Letters from a Cat/6
My Dear Helen:
I will begin where I left off in my last letter.
As you may imagine, I did not get any sleep that night, not even so much as a cat's nap, as people say, though how cat's naps differ from men's and women's naps, I don't know. I shivered all night, and it hurt me terribly whenever I moved. Early in the morning your grandfather came downstairs, and when he saw how I looked, he swore again, that same oath: we all know very well what it means when he swears in that way: it means that he is going to do all he can for you, and is so sorry, that he is afraid of seeming too sorry. Don't you remember when you had that big double tooth pulled out, and he gave you five dollars, how he swore then? Well, he took me up in his arms, and carried me into the dining-room; it was quite cool; there was a nice wood fire, on the hearth, and Mary was setting the table for breakfast. He said to her in a very gruff voice, "Here you, Mary, you go up into the garret and bring down the cradle."
Sick as I was, I could not help laughing at the sight of her face. It was enough to make any cat laugh.
"You don't ever mean to say, sir, as you're going to put that cat into the cradle."
"You do as I tell you," said he, in that most awful tone of his, which always makes you so afraid. I felt afraid myself, though all the time he was stroking my head, and saying, "Poor pussy, there, poor pussy, lie still." In a few minutes Mary came down with the cradle, and set it down by the fire with such a bang that I wondered it did not break. You know she always bangs things when she is cross, but I never could see what good it does. Then your grandfather made up a nice bed in the cradle, out of Charlie's winter blanket and an old pillow, and laid me down in it, all rolled up as I was in your petticoat. When your mother came into the room she laughed almost as hard as she didwhen she saw me in the soft-soap barrel, and said, "Why, father, you are rather old to play cat's cradle!" The old gentleman laughed at this,
till the tears ran down his red cheeks. "Well," he said, "I tell you one thing; the game will last me till that poor cat gets well again." Then he went upstairs, and brought down a bottle of something very soft and slippery, like lard, and put it on my eyes, and it made them feel much better. After that he gave me some milk into which he had put some of his very best brandy: that was pretty hard to get down, but I understood enough of what they had said, to be sure that if I did not take something of the kind I should never get well. After breakfast I tried to walk, but my right paw was entirely useless. At first they thought it was broken, but finally decided that it was only sprained, and must be bandaged. The bandages were wet with something which smelled so badly it made me feel very sick, for the first day or two. Cats' noses are much more sensitive to smells than people's are; but I grew used to it, and it did my poor lame paw so much good that I would have borne it if it had smelled twice as badly. For three days I had to lie all the time in the cradle: if your grandfather caught me out of it, he would swear at me, and put me back again. Every morning he put the soft white stuff on my eyes, and changed the bandages on my leg. And, oh, my dear Helen, such good things as I had to eat! I had almost the same things for my dinner that the rest of them did: it must be a splendid thing to be a man or a woman! I do not think I shall ever again be contented to eat in the shed, and have only the old pieces which no body wants.Two things troubled me very much while I was confined to the cradle: one was that everybody who came in to see your mother laughed as if they never could stop, at the first sight of me; and the other was that I heard poor Cæsar mewing all around the house, and calling me with all his might; and I knew he thought I was dead. I tried hard to make your kind mother notice his crying, for I knew she would be willing to let him come in and see me, but I could not make her understand. I suppose she thought it was only some common strolling cat who was hungry. I have always noticed that people do not observe any difference between one cat's voice and another's; now they really are just as different as human voices. Cæsar has one of the finest, deepest
toned voices I ever heard. One day, after I got well enough to be in the kitchen, he slipped in, between the legs of the butcher's boy who was bringing in some meat; but before I had time to say one word to him, Mary flew at him with the broom, and drove him out. However, he saw that I was alive, and that was something. I am afraid it will be some days yet before I can see him again, for they do not let me go out at all, and the bandages are not taken off my leg. The cradle is carried upstairs, and I sleep on Charlie's blanket behind the stove. I heard your mother say to-day that she really believed the cat had the rheumatism. I do not know what that is, but I think I have got it: it hurts me all over when I walk, and I feel as if I looked like Bill Jacobs's old cat, who, they say, is older than the oldest man in town; but of course that must be a slander.The thing I am most concerned about is my fur; it is coming off in spots: there is a bare spot on the back of my neck, on the place by which they lifted me up out of the soap barrel, half as large as your hand; and whenever I wash myself, I get my mouth full of hairs, which is very disagreeable. I heard your grandfather say to-day, that he believed he would try Mrs. Somebody's Hair Restorer on the cat, at which everybody laughed so that I ran out of the room as fast as I could go, and then they laughed still harder. I will write you again in a day or two, and tell you how I am getting on. I hope you will come home soon.
Your affectionate Pussy.
My Dear Helen:
I am so glad to know that you are coming home next week, that I cannot think of any thing else. There is only one drawback to my pleasure, and that is, I am so ashamed to have you see me in such a plight. I told you, in my last letter, that my fur was beginning to come off. Your grandfather has tried several things of his, which are said to be good for hair; but they have not had the least effect. For my part I don't see why they should; fur and hair are two very different things, and I thought at the outset there was no use in putting on my skin what was intended for the skin of human heads, and even on them don't seem to work any great wonders, if I can judge from your grandfather's head, which you know is as bald and pink and shiny as a baby's. However, he has been so good to me, that I let him do any thing he likes, and every day he rubs in some new kind of stuff, which smells a little worse than the last one. It is utterly impossible for me to get within half a mile of a rat or a mouse. I might as well fire off a gun to let them know I am coming, as to go about scented up so that they can smell me a great deal farther off than they can see me. If it were not for this dreadful state of my fur, I should be perfectly happy, for I feel much better than I ever did before in my whole life, and am twice as fat as when you went away. I try to be resigned to whatever may be in store for me, but it is very hard to look forward to being a fright all the rest of one's days. I don't suppose such a thing was ever seen in the world as a cat without any fur. This morning your grandfather sat looking at me for a long time and stroking his chin: at last he said, "Do you suppose it would do any good to shave the cat all over?" At this I could not resist the impulse to scream, and your mother said, "I do believe the creature knows when ever we speak about her." Of course I do! Why in the world shouldn't I! People never seem to observe that cats have ears. I often think how much more careful they would be if they did. I have laughed many a time to see them send children out of the room, and leave me behind, when I knew perfectly well that the children would neither notice nor understand half so much as I would. There are some houses in which I lived, before I came to live with you, about which I could tell strange stories if I chose.Cæsar pretends that he likes the looks of little spots of pink skin, here and there, in fur; but I know he only does it to save my feelings, for it isn't in human nature—I mean in cat's nature—that any one should. You see I spend so much more time in the society of men and women than of cats, that I find myself constantly using expressions which sound queerly in a cat's mouth. But you know me well enough to be sure that every thing I say is perfectly natural. And now, my dear Helen, I hope I have prepared you to see me looking perfectly hideous. I only trust that your love for me will not be entirely killed by my unfortunate appearance. If you do seem to love me less, I shall be wretched, but I shall still be, always,
Your affectionate Pussy