he was the remarkablest cat I ever see. He was a large grey one of the Tom specie, an' he had more hard, natchral sense than any man in this camp—'n' a power of dignity—he wouldn't let the Gov'ner of Californy be familiar with him. He never ketched a rat in his life—'peared to be above it. He never cared for nothing but mining. He knowed more about mining, that cat did, than any man I ever, ever see. You couldn't tell him noth'n' 'bout placer-diggin's—'n' as for pocket-mining, why he was just born for it. He would dig out after me an' Jim when we went over the hills prospect'n', and he would trot along behind us for as much as five mile, if we went so fur. An' he had the best judgment about mining-ground—why you never see anything like it. When we went to work, he'd scatter a glance around, 'n' if he didn't think much of the indications, he would give a look as much as to say, 'Well, I'll have to get you to excuse me,' 'n' without another word he'd hyste his nose into the air 'n' shove for home. But if the ground suited him, he would lay low 'n' keep dark till the first pan was washed, 'n' then he would sidle up 'n' take a look, an' if there was about six or seven grains of gold he was satisfied—he didn't want no better prospect 'n' that—'n' then he would lay down on our coats and snore like a steamboat till we'd struck the pocket, an' then get up 'n' superintend. He was nearly lightnin' on superintending.

The Black Cat, by Edgar Allan Poe
    I will say the same about Poe that I said about Twain—you either like him or you don't. And even if you are not familiar with the story, you should kinda know what to expect. Yes it is gory and creepy and the main character is an alcoholic and mentally deranged. He is physically abusive to the point of murder. That's all I'll say about this one. It is pretty well known, at least to Poe fans.
Madame Jolicœur's Cat, by Thomas A, Janvier
    Here's another set in France, taken from From the South of France, 1912. As in the other French stories, it took a little more concentration to adjust to the names, but once done, this was one of my favorites; very funny with an even funnier ending. Ah, that "what goes around, come around" should always happen so conveniently!!
    Madame Jolicœur has lost her beloved spouse, and is left with her beloved Shah de Perse, an exceptional Persian black cat. The love and affection between the two is unsurpassable, and though Madame, when the story begins, has mourned long enough to see suitors, she has not decided if she wants to. In fact, indecision is one of her characteristics. They reside in Marseillaise. Here's a description of the Shah:

   Cats of his perfect beauty, of his perfect grace, possibly might be found, Madame Jolicœur grudgingly admitted, in the Persian royal catteries; but nowhere else in the Orient, and nowhere at all in the Occident, she declared with an energetic conviction, possibly could there be found a cat who even approached him in intellectual development, in wealth of interesting accomplishments, and, above all, in natural sweetness of disposition—a sweetness so marked that even under extreme provocation he never had been known to thrust out an angry paw. This is not to say that the Shah de Perse was a characterless cat, a lymphatic nonentity. On occasion—usually in connection with food that was distasteful to him—he could have his resentments; but they were manifested always with a dignified restraint. His nearest approach to ill-mannered abruptness was to bat with a contemptuous paw the offending morsel from his plate; which brusque act he followed by fixing upon the bestower of unworthy food a coldly, but always politely, contemptuous stare. Ordinarily, however, his displeasure—in the matter of unsuitable food, or in other matters—was exhibited by no more overt action than his retirement to a corner—he had his choices in corners, governed by the intensity of his feelings—and there seating himself with his back turned scornfully to an offending world. Even in his kindliest corner, on such occasions, the expression of his scornful back was as a whole volume of wingéd words!

    They played a little game in the evenings where words were not needed, but a set of subtle actions on the parts of both Madame and the cat. And it always began with the donning of a white night-cap.

   It was of the game that Madame Jolicœur should assume her cap with an air of detachment and aloofness: as though no such entity as the Shah de Perse existed, and with an insisted-upon disregard of the fact that he was watching her alertly with his great golden eyes. Equally was it of the game that the Shah de Perse should affect—save for his alert watching—a like disregard of the doings of Madame Jolicœur: usually by an ostentatious pretence of washing his upraised hind leg, or by a like pretence of scrubbing his ears. These conventions duly having been observed, Madame Jolicœur would seat herself in her especial easy-chair, above the relatively high back of which her night-capped head a little rose. Being so seated, always with the air of aloofness and detachment, she would take a book from the table and make a show of becoming absorbed in its contents. Matters being thus advanced, the Shah de Perse would make a show of becoming absorbed in searchings for an imaginary mouse—but so would conduct his fictitious quest for that supposititious animal as eventually to achieve for himself a strategic position close behind Madame Jolicœur's chair. Then, dramatically, the pleasing end of the game would come: as the Shah de Perse—leaping with the distinguishing grace and lightness of his Persian race—would flash upward and "surprise" Madame Jolicœur by crowning her white-capped head with his small black person, all a-shake with triumphant purrs! It was a charming little comedy—and so well understood by the Shah de Perse that he never ventured to essay it under other, and more intimate, conditions of night-cap use; even as he never failed to engage in it with spirit when his white lure properly was set for him above the back of Madame Jolicœur's chair. It was as though to the Shah de Perse the white night-cap of Madame Jolicœur, displayed in accordance with the rules of the game, were an oriflamme: akin to, but in minor points differing from, the helmet of Navarre.

    OK, I do that sort of thing with my animals, so I can relate.
    Anyways, through fate, Madame does find herself being courted, and now a choice must be made between the top two contenders. Inserted in this section of the story are the city gossips arguing about which is best for the widow. And as for Madame Jolicœur, at least she has made the decision that a decision needs to be made! Monsieur Fromagin prefers Monsieur Peloux, a well-off notary for Madame's right choice, but Madame Gauthier clearly disagrees, siding with Major Gontard.

   Madame Gauthier, a clear-starcher of position, to whom Monsieur Fromagin thus addressed himself, was less broadly positive. "That is a matter of opinion," she answered; and added: "To go no further than the very beginning, Monsieur should perceive that her choice has exactly fifty chances in the hundred of going wrong: lying, as it does, between a meagre, sallow-faced creature of a death-white baldness, and a fine big pattern of a man, strong and ruddy, with a close-clipped but abundant thatch on his head, and a moustache that admittedly is superb!"

    But as the story progresses, we, the readers must vehemently side with lady's opinion, as we learn that, first, the meagre, sallow-faced notary does not care for cats; second, sees the Shah de Perse as his competition; and last, is willing to commit a criminal act to remove the cat from the equation!
A Friendly Rat, by W. H. Hudson
    When I saw the author's name on this one, it was vaguely familiar, so I did a little search on Dover Publication's website, and sure enough, he wrote Green Mansions, a book which I bought from them a while back but have not read yet, although I'm sure I will like it. It was made into a movie. Hudson was an Anglo-Argentine author, naturalist and ornithologist. I believe this story is non-fictional, and is about a rat who makes himself at home in a village cottage, where the wife is childless and often home alone. She comes to welcome the rat, and soon her cat and the rat become fast friends. Unfortunately, the rat gets married and bears little ratlings, and upon that, the woman's husband draws the line on the number of wild pets allowed in the cottage! It is taken from The Book of a Naturalist, 1919.
Monty's Friend, by William Livingston Alden
    This is the other "gold-rush" story. It takes place at Thompson's Flat at the northern border of Montana, and it seems that once Thompson got his gold, there was none left for anyone else. And so the miners remaining are in dire straits, with no money and not much hope. When Montgomery Carleton shows up, the rest of the camp now have a victim in which to vent their spleen. and to make matters worse, he is the ugliest man they'd ever seen. A mule had kicked him in the face. Though he is a friendly man, the others band together to make him miserable. Having no money, he is stuck there, and so made the best of it. Until they forbid him from even entering the tavern where supplies were also sold, when they were present. Thus ostracized, Monty goes to his cabin and breaks down in tears. But at that point, a ragged camp cat enters the cabin.

   Monty had often tried to make friends with the cat, but Tom had repulsed him as coldly as the miners themselves. Now in his loneliness the man was glad to be spoken to, even by the camp cat; and he called it to him, though without any expectation that the animal would come to him. But Tom, stalking slowly into the cabin, sprang after a moment's hesitation into Monty's bunk, and purring loudly in a hoarse voice, as one by whom the accomplishment of purring had long been neglected, gently and tentatively licked the man's face, and kneaded his throat with two soft and caressing paws. A vast sob shook both Monty and the cat. The man put his arms around the animal, and hugging him closely, kissed his head. The cat purred louder than ever, and presently laying his head against Monty's cheek, he drew a long breath and sank into a peaceful slumber.

The Queen's Cat, by Peggy Bacon
    This short fairy-tale comes from The True Philosopher, 1919. It is a silly story about a king who is terrified of cats like some people are terrified of spiders or snakes. Anyways, he is a popular king, but his people wish him to choose a queen, which he does. Before asking her opinion about cats. A seemingly unsolvable dilemma results, and when the queen's cat is finally removed, she begins to pine away.
Calvin, by Charles Dudley Warner
    Warner was a friend of Mark Twain, in fact, they collaborated on the book, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, also available at Project Gutenberg. This story comes from My Summer in a Garden, first published in 1870. It is a loving biography of an extraordinary cat who arrived as a stray, lived a wonderful life, grew old and quietly died. In the Preface, Van Vechten calls it "one of the two best cat biographies that have yet been written." Warner's telling of this story is tender and amusing. Ah, that all people would hold animals in such reverence, as it should be. It was very difficult to choose just one paragraph from this tale, but here it is, and it sets the mood for what follows.

   It is difficult to convey a just idea of his gaiety in connection with his dignity and gravity, which his name expressed. As we know nothing of his family, of course it will be understood that Calvin was his Christian name. He had times of relaxation into utter playfulness, delighting in a ball of yarn, catching sportively at stray ribbons when his mistress was at her toilet, and pursuing his own tail, with hilarity, for lack of anything better. He could amuse himself by the hour, and he did not care for children; perhaps something in his past was present to his memory. He had absolutely no bad habits, and his disposition was perfect. I never saw him exactly angry, though I have seen his tail grow to an enormous size when a strange cat appeared upon his lawn. He disliked cats, evidently regarding them as feline and treacherous, and he had no association with them. Occasionally there would be heard a night concert in the shrubbery. Calvin would ask to have the door opened, and then you would hear a rush and a "pestzt," and the concert would explode, and Calvin would quietly come in and resume his seat on the hearth. There was no trace of anger in his manner, but he wouldn't have any of that about the house. He had the rare virtue of magnanimity. Although he had fixed notions about his own rights, and extraordinary persistency in getting them, he never showed temper at a repulse; he simply and firmly persisted till he had what he wanted. His diet was one point; his idea was that of the scholars about dictionaries,—to "get the best." He knew as well as any one what was in the house, and would refuse beef if turkey was to be had; and if there were oysters, he would wait over the turkey to see if the oysters would not be forthcoming. And yet he was not a gross gourmand; he would eat bread if he saw me eating it, and thought he was not being imposed on. His habits of feeding, also, were refined; he never used a knife, and he would put up his hand and draw the fork down to his mouth as gracefully as a grown person. Unless necessity compelled, he would not eat in the kitchen, but insisted upon his meals in the dining-room, and would wait patiently, unless a stranger were present; and then he was sure to importune the visitor, hoping that the latter was ignorant of the rule of the house, and would give him something. They used to say that he preferred as his table-cloth on the floor a certain well-known church journal; but this was said by an Episcopalian. So far as I know, he had no religious prejudices, except that he did not like the association with Romanists. He tolerated the servants, because they belonged to the house, and would sometimes linger by the kitchen stove; but the moment visitors came in he arose, opened the door, and marched into the drawing-room. Yet he enjoyed the company of his equals, and never withdrew, no matter how many callers—whom he recognized as of his society—might come into the drawing-room. Calvin was fond of company, but he wanted to choose it; and I have no doubt that his was an aristocratic fastidiousness rather than one of faith. It is so with most people.

    And there you have it! If you are a cat lover, or would like to be, the entire realm of feline personalities quite possibly exists in this collection. It is fun and entertaining and recommended. And free!

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