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Title: Lords of the Housetops - Thirteen Cat Tales
Author: Twain, Mark, 1835-1910 [Contributor], Tarkington, Booth, 1869-1946 [Contributor], Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850 [Contributor], Poe, Edgar Allan, 1809-1849 [Contributor], Hudson, W. H. (William Henry), 1841-1922 [Contributor], Freeman, Mary Eleanor Wilkins, 1852-1930 [Contributor], Warner, Charles Dudley, 1829-1900 [Contributor], Blackwood, Algernon, 1869-1951 [Contributor], Janvier, Thomas A. (Thomas Allibone), 1849-1913 [Contributor], Carryl, Guy Wetmore, 1873-1904 [Contributor], Van Vechten, Carl, 1880-1964 [Editor], Powell, G. H. (George Herbert), 1856-1924 [Contributor], Alden, W. L. (William Livingston), 1837-1908 [Contributor], Bacon, Peggy, 1895-1987 [Contributor]
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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        LORDS
  OF THE HOUSETOPS
  THIRTEEN CAT TALES



  _BOOKS BY
  CARL VAN VECHTEN_

  INTERPRETERS
  IN THE GARRET
  THE MUSIC OF SPAIN
  THE MERRY-GO-ROUND
  MUSIC AND BAD MANNERS
  THE TIGER IN THE HOUSE
  LORDS OF THE HOUSETOPS
  MUSIC AFTER THE GREAT WAR



  WITH A PREFACE BY
  CARL VAN VECHTEN


  _C'est l'esprit familier du lieu;
  Il juge, il préside, il inspire
  Toutes choses dans son empire;
  Peut-être est-il fée, est-il dieu._

  CHARLES BAUDELAIRE.



  NEW YORK   ALFRED · A · KNOPF   MCMXXI


  COPYRIGHT, 1921, BY
  ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC.

  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA


  _These stories I have collected to amuse
            Avery Hopwood_



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


Thanks are due to the following authors and publishers for permission to
use the stories contained in this book:

Harper and Brothers and Mrs. Mary E. Wilkins Freeman for _The Cat_, from
_Understudies_ (copyright 1901 by Harper and Brothers).

Houghton Mifflin Co., for _Zut_, from _Zut and Other Parisians_
(copyright 1903 by Guy Wetmore Carryl).

E. P. Dutton and Co., for _A Psychical Invasion_, from _John Silence_.

Doubleday, Page and Co., and Booth Tarkington for Gipsy, from _Penrod
and Sam_ (copyright 1916 by Doubleday, Page and Co.).

Harper and Brothers and the Mark Twain Estate for _Dick Baker's Cat_,
from _Roughing It_ (copyright 1871-1899 by the American Publishing Co.;
copyright 1899 by Samuel L. Clemens; copyright 1913 by Clara
Gabrilowitsch).

Harper and Brothers for _Madame Jolicoeur's Cat_, from _From the South
of France_ (copyright 1912 by Harper and Brothers).

George H. Doran Co., for _A Friendly Rat_, from _The Book of a
Naturalist_ (copyright 1919 by the George H. Doran Co.).

The Four Seas Co., and Peggy Bacon for _The Queen's Cat_, from _The
True Philosopher_ (copyright 1919 by the Four Seas Co.).

Houghton Mifflin Co., for _Calvin_, from _My Summer in a Garden_
(copyright 1870 by Fields, Osgood and Co.; copyright 1898 by Charles
Dudley Warner; copyright 1912 by Susan Lee Warner).



PREFACE


In the essay and especially in poetry the cat has become a favourite
subject, but in fiction it must be admitted that he lags considerably
behind the dog. The reasons for this apparently arbitrary preference on
the part of authors are perfectly easy to explain. The instinctive acts
of the dog, who is a company-loving brute, are very human; his
psychology on occasion is almost human. He often behaves as a man would
behave. It is therefore a comparatively simple matter to insert a dog
into a story about men, for he can often carry it along after the
fashion of a human character.

But, as Andrew Lang has so well observed, literature can never take a
thing simply for what it is worth. "The plain-dealing dog must be
distinctly bored by the ever-growing obligation to live up to the
anecdotes of him.... These anecdotes are not told for his sake; they are
told to save the self-respect of people who want an idol, and who are
distorting him into a figure of pure convention for their domestic
altars. He is now expected to discriminate between relations and mere
friends of the house; to wag his tail at _God Save the Queen_; to count
up to five in chips of fire-wood, and to seven in mutton bones; to howl
for all deaths in the family above the degree of second cousin; to post
letters, and refuse them when they have been insufficiently stamped; and
last, and most intolerable, to show a tender solicitude when tabby is
out of sorts." The dog, indeed, for the most part, has become as
sentimental and conventional a figure in current fiction as the ghost
who haunts the ouija board or the idealistic soldier returned from the
wars to reconstruct his own country.

Now the cat, independent, liberty-loving, graceful, strong, resourceful,
dignified, and self-respecting, has a psychology essentially feline,
which has few points of contact with human psychology. The cat does not
rescue babies from drowning or say his prayers in real life;
consequently any attempt to make him do so in fiction would be
ridiculous. He has, to be sure, his own virtues. To me these are
considerably greater than those of any other animal. But the fact
remains that the satisfactory treatment of the cat in fiction requires
not only a deep knowledge of but also a deep affection for the sphinx of
the fireside. Even then the difficulties can only be met in part, for
the novelist must devise a situation in which human and feline
psychology can be merged. The Egyptians probably could have written good
cat stories. Perhaps they did. I sometimes ponder over the possibility
of a cat room having been destroyed in the celebrated holocaust of
Alexandria. The folk and fairy tales devoted to the cat, of which there
are many, are based on an understanding, although often superficial, of
cat traits. But the moderns, speaking generally, have not been able to
do justice, in the novel or the short story, to this occult and lovable
little beast.

On the whole, however, the stories I have chosen for this volume meet
the test fairly well. Other cat stories exist, scores of them, but
these, with one or two exceptions, are the best I know. In some
instances other stories with very similar subjects might have been
substituted, for each story in this book has been included for some
special reason. Mrs. Freeman's story is a subtle symbolic treatment of
the theme. In _The Blue Dryad_ the cat is exhibited in his useful
capacity as a killer of vermin. _A Psychical Invasion_ is a successful
attempt to exploit the undoubted occult powers of the cat. Poe's famous
tale paints puss as an avenger of wrongs. In _Zut_ the often
inexplicable desire of the cat to change his home has a charming
setting. Booth Tarkington in _Gipsy_ has made a brilliant study of a
wild city cat, living his own independent life with no apparent means of
support. I should state that the ending of the story, which is a chapter
from _Penrod and Sam_, is purely arbitrary. Gipsy, you will be glad to
learn, was not drowned. He never would be. If you care to read the rest
of his history you must turn to the book from which this excerpt was
torn. There seem to be three excellent reasons for including Mark
Twain's amusing skit: in the first place it is distinctly entertaining;
in the second place Mr. Clemens adored cats to such an extent that it
would be impertinent to publish a book of cat stories without including
something from his pen; in the third place _Dick Baker's Cat_[1]
celebrates an exceedingly important feline trait, the inability to be
duped twice by the same phenomenon. It is interesting to record that
Theodore Roosevelt liked this yarn so much that he named a White House
cat, Tom Quartz.


   [1: Those who have attempted to form anthologies or collections of
   stories similar to this know what difficulties have to be overcome.
   The publishers of Mark Twain's works were at first unwilling to
   grant me permission to use this story. I wish here to take occasion
   to thank Mrs. Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch and Mr. Albert Bigelow
   Paine for their successful efforts in my behalf. I am sure that the
   readers of this book will be equally grateful.]


Thomas A. Janvier's narrative reveals the cat in his luxurious capacity
as a treasured pet, and Mr. Alden's story is a good example of the kind
of tale in which a friendless human being depends upon an animal for
affection. There are, of course, many such, but in most cases dogs are
the heroes. _The Queen's Cat_ is a story about an ailurophobe, or a
cat-fearer, and his cure. Mr. Hudson's contribution is fact rather than
fiction. I have included it because it is delightful and because it is
the only good example available of that sort of story in which a cat
becomes friendly with a member of an enemy race, although in life the
thing is common. Mr. Warner's _Calvin_, too, certainly is not fiction,
but as it shares with Pierre Loti's _Vies de deux chattes_ the
distinction of being one of the two best cat biographies that have yet
been written I could not omit it.

There remains _The Afflictions of an English Cat_ which, it will be
perceived by even a careless reader, is certainly a good deal more than
a cat story. It is, indeed, a satire on British respectability, but we
Americans of today need not snicker at the English while reading it, for
the point is equally applicable to us. When I first run across this tale
while preparing material for my long cat book, _The Tiger in the House_,
I was immensely amused, and to my great astonishment I have not been
able to find an English translation of it. The story, the original title
of which is _Peines de coeur d'une chatte anglaise_, first appeared in
a volume of satires called _Scènes de la vie privée et publique des
animaux_, issued by Hetzel in Paris in 1846, and to which George Sand,
Alfred de Musset, and others contributed. The main purpose of the
collaboration was doubtless to furnish a text to the extraordinary
drawings of Grandville, who had an uncanny talent for merging human and
animal characteristics. The volume was translated into English by J.
Thompson and published in London in 1877, but for obvious reasons _The
Afflictions of an English Cat_ was not included in the translation,
although Balzac's name would have added lustre to the collection. But in
the Victorian age such a rough satire would scarcely have been
tolerated. Even in French the story is not easily accessible. Aside from
its original setting I have found it in but one edition of Balzac, the
_OEuvres Complètes_ issued in de luxe form by Calmann-Levy in 1879,
where it is buried in the twenty-first volume, _OEuvres Diverses_.

Therefore I make no excuse for translating and offering it to my
readers, for although perhaps it was not intended for a picture of cat
life, the observation on the whole is true enough, and the story itself
is too delicious to pass by. I should state that the opening and closing
paragraphs refer to earlier chapters in the _Vie privée et publique des
animaux_. I have, I may add, omitted one or two brief passages out of
consideration for what is called American taste.

                                                       CARL VAN VECHTEN.

_April_ 6, 1920.
_New York_.



                                CONTENTS


       PREFACE,                                                    vii

     I MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN: THE CAT,                             1

    II GUY WETMORE CARRYL: ZUT,                                     11

   III ALGERNON BLACKWOOD: A PSYCHICAL INVASION,                    29

    IV HONORÉ DE BALZAC: THE AFFLICTIONS OF AN ENGLISH CAT,        103
         (translated from the French by Carl Van Vechten)

     V BOOTH TARKINGTON: GIPSY,                                    124

    VI G. H. POWELL: THE BLUE DRYAD,                               131

   VII MARK TWAIN: DICK BAKER'S CAT,                               144

  VIII EDGAR ALLAN POE: THE BLACK CAT,                             149

    IX THOMAS A. JANVIER: MADAME JOLICOEUR'S CAT,                  163

     X W. H. HUDSON: A FRIENDLY RAT,                               198

    XI WILLIAM LIVINGSTON ALDEN: MONTY'S FRIEND,                   203

   XII PEGGY BACON: THE QUEEN'S CAT,                               220

  XIII CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER: CALVIN,                              226



LORDS OF THE HOUSETOPS
THIRTEEN CAT TALES

THE CAT


The snow was falling, and the Cat's fur was stiffly pointed with it, but
he was imperturbable. He sat crouched, ready for the death-spring, as he
had sat for hours. It was night--but that made no difference--all times
were as one to the Cat when he was in wait for prey. Then, too, he was
under no constraint of human will, for he was living alone that winter.
Nowhere in the world was any voice calling him; on no hearth was there a
waiting dish. He was quite free except for his own desires, which
tyrannized over him when unsatisfied as now. The Cat was very
hungry--almost famished, in fact. For days the weather had been very
bitter, and all the feebler wild things which were his prey by
inheritance, the born serfs to his family, had kept, for the most part,
in their burrows and nests, and the Cat's long hunt had availed him
nothing. But he waited with the inconceivable patience and persistency
of his race; besides, he was certain. The Cat was a creature of absolute
convictions, and his faith in his deductions never wavered. The rabbit
had gone in there between those low-hung pine boughs. Now her little
doorway had before it a shaggy curtain of snow, but in there she was.
The Cat had seen her enter, so like a swift grey shadow that even his
sharp and practised eyes had glanced back for the substance following,
and then she was gone. 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. When the rabbit came out she
was trapped; her little cloven feet could not scale such unbroken
steeps. So the Cat waited. The place in which he was looked like a
maelstrom of the wood. The tangle of trees and bushes clinging to the
mountain-side with a stern clutch of roots, the prostrate trunks and
branches, the vines embracing everything with strong knots and coils of
growth, had a curious effect, as of things which had whirled for ages in
a current of raging water, only it was not water, but wind, which had
disposed everything in circling lines of yielding to its fiercest points
of onset. And now over all this whirl of wood and rock and dead trunks
and branches and vines descended the snow. It blew down like smoke over
the rock-crest above; it stood in a gyrating column like some
death-wraith of nature, on the level, then it broke over the edge of
the precipice, and the Cat cowered before the fierce backward set of
it. It was as if ice needles pricked his skin through his beautiful
thick fur, but he never faltered and never once cried. He had nothing to
gain from crying, and everything to lose; the rabbit would hear him cry
and know he was waiting.

It grew darker and darker, with a strange white smother, instead of the
natural blackness of night. It was a night of storm and death superadded
to the night of nature. The mountains were all hidden, wrapped about,
overawed, and tumultuously overborne by it, but in the midst of it
waited, quite unconquered, this little, unswerving, living patience and
power under a little coat of grey fur.

A fiercer blast swept over the rock, spun on one mighty foot of
whirlwind athwart the level, then was over the precipice.

Then the Cat saw two eyes luminous with terror, frantic with the impulse
of flight, he saw a little, quivering, dilating nose, he saw two
pointing ears, and he kept still, with every one of his fine nerves and
muscles strained like wires. Then the rabbit was out--there was one long
line of incarnate flight and terror--and the Cat had her.

Then the Cat went home, trailing his prey through the snow.

The Cat lived in the house which his master had built, as rudely as a
child's block-house, but stanchly enough. The snow was heavy on the low
slant of its roof, but it would not settle under it. The two windows and
the door were made fast, but the Cat knew a way in. Up a pine-tree
behind the house he scuttled, though it was hard work with his heavy
rabbit, and was in his little window under the eaves, then down through
the trap to the room below, and on his master's bed with a spring and a
great cry of triumph, rabbit and all. But his master was not there; he
had been gone since early fall and it was now February. He would not
return until spring, for he was an old man, and the cruel cold of the
mountains clutched at his vitals like a panther, and he had gone to the
village to winter. The Cat had known for a long time that his master was
gone, but his reasoning was always sequential and circuitous; always for
him what had been would be, and the more easily for his marvellous
waiting powers so he always came home expecting to find his master.

When he saw that he was still gone, he dragged the rabbit off the rude
couch which was the bed to the floor, put one little paw on the carcass
to keep it steady, and began gnawing with head to one side to bring his
strongest teeth to bear.

It was darker in the house than it had been in the wood, and the cold
was as deadly, though not so fierce. If the Cat had not received his fur
coat unquestioningly of Providence, he would have been thankful that he
had it. It was a mottled grey, white on the face and breast, and thick
as fur could grow.

The wind drove the snow on the windows with such force that it rattled
like sleet, and the house trembled a little. Then all at once the Cat
heard a noise, and stopped gnawing his rabbit and listened, his shining
green eyes fixed upon a window. Then he heard a hoarse shout, a halloo
of despair and entreaty; but he knew it was not his master come home,
and he waited, one paw still on the rabbit. Then the halloo came again,
and then the Cat answered. He said all that was essential quite plainly
to his own comprehension. There was in his cry of response inquiry,
information, warning, terror, and finally, the offer of comradeship; but
the man outside did not hear him, because of the howling of the storm.

Then there was a great battering pound at the door, then another, and
another. The Cat dragged his rabbit under the bed. The blows came
thicker and faster. It was a weak arm which gave them, but it was nerved
by desperation. Finally the lock yielded, and the stranger came in. Then
the Cat, peering from under the bed, blinked with a sudden light, and
his green eyes narrowed. The stranger struck a match and looked about.
The Cat saw a face wild and blue with hunger and cold, and a man who
looked poorer and older than his poor old master, who was an outcast
among men for his poverty and lowly mystery of antecedents; and he heard
a muttered, unintelligible voicing of distress from the harsh piteous
mouth. There was in it both profanity and prayer, but the Cat knew
nothing of that.

The stranger braced the door which he had forced, got some wood from the
stock in the corner, and kindled a fire in the old stove as quickly as
his half-frozen hands would allow. He shook so pitiably as he worked
that the Cat under the bed felt the tremor of it. Then the man, who was
small and feeble and marked with the scars of suffering which he had
pulled down upon his own head, sat down in one of the old chairs and
crouched over the fire as if it were the one love and desire of his
soul, holding out his yellow hands like yellow claws, and he groaned.
The Cat came out from under the bed and leaped up on his lap with the
rabbit. The man gave a great shout and start of terror, and sprang, and
the Cat slid clawing to the floor, and the rabbit fell inertly, and the
man leaned, gasping with fright, and ghastly, against the wall. The Cat
grabbed the rabbit by the slack of its neck and dragged it to the man's
feet. Then he raised his shrill, insistent cry, he arched his back high,
his tail was a splendid waving plume. He rubbed against the man's feet,
which were bursting out of their torn shoes.

The man pushed the Cat away, gently enough, and began searching about
the little cabin. He even climbed painfully the ladder to the loft, lit
a match, and peered up in the darkness with straining eyes. He feared
lest there might be a man, since there was a cat. His experience with
men had not been pleasant, and neither had the experience of men been
pleasant with him. He was an old wandering Ishmael among his kind; he
had stumbled upon the house of a brother, and the brother was not at
home, and he was glad.

He returned to the Cat, and stooped stiffly and stroked his back, which
the animal arched like the spring of a bow.

Then he took up the rabbit and looked at it eagerly by the firelight.
His jaws worked. He could almost have devoured it raw. He fumbled--the
Cat close at his heels--around some rude shelves and a table, and
found, with a grunt of self-gratulation, a lamp with oil in it. That he
lighted; then he found a frying-pan and a knife, and skinned the rabbit,
and prepared it for cooking, the Cat always at his feet.

When the odour of the cooking flesh filled the cabin, both the man and
the Cat looked wolfish. The man turned the rabbit with one hand and
stooped to pat the Cat with the other. The Cat thought him a fine man.
He loved him with all his heart, though he had known him such a short
time, and though the man had a face both pitiful and sharply set at
variance with the best of things.

It was a face with the grimy grizzle of age upon it, with fever hollows
in the cheeks, and the memories of wrong in the dim eyes, but the Cat
accepted the man unquestioningly and loved him. When the rabbit was half
cooked, neither the man nor the Cat could wait any longer. The man took
it from the fire, divided it exactly in halves, gave the Cat one, and
took the other himself. Then they ate.

Then the man blew out the light, called the Cat to him, got on the bed,
drew up the ragged coverings, and fell asleep with the Cat in his bosom.

The man was the Cat's guest all the rest of the winter, and winter is
long in the mountains. The rightful owner of the little hut did not
return until May. All that time the Cat toiled hard, and he grew rather
thin himself, for he shared everything except mice with his guest; and
sometimes game was wary, and the fruit of patience of days was very
little for two. The man was ill and weak, however, and unable to eat
much, which was fortunate, since he could not hunt for himself. All day
long he lay on the bed, or else sat crouched over the fire. It was a
good thing that fire-wood was ready at hand for the picking up, not a
stone's-throw from the door, for that he had to attend to himself.

The Cat foraged tirelessly. Sometimes he was gone for days together, and
at first the man used to be terrified, thinking he would never return;
then he would hear the familiar cry at the door, and stumble to his feet
and let him in. Then the two would dine together, sharing equally; then
the Cat would rest and purr, and finally sleep in the man's arms.

Towards spring the game grew plentiful; more wild little quarry were
tempted out of their homes, in search of love as well as food. One day
the Cat had luck--a rabbit, a partridge, and a mouse. He could not carry
them all at once, but finally he had them together at the house door.
Then he cried, but no one answered. All the mountain streams were
loosened, and the air was full of the gurgle of many waters,
occasionally pierced by a bird-whistle. The trees rustled with a new
sound to the spring wind; there was a flush of rose and gold-green on
the breasting surface of a distant mountain seen through an opening in
the wood. The tips of the bushes were swollen and glistening red, and
now and then there was a flower; but the Cat had nothing to do with
flowers. He stood beside his booty at the house door, and cried and
cried with his insistent triumph and complaint and pleading, but no one
came to let him in. Then the cat left his little treasures at the door,
and went around to the back of the house to the pine-tree, and was up
the trunk with a wild scramble, and in through his little window, and
down through the trap to the room, and the man was gone.

The Cat cried again--that cry of the animal for human companionship
which is one of the sad notes of the world; he looked in all the
corners; he sprang to the chair at the window and looked out; but no one
came. The man was gone and he never came again.

The Cat ate his mouse out on the turf beside the house; the rabbit and
the partridge he carried painfully into the house, but the man did not
come to share them. Finally, in the course of a day or two, he ate them
up himself; then he slept a long time on the bed, and when he waked the
man was not there.

Then the Cat went forth to his hunting-grounds again, and came home at
night with a plump bird, reasoning with his tireless persistency in
expectancy that the man would be there; and there was a light in the
window, and when he cried his old master opened the door and let him in.

His master had strong comradeship with the Cat, but not affection. He
never patted him like that gentler outcast, but he had a pride in him
and an anxiety for his welfare, though he had left him alone all winter
without scruple. He feared lest some misfortune might have come to the
Cat, though he was so large of his kind, and a mighty hunter. Therefore,
when he saw him at the door in all the glory of his glossy winter coat,
his white breast and face shining like snow in the sun, his own face lit
up with welcome, and the Cat embraced his feet with his sinuous body
vibrant with rejoicing purrs.

The Cat had his bird to himself, for his master had his own supper
already cooking on the stove. After supper the Cat's master took his
pipe, and sought a small store of tobacco which he had left in his hut
over winter. He had thought often of it; that and the Cat seemed
something to come home to in the spring. But the tobacco was gone; not a
dust left. The man swore a little in a grim monotone, which made the
profanity lose its customary effect. He had been, and was, a hard
drinker; he had knocked about the world until the marks of its sharp
corners were on his very soul, which was thereby calloused, until his
very sensibility to loss was dulled. He was a very old man.

He searched for the tobacco with a sort of dull combativeness of
persistency; then he stared with stupid wonder around the room. Suddenly
many features struck him as being changed. Another stove-lid was broken;
an old piece of carpet was tacked up over a window to keep out the cold;
his fire-wood was gone. He looked and there was no oil left in his can.
He looked at the coverings on his bed; he took them up, and again he
made that strange remonstrant noise in his throat. Then he looked again
for his tobacco.

Finally he gave it up. He sat down beside the fire, for May in the
mountains is cold; he held his empty pipe in his mouth, his rough
forehead knitted, and he and the Cat looked at each other across that
impassable barrier of silence which has been set between man and beast
from the creation of the world.

                                             MARY E. WILKINS FREEMAN.



ZUT


Side by side, on the avenue de la Grande Armée, stand the épicerie of
Jean-Baptiste Caille and the salle de coiffure of Hippolyte Sergeot, and
between these two there is a great gulf fixed, the which has come to be
through the acerbity of Alexandrine Caille (according to Espérance
Sergeot), though the duplicity of Espérance Sergeot (according to
Alexandrine Caille). But the veritable root of all evil is Zut, and Zut
sits smiling in Jean-Baptiste's doorway, and cares naught for anything
in the world, save the sunlight and her midday meal.

When Hippolyte found himself in a position to purchase the salle de
coiffure, he gave evidence of marked acumen by uniting himself in the
holy--and civil--bonds of matrimony with the retiring patron's daughter,
whose dot ran into the coveted five figures, and whose heart, said
Hippolyte, was as good as her face was pretty, which, even by the
unprejudiced, was acknowledged to be forcible commendation. The
installation of the new establishment was a nine days' wonder in the
quartier. It is a busy thoroughfare at its western end, is the avenue de
la Grande Armée, crowded with bicyclists and with a multitude of
creatures fearfully and wonderfully clad, who do incomprehensible things
in connection with motor-carriages. Also there are big cafés in plenty,
whose waiters must be smoothly shaven: and moreover, at the time when
Hippolyte came into his own, the porte Maillot station of the
Métropolitain had already pushed its entrée and sortie up through the
soil, not a hundred metres from his door, where they stood like
atrocious yellow tulips, art nouveau, breathing people out and in by
thousands. There was no lack of possible custom. The problem was to turn
possible into probable, and probable into permanent; and here the seven
wits and the ten thousand francs of Espérance came prominently to the
fore. She it was who sounded the progressive note, which is half the
secret of success.

"Pour attirer les gens," she said, with her arms akimbo, "il faut
d'abord les épater."

In her creed all that was worth doing at all was worth doing gloriously.
So, under her guidance, Hippolyte journeyed from shop to shop in the
faubourg St. Antoine, and spent hours of impassioned argument with
carpenters and decorators. In the end, the salle de coiffure was
glorified by fresh paint without and within, and by the addition of a
long mirror in a gilt frame, and a complicated apparatus of gleaming
nickel-plate, which went by the imposing title of appareil antiseptique,
and the acquisition of which was duly proclaimed by a special placard
that swung at right angles to the door. The shop was rechristened, too,
and the black and white sign across its front which formerly bore the
simple inscription "Kilbert, Coiffeur," now blazoned abroad the vastly
more impressive legend "Salon Malakoff." The window shelves fairly
groaned beneath their burden of soaps, toilet waters, and perfumery, a
string of bright yellow sponges occupied each corner of the window,
and, through the agency of white enamel letters on the pane itself,
public attention was drawn to the apparently contradictory facts that
English was spoken and "schampoing" given within. Then Hippolyte engaged
two assistants, and clad them in white duck jackets, and his wife
fabricated a new blouse of blue silk, and seated herself behind the desk
with an engaging smile. The enterprise was fairly launched, and
experience was not slow in proving the theories of Espérance to be well
founded. The quartier was épaté from the start, and took with enthusiasm
the bait held forth. The affairs of the Salon Malakoff prospered
prodigiously.

But there is a serpent in every Eden, and in that of the Sergeot this
rôle was assumed by Alexandrine Caille. The worthy épicier himself was
of too torpid a temperament to fall a victim to the gnawing tooth of
envy, but in the soul of his wife the launch, and, what was worse, the
immediate prosperity of the Salon Malakoff, bred dire resentment. Her
own establishment had grown grimy with the passage of time, and the
annual profits displayed a constant and disturbing tendency toward
complete evaporation, since the coming of the big cafés, and the
resultant subversion of custom to the wholesale dealers. This persistent
narrowing of the former appreciable gap between purchase and selling
price rankled in Alexandrine's mind, but her misguided efforts to
maintain the percentage of profit by recourse to inferior qualities only
made bad worse, and, even as the Sergeot were steering the Salon
Malakoff forth upon the waters of prosperity, there were nightly
conferences in the household next door, at which impending ruin
presided, and exasperation sounded the keynote of every sentence. The
resplendent façade of Hippolyte's establishment, the tide of custom
which poured into and out of his door, the loudly expressed admiration
of his ability and thrift, which greeted her ears on every side, and,
finally, the sight of Espérance, fresh, smiling, and prosperous, behind
her little counter--all these were as gall and wormwood to Alexandrine,
brooding over her accumulating debts and her decreasing earnings, among
her dusty stacks of jars and boxes. Once she had called upon her
neighbour, somewhat for courtesy's sake, but more for curiosity's, and
since then the agreeable scent of violet and lilac perfumery dwelt
always in her memory, and mirages of scrupulously polished nickel and
glass hung always before her eyes. The air of her own shop was heavy
with the pungent odours of raw vegetables, cheeses, and dried fish, and
no brilliance redeemed the sardine and biscuit boxes which surrounded
her. Life became a bitter thing to Alexandrine Caille, for if nothing is
more gratifying than one's own success, surely nothing is less so than
that of one's neighbour. Moreover, her visit had never been returned,
and this again was fuel for her rage.

But the sharpest thorn in her flesh--and even in that of her phlegmatic
husband--was the base desertion to the enemy's camp of Abel Flique. In
the days when Madame Caille was unmarried, and when her ninety kilos
were fifty still, Abel had been youngest commis in the very shop over
which she now held sway, and the most devoted suitor in all her train.
Even after his prowess in the black days of '71 had won him the
attention of the civil authorities, and a grateful municipality had
transformed the grocer-soldier into a guardian of law and order, he
still hung upon the favour of his heart's first love, and only gave up
the struggle when Jean-Baptiste bore off the prize and enthroned her in
state as presiding genius of his newly acquired épicerie. Later, an
unwittingly kindly prefect had transferred Abel to the seventeenth
arrondissement, and so the old friendship was picked up where it had
been dropped, and the ruddy-faced agent found it both convenient and
agreeable to drop in frequently at Madame Caille's on his way home, and
exchange a few words of reminiscence or banter for a box of sardines or
a minute package of tea. But, with the deterioration in his old friends'
wares, and the almost simultaneous appearance of the Salon Malakoff, his
loyalty wavered. Flique sampled the advantages of Hippolyte's
establishment, and, being won over thereby, returned again and again.
His hearty laugh came to be heard almost daily in the salle de coiffure,
and because he was a brave homme and a good customer, who did not stand
upon a question of a few sous, but allowed Hippolyte to work his will,
and trim and curl and perfume him to his heart's content, there was
always a welcome for him, and a smile from Madame Sergeot, and
occasionally a little present of brillantine or perfumery, for
friendship's sake, and because it is well to have the good-will of the
all-powerful police.

From her window Madame Caille observed the comings and goings of Abel
with a resentful eye. It was rarely now that he glanced into the
épicerie as he passed, and still more rarely that he greeted his former
flame with a stiff nod. Once she had hailed him from the doorway,
sardines in hand, but he had replied that he was pressed for time, and
had passed rapidly on. Then indeed did blackness descend upon the soul
of Alexandrine, and in her deepest consciousness she vowed to have
revenge. Neither the occasion nor the method was as yet clear to her,
but she pursed her lips ominously, and bided her time.

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.

Jean-Baptiste, appealed to for confirmation of these statements, replied
that it was so. There was no denying that this was a magnificent beast.
And of a chic. And caressing--(which was exaggeration). And of an
affection--(which was doubtful). And courageous--(which was wholly
untrue). Mazette, yes! A cat of cats! And was the boy to be the whole
afternoon in delivering a cheese, he demanded of her? And Madame Caille
would challenge him to ask her that--but it was a good, great beast all
the same!--and so bury herself again in her accounts, until her
attention was once more drawn to Zut, and fresh flattery poured forth.
For all of this Zut cared less than nothing. In the midst of her
mistress's sweetest cajolery, she simply closed her sapphire eyes, with
an inexpressibly eloquent air of weariness, or turned to the intricacies
of her toilet, as who should say: "Continue. I am listening. But it is
unimportant."

But long familiarity with her disdain had deprived it of any sting, so
far as Alexandrine was concerned. Passive indifference she could suffer.
It was only when Zut proceeded to an active manifestation of ingratitude
that she inflicted an irremediable wound. Returning from her marketing
one morning, Madame Caille discovered her graceless favourite seated
complacently in the doorway of the Salon Malakoff, and, in a paroxysm
of indignation, bore down upon her, and snatched her to her breast.

"Unhappy one!" she cried, planting herself in full view of Espérance,
and, while raining the letter of her reproach upon the truant,
contriving to apply its spirit wholly to her neighbour. "What hast thou
done? Is it that thou desertest me for strangers, who may destroy thee?
Name of a name, hast thou no heart? They would steal thee from me--and
above all, _now_! Well then, no! One shall see if such things are
permitted! Vagabond!" And with this parting shot, which passed
harmlessly over the head of the offender, and launched itself full at
Madame Sergeot, the outraged épicière flounced back into her own domain,
where, turning, she threatened the empty air with a passionate gesture.

"Vagabond!" she repeated. "Good-for-nothing! Is it not enough to have
robbed me of my friends, that you must steal my child as well? We shall
see!"--then, suddenly softening--"Thou art beautiful, and good, and
wise. Mon Dieu, if I should lose thee, and above all, _now_!"

Now there existed a marked, if unvoiced, community of feeling between
Espérance and her resentful neighbour, for the former's passion for cats
was more consuming even than the latter's. She had long cherished the
dream of possessing a white angora, and when, that morning, of her own
accord, Zut stepped into the Salon Malakoff, she was received with
demonstrations even warmer than those to which she had long since become
accustomed. And, whether it was the novelty of her surroundings, or
merely some unwonted instinct which made her unusually susceptible, her
habitual indifference then and there gave place to animation, and her
satisfaction was vented in her long, appreciative purr, wherewith it was
not once a year that she vouchsafed to gladden her owner's heart.
Espérance hastened to prepare a saucer of milk, and, when this was
exhausted, added a generous portion of fish, and Zut then made a tour of
the shop, rubbing herself against the chair-legs, and receiving the
homage of customers and duck-clad assistants alike. Flique, his ruddy
face screwed into a mere knot of features, as Hippolyte worked violet
hair-tonic into his brittle locks, was moved to satire by the
apparition.

"Tiens! It is with the cat as with the clients. All the world forsakes
the Caille."

Strangely enough, the wrathful words of Alexandrine, as she snatched her
darling from the doorway, awoke in the mind of Espérance her first
suspicion of this smouldering resentment. Absorbed in the launching of
her husband's affairs, and constantly employed in the making of change
and with the keeping of her simple accounts, she had had no time to
bestow upon her neighbours, and, even had her attention been free, she
could hardly have been expected to deduce the rancour of Madame Caille
from the evidence at hand. But even if she had been able to ignore the
significance of that furious outburst at her very door, its meaning had
not been lost upon the others, and her own half-formed conviction was
speedily confirmed.

"What has she?" cried Hippolyte, pausing in the final stage of his
operations upon the highly perfumed Flique.

"Do I know?" replied his wife with a shrug. "She thinks I stole her
cat--_I_!"

"Quite simply, she hates you," put in Flique. "And why not? She is old,
and fat, and her business is taking itself off, like that! You are young
and"--with a bow, as he rose--"beautiful, and your affairs march to a
marvel. She is jealous, c'est tout! It is a bad character, that."

"But, mon Dieu!"--

"But what does that say to you? Let her go her way, she and her cat. Au
r'voir, 'sieurs, 'dame."

And, rattling a couple of sous into the little urn reserved for tips,
the policeman took his departure, amid a chorus of "Merci, m'sieu', au
r'voir, m'sieu'," from Hippolyte and his duck-clad aids.

But what he had said remained behind. All day Madame Sergeot pondered
upon the incident of the morning and Abel Flique's comments thereupon,
seeking out some more plausible reason for this hitherto unsuspected
enmity than the mere contrast between her material conditions and those
of Madame Caille seemed to her to afford. For, to a natural placidity of
temperament, which manifested itself in a reluctance to incur the
displeasure of any one, had been lately added in Espérance a shrewd
commercial instinct, which told her that the fortunes of the Salon
Malakoff might readily be imperilled by an unfriendly tongue. In the
quartier, gossip spread quickly and took deep root. It was quite
imaginably within the power of Madame Caille to circulate such rumours
of Sergeot dishonesty as should draw their lately won custom from them
and leave but empty chairs and discontent where now all was prosperity
and satisfaction.

Suddenly there came to her the memory of that visit which she had never
returned. Mon Dieu! and was not that reason enough? She, the youngest
patronne in the quartier, to ignore deliberately the friendly call of a
neighbour! At least it was not too late to make amends. So, when
business lagged a little in the late afternoon, Madame Sergeot slipped
from her desk, and, after a furtive touch to her hair, went in next
door, to pour oil upon the troubled waters.

Madame Caille, throned at her counter, received her visitor with
unexampled frigidity.

"Ah, it is you," she said. "You have come to make some purchases, no
doubt."

"Eggs, madame," answered her visitor, disconcerted, but tactfully
accepting the hint.

"The best quality--or--?" demanded Alexandrine, with the suggestion of a
sneer.

"The best, evidently, madame. Six, if you please. Spring weather at
last, it would seem."

To this generality the other made no reply. Descending from her stool,
she blew sharply into a small paper bag, thereby distending it into a
miniature balloon, and began selecting the eggs from a basket, holding
each one to the light, and then dusting it with exaggerated care before
placing it in the bag. While she was thus employed Zut advanced from a
secluded corner, and, stretching her fore legs slowly to their utmost
length, greeted her acquaintance of the morning with a yawn. Finding in
the cat an outlet for her embarrassment, Espérance made another effort
to give the interview a friendly turn.

"He is beautiful, madame, your matou," she said.

"It is a female," replied Madame Caille, turning abruptly from the
basket, "and she does not care for strangers."

This second snub was not calculated to encourage neighbourly overtures,
but Madame Sergeot had felt herself to be in the wrong, and was not to
be so readily repulsed.

"We do not see Monsieur Caille at the Salon Malakoff," she continued.
"We should be enchanted"--

"My husband shaves himself," retorted Alexandrine, with renewed dignity.

"But his hair"--ventured Espérance.

"_I_ cut it!" thundered her foe.

Here Madame Sergeot made a false move. She laughed. Then, in confusion,
and striving, too late, to retrieve herself--"Pardon, madame," she
added, "but it seems droll to me, that. After all, ten sous is a sum so
small"--

"All the world, unfortunately," broke in Madame Caille, "has not the
wherewithal to buy mirrors, and pay itself frescoes and appareils
antiseptiques! The eggs are twenty-four sous--but we do not pride
ourselves upon our eggs. Perhaps you had better seek them elsewhere for
the future!"

For sole reply Madame Sergeot had recourse to her expressive shrug, and
then laying two francs upon the counter, and gathering up the sous which
Alexandrine rather hurled at than handed her, she took her way toward
the door with all the dignity at her command. But Madame Caille, feeling
her snub to have been insufficient, could not let her go without a final
thrust.

"Perhaps your husband will be so amiable as to shampoo my cat!" she
shouted. "She seems to like your 'Salon'!"

But Espérance, while for concord's sake inclined to tolerate all
rudeness to herself, was not prepared to hear Hippolyte insulted, and
so, wheeling at the doorway, flung all her resentment into two words.

"Mal élevée!"

"Gueuse!" screamed Alexandrine from the desk. And so they parted.

Now, even at this stage, an armed truce might still have been preserved,
had Zut been content with the evil she had wrought, and not thought it
incumbent upon her further to embitter a quarrel that was a very pretty
quarrel as it stood. But, whether it was that the milk and fish of the
Salon Malakoff lay sweeter upon her memory than any of the familiar
dainties of the épicerie Caille, or that, by her unknowable feline
instinct, she was irresistibly drawn toward the scent of violet and
lilac brillantine, her first visit to the Sergeot was soon repeated, and
from this visit other visits grew, until it was almost a daily
occurrence for her to saunter slowly into the salle de coiffure, and
there receive the food and homage which were rendered as her undisputed
due. For, whatever was the bitterness of Espérance toward Madame Caille,
no part thereof descended upon Zut. On the contrary, at each visit her
heart was more drawn toward the sleek angora, and her desire but
strengthened to possess her peer. But white angoras are a luxury, and an
expensive one at that, and, however prosperous the Salon Malakoff might
be, its proprietors were not as yet in a position to squander eighty
francs upon a whim. So, until profits should mount higher, Madame
Sergeot was forced to content herself with the voluntary visits of her
neighbour's pet.

Madame Caille did not yield her rights of sovereignty without a
struggle. On the occasion of Zut's third visit, she descended upon the
Salon Malakoff, robed in wrath, and found the adored one contentedly
feeding on fish in the very bosom of the family Sergeot. An appalling
scene ensued.

"If," she stormed, crimson of countenance, and threatening Espérance
with her fist, "if you _must_ entice my cat from her home, at _least_ I
will thank you not to give her food. I provide all that is necessary;
and, for the rest, how do I know what is in that saucer?"

And she surveyed the duck-clad assistants and the astounded customers
with tremendous scorn.

"You others," she added, "I ask you, is it just? These people take my
cat, and feed her--_feed_ her--with I know not what! It is overwhelming,
unheard of--and, above all, _now_!"

But here the peaceful Hippolyte played trumps.

"It is the privilege of the vulgar," he cried, advancing, razor in hand,
"when they are at home, to insult their neighbours, but here--no! My
wife has told me of you and of your sayings. Beware! or I shall arrange
your affair for you! Go! you and your cat!"

And, by way of emphasis, he fairly kicked Zut into her astonished
owner's arms. He was magnificent, was Hippolyte!

This anecdote, duly elaborated, was poured into the ears of Abel Flique
an hour later, and that evening he paid his first visit in many months
to Madame Caille. She greeted him effusively, being willing to pardon
all the past for the sake of regaining this powerful friend. But the
glitter in the agent's eye would have cowed a fiercer spirit than hers.

"You amuse yourself," he said sternly, looking straight at her over the
handful of raisins which she tendered him, "by wearying my friends. I
counsel you to take care. One does not sell inferior eggs in Paris
without hearing of it sooner or later. I know more than I have told, but
not more than I _can_ tell, if I choose."

"Our ancient friendship"--faltered Alexandrine, touched in a vulnerable
spot.

"--preserves you thus far," added Flique, no less unmoved. "Beware how
you abuse it!"

And so the calls of Zut were no longer disturbed.

But the rover spirit is progressive, and thus short visits became long
visits, and finally the angora spent whole nights in the Salon Malakoff,
where a box and a bit of carpet were provided for her. And one fateful
morning the meaning of Madame Caille's significant words "and above all,
_now_!" was made clear.

The prosperity of Hippolyte's establishment had grown apace, so that, on
the morning in question, the three chairs were occupied, and yet other
customers awaited their turn. The air was laden with violet and lilac.
A stout chauffeur, in a leather suit, thickly coated with dust, was
undergoing a shampoo at the hands of one of the duck-clad, and, under
the skilfully plied razor of the other, the virgin down slid from the
lips and chin of a slim and somewhat startled youth, while from a
vaporizer Hippolyte played a fine spray of perfumed water upon the ruddy
countenance of Abel Flique. It was an eloquent moment, eminently fitted
for some dramatic incident, and that dramatic incident Zut supplied. She
advanced slowly and with an air of conscious dignity from the corner
where was her carpeted box, and in her mouth was a limp something,
which, when deposited in the immediate centre of the Salon Malakoff,
resolved itself into an angora kitten, as white as snow!

"Epatant!" said Flique, mopping his perfumed chin. And so it was.

There was an immediate investigation of Zut's quarters, which revealed
four other kittens, but each of these was marked with black or tan. It
was the flower of the flock with which the proud mother had won her
public.

"And they are all yours!" cried Flique, when the question of ownership
arose. "Mon Dieu, yes! There was such a case not a month ago, in the
eighth arrondissement--a concierge of the avenue Hoche who made a
contrary claim. But the courts decided against her. They are all yours,
Madame Sergeot. My felicitations!"

Now, as we have said, Madame Sergeot was of a placid temperament which
sought not strife. But the unprovoked insults of Madame Caille had
struck deep, and, after all, she was but human.

So it was that, seated at her little desk, she composed the following
masterpiece of satire:

     CHÈRE MADAME,--We send you back your cat, and the others--all but
     one. One kitten was of a pure white, more beautiful even than its
     mother. As we have long desired a white angora, we keep this one as
     a souvenir of you. We regret that we do not see the means of
     accepting the kind offer you were so amiable as to make us. We fear
     that we shall not find time to shampoo your cat, as we shall be so
     busy taking care of our own. Monsieur Flique will explain the rest.

     We pray you to accept, madame, the assurance of our distinguished
     consideration,

                                      HIPPOLYTE AND ESPÉRANCE SERGEOT.

It was Abel Flique who conveyed the above epistle, and Zut, and four of
Zut's kittens, to Alexandrine Caille, and, when that wrathful person
would have rent him with tooth and nail, it was Abel Flique who laid his
finger on his lip, and said,--

"Concern yourself with the superior kitten, madame, and I concern myself
with the inferior eggs!"

To which Alexandrine made no reply. After Flique had taken his
departure, she remained speechless for five consecutive minutes for the
first time in the whole of her waking existence, gazing at the spot at
her feet where sprawled the white angora, surrounded by her mottled
offspring. Even when the first shock of her defeat had passed, she
simply heaved a deep sigh, and uttered two words,--

"Oh, _Zut_!"

The which, in Parisian argot, at once means everything and nothing.

                                                GUY WETMORE CARRYL.



A PSYCHICAL INVASION

I


"And what is it makes you think I could be of use in this particular
case?" asked Dr. John Silence, looking across somewhat sceptically at
the Swedish lady in the chair facing him.

"Your sympathetic heart and your knowledge of occultism--"

"Oh, please--that dreadful word!" he interrupted, holding up a finger
with a gesture of impatience.

"Well, then," she laughed, "your wonderful clairvoyant gift and your
trained psychic knowledge of the processes by which a personality may be
disintegrated and destroyed--these strange studies you've been
experimenting with all these years--"

"If it's only a case of multiple personality I must really cry off,"
interrupted the doctor again hastily, a bored expression in his eyes.

"It's not that; now, please, be serious, for I want your help," she
said; "and if I choose my words poorly you must be patient with my
ignorance. The case I know will interest you, and no one else could deal
with it so well. In fact, no ordinary professional man could deal with
it at all, for I know of no treatment or medicine that can restore a
lost sense of humour!"

"You begin to interest me with your 'case,'" he replied, and made
himself comfortable to listen.

Mrs. Sivendson drew a sigh of contentment as she watched him go to the
tube and heard him tell the servant he was not to be disturbed.

"I believe you have read my thoughts already," she said; "your intuitive
knowledge of what goes on in other people's minds is positively
uncanny."

Her friend shook his head and smiled as he drew his chair up to a
convenient position and prepared to listen attentively to what she had
to say. He closed his eyes, as he always did when he wished to absorb
the real meaning of a recital that might be inadequately expressed, for
by this method he found it easier to set himself in tune with the living
thoughts that lay behind the broken words.

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.

Dr. Silence was a free-lance, though, among doctors, having neither
consulting-room, book-keeper, nor professional manner. He took no fees,
being at heart a genuine philanthropist, yet at the same time did no
harm to his fellow-practitioners, because he only accepted
unremunerative cases, and cases that interested him for some very
special reason. He argued that the rich could pay, and the very poor
could avail themselves of organized charity, but that a very large class
of ill-paid, self-respecting workers, often followers of the arts, could
not afford the price of a week's comforts merely to be told to travel.
And it was these he desired to help; cases often requiring special and
patient study--things no doctor can give for a guinea, and that no one
would dream of expecting him to give.

But there was another side to his personality and practice, and one with
which we are now more directly concerned; for the cases that especially
appealed to him were of no ordinary kind, but rather of that intangible,
elusive, and difficult nature best described as psychical afflictions;
and, though he would have been the last person himself to approve of the
title, it was beyond question that he was known more or less generally
as the "Psychic Doctor."

In order to grapple with cases of this peculiar kind, he had submitted
himself to a long and severe training, at once physical, mental, and
spiritual. What precisely this training had been, or where undergone, no
one seemed to know,--for he never spoke of it, as, indeed, he betrayed
no single other characteristic of the charlatan,--but the fact that it
had involved a total disappearance from the world for five years, and
that after he returned and began his singular practice no one ever
dreamed of applying to him the so easily acquired epithet of quack,
spoke much for the seriousness of his strange quest and also for the
genuineness of his attainments.

For the modern psychical researcher he felt the calm tolerance of the
"man who knows." There was a trace of pity in his voice--contempt he
never showed--when he spoke of their methods.

"This classification of results is uninspired work at best," he said
once to me, when I had been his confidential assistant for some years.
"It leads nowhere, and after a hundred years will lead nowhere. It is
playing with the wrong end of a rather dangerous toy. Far better, it
would be, to examine the causes, and then the results would so easily
slip into place and explain themselves. For the sources are accessible,
and open to all who have the courage to lead the life that alone makes
practical investigation safe and possible."

And towards the question of clairvoyance, too, his attitude was
significantly sane, for he knew how extremely rare the genuine power
was, and that what is commonly called clairvoyance is nothing more than
a keen power of visualizing.

"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."

Thus it was that John Silence, this singularly developed doctor, was
able to select his cases with a clear knowledge of the difference
between mere hysterical delusion and the kind of psychical affliction
that claimed his special powers. It was never necessary for him to
resort to the cheap mysteries of divination; for, as I have heard him
observe, after the solution of some peculiarly intricate problem--

"Systems of divination, from geomancy down to reading by tea-leaves, are
merely so many methods of obscuring the outer vision, in order that the
inner vision may become open. Once the method is mastered, no system is
necessary at all."

And the words were significant of the methods of this remarkable man,
the keynote of whose power lay, perhaps, more than anything else, in the
knowledge, first, that thought can act at a distance, and, secondly,
that thought is dynamic and can accomplish material results.

"Learn how to _think_," he would have expressed it, "and you have
learned to tap power at its source."

To look at--he was now past forty--he was sparely built, with speaking
brown eyes in which shone the light of knowledge and self-confidence,
while at the same time they made one think of that wondrous gentleness
seen most often in the eyes of animals. A close beard concealed the
mouth without disguising the grim determination of lips and jaw, and the
face somehow conveyed an impression of transparency, almost of light, so
delicately were the features refined away. On the fine forehead was that
indefinable touch of peace that comes from identifying the mind with
what is permanent in the soul, and letting the impermanent slip by
without power to wound or distress; while, from his manner,--so gentle,
quiet, sympathetic,--few could have guessed the strength of purpose that
burned within like a great flame.

"I think I should describe it as a psychical case," continued the
Swedish lady, obviously trying to explain herself very intelligently,
"and just the kind you like. I mean a case where the cause is hidden
deep down in some spiritual distress, and--"

"But the symptoms first, please, my dear Svenska," he interrupted, with
a strangely compelling seriousness of manner, "and your deductions
afterwards."

She turned round sharply on the edge of her chair and looked him in the
face, lowering her voice to prevent her emotion betraying itself too
obviously.

"In my opinion there's only one symptom," she half whispered, as though
telling something disagreeable--"fear--simply fear."

"Physical fear?"

"I think not; though how can I say? I think it's a horror in the
psychical region. It's no ordinary delusion; the man is quite sane; but
he lives in mortal terror of something--"

"I don't know what you mean by his 'psychical region,'" said the doctor,
with a smile; "though I suppose you wish me to understand that his
spiritual, and not his mental, processes are affected. Anyhow, try and
tell me briefly and pointedly what you know about the man, his symptoms,
his need for help, _my_ peculiar help, that is, and all that seems vital
in the case. I promise to listen devotedly."

"I am trying," she continued earnestly, "but must do so in my own words
and trust to your intelligence to disentangle as I go along. He is a
young author, and lives in a tiny house off Putney Heath somewhere. He
writes humorous stories--quite a genre of his own: Pender--you must have
heard the name--Felix Pender? Oh, the man had a great gift, and married
on the strength of it; his future seemed assured. I say 'had,' for quite
suddenly his talent utterly failed him. Worse, it became transformed
into its opposite. He can no longer write a line in the old way that was
bringing him success--"

Dr. Silence opened his eyes for a second and looked at her.

"He still writes, then? The force has not gone?" he asked briefly, and
then closed his eyes again to listen.

"He works like a fury," she went on, "but produces nothing"--she
hesitated a moment--"nothing that he can use or sell. His earnings have
practically ceased, and he makes a precarious living by book-reviewing
and odd jobs--very odd, some of them. Yet, I am certain his talent has
not really deserted him finally, but is merely--"

Again Mrs. Sivendson hesitated for the appropriate word.

"In abeyance," he suggested, without opening his eyes.

"Obliterated," she went on, after a moment to weigh the word, "merely
obliterated by something else--"

"By some _one_ else?"

"I wish I knew. All I can say is that he is haunted, and temporarily his
sense of humour is shrouded--gone--replaced by something dreadful that
writes other things. Unless something competent is done, he will simply
starve to death. Yet he is afraid to go to a doctor for fear of being
pronounced insane; and, anyhow, a man can hardly ask a doctor to take a
guinea to restore a vanished sense of humour, can he?"

"Has he tried any one at all--?"

"Not doctors yet. He tried some clergymen and religious people; but they
_know_ so little and have so little intelligent sympathy. And most of
them are so busy balancing on their own little pedestals--"

John Silence stopped her tirade with a gesture.

"And how is it that you know so much about him?" he asked gently.

"I know Mrs. Pender well--I knew her before she married him--"

"And is she a cause, perhaps?"

"Not in the least. She is devoted; a woman very well educated, though
without being really intelligent, and with so little sense of humour
herself that she always laughs at the wrong places. But she has nothing
to do with the cause of his distress; and, indeed, has chiefly guessed
it from observing him, rather than from what little he has told her.
And he, you know, is a really lovable fellow, hard-working,
patient--altogether worth saving."

Dr. Silence opened his eyes and went over to ring for tea. He did not
know very much more about the case of the humorist than when he first
sat down to listen; but he realized that no amount of words from his
Swedish friend would help to reveal the real facts. A personal interview
with the author himself could alone do that.

"All humorists are worth saving," he said with a smile, as she poured
out tea. "We can't afford to lose a single one in these strenuous days.
I will go and see your friend at the first opportunity."

She thanked him elaborately, effusively, with many words, and he, with
much difficulty, kept the conversation thenceforward strictly to the
teapot.

And, as a result of this conversation, and a little more he had gathered
by means best known to himself and his secretary, he was whizzing in his
motor-car one afternoon a few days later up the Putney Hill to have his
first interview with Felix Pender, the humorous writer who was the
victim of some mysterious malady in his "psychical region" that had
obliterated his sense of the comic and threatened to wreck his life and
destroy his talent. And his desire to help was probably of equal
strength with his desire to know and to investigate.

The motor stopped with a deep purring sound, as though a great black
panther lay concealed within its hood, and the doctor--the "psychic
doctor," as he was sometimes called--stepped out through the gathering
fog, and walked across the tiny garden that held a blackened fir tree
and a stunted laurel shrubbery. The house was very small, and it was
some time before any one answered the bell. Then, suddenly, a light
appeared in the hall, and he saw a pretty little woman standing on the
top step begging him to come in. She was dressed in grey, and the
gaslight fell on a mass of deliberately brushed light hair. Stuffed,
dusty birds, and a shabby array of African spears, hung on the wall
behind her. A hat-rack, with a bronze plate full of very large cards,
led his eye swiftly to a dark staircase beyond. Mrs. Pender had round
eyes like a child's, and she greeted him with an effusiveness that
barely concealed her emotion, yet strove to appear naturally cordial.
Evidently she had been looking out for his arrival, and had outrun the
servant girl. She was a little breathless.

"I hope you've not been kept waiting--I think it's _most_ good of you to
come--" she began, and then stopped sharp when she saw his face in the
gaslight. There was something in Dr. Silence's look that did not
encourage mere talk. He was in earnest now, if ever man was.

"Good evening, Mrs. Pender," he said, with a quiet smile that won
confidence, yet deprecated unnecessary words, "the fog delayed me a
little. I am glad to see you."

They went into a dingy sitting-room at the back of the house, neatly
furnished but depressing. Books stood in a row upon the mantelpiece. The
fire had evidently just been lit. It smoked in great puffs into the
room.

"Mrs. Sivendson said she thought you might be able to come," ventured
the little woman again, looking up engagingly into his face and
betraying anxiety and eagerness in every gesture. "But I hardly dared to
believe it. I think it is really too good of you. My husband's case is
so peculiar that--well, you know, I am quite sure any _ordinary_ doctor
would say at once the asylum--"

"Isn't he in, then?" asked Dr. Silence gently.

"In the asylum?" she gasped. "Oh dear, no--not yet!"

"In the house, I meant," he laughed.

She gave a great sigh.

"He'll be back any minute now," she replied, obviously relieved to see
him laugh; "but the fact is, we didn't expect you so early--I mean, my
husband hardly thought you would come at all."

"I am always delighted to come--when I am really wanted, and can be of
help," he said quickly; "and, perhaps, it's all for the best that your
husband is out, for now that we are alone you can tell me something
about his difficulties. So far, you know, I have heard very little."

Her voice trembled as she thanked him, and when he came and took a chair
close beside her she actually had difficulty in finding words with which
to begin.

"In the first place," she began timidly, and then continuing with a
nervous incoherent rush of words, "he will be simply delighted that
you've really come, because he said you were the only person he would
consent to see at all--the only doctor, I mean. But, of course, he
doesn't know how frightened I am, or how much I have noticed. He
pretends with me that it's just a nervous breakdown, and I'm sure he
doesn't realize all the odd things I've noticed him doing. But the main
thing, I suppose--"

"Yes, the main thing, Mrs. Pender," he said encouragingly, noticing her
hesitation.

"--is that he thinks we are not alone in the house. That's the chief
thing."

"Tell me more facts--just facts."

"It began last summer when I came back from Ireland; he had been here
alone for six weeks, and I thought him looking tired and queer--ragged
and scattered about the face, if you know what I mean, and his manner
worn out. He said he had been writing hard, but his inspiration had
somehow failed him, and he was dissatisfied with his work. His sense of
humour was leaving him, or changing into something else, he said. There
was something in the house, he declared, that"--she emphasized the
words--"prevented his feeling funny."

"Something in the house that prevented his feeling funny," repeated the
doctor. "Ah, now we're getting to the heart of it!"

"Yes," she resumed vaguely, "that's what he kept saying."

"And what was it he _did_ that you thought strange?" he asked
sympathetically. "Be brief, or he may be here before you finish."

"Very small things, but significant it seemed to me. He changed his
workroom from the library, as we call it, to the sitting-room. He said
all his characters became wrong and terrible in the library; they
altered, so that he felt like writing tragedies--vile, debased
tragedies, the tragedies of broken souls. But now he says the same of
the smoking-room, and he's gone back to the library."

"Ah!"

"You see, there's so little I can tell you," she went on, with
increasing speed and countless gestures. "I mean it's only very small
things he does and says that are queer. What frightens me is that he
assumes there is some one else in the house all the time--some one I
never see. He does not actually say so, but on the stairs I've seen him
standing aside to let some one pass; I've seen him open a door to let
some one in or out; and often in our bedroom he puts chairs about as
though for some one else to sit in. Oh--oh yes, and once or twice," she
cried--"once or twice--"

She paused, and looked about her with a startled air.

"Yes?"

"Once or twice," she resumed hurriedly, as though she heard a sound that
alarmed her, "I've heard him running--coming in and out of the rooms
breathless as if something were after him--"

The door opened while she was still speaking, cutting her words off in
the middle, and a man came into the room. He was dark and
clean-shaven sallow rather, with the eyes of imagination, and dark hair
growing scantily about the temples. He was dressed in a shabby tweed
suit, and wore an untidy flannel collar at the neck. The dominant
expression of his face was startled--hunted; an expression that might
any moment leap into the dreadful stare of terror and announce a total
loss of self-control.

The moment he saw his visitor a smile spread over his worn features, and
he advanced to shake hands.

"I hoped you would come; Mrs. Sivendson said you might be able to find
time," he said simply. His voice was thin and reedy. "I am very glad to
see you, Dr. Silence. It is 'Doctor,' is it not?"

"Well, I am entitled to the description," laughed the other, "but I
rarely get it. You know, I do not practice as a regular thing; that is,
I only take cases that specially interest me, or--"

He did not finish the sentence, for the men exchanged a glance of
sympathy that rendered it unnecessary.

"I have heard of your great kindness."

"It's my hobby," said the other quickly, "and my privilege."

"I trust you will still think so when you have heard what I have to tell
you," continued the author, a little wearily. He led the way across the
hall into the little smoking-room where they could talk freely and
undisturbed.

In the smoking-room, the door shut and privacy about them, Pender's
attitude changed somewhat, and his manner became very grave. The doctor
sat opposite, where he could watch his face. Already, he saw, it looked
more haggard. Evidently it cost him much to refer to his trouble at all.

"What I have is, in my belief, a profound spiritual affliction," he
began quite bluntly, looking straight into the other's eyes.

"I saw that at once," Dr. Silence said.

"Yes, you saw that, of course; my atmosphere must convey that much to
any one with psychic perceptions. Besides which, I feel sure from all I
have heard, that you are really a soul-doctor, are you not, more than a
healer merely of the body?"

"You think of me too highly," returned the other; "though I prefer
cases, as you know, in which the spirit is disturbed first, the body
afterwards."

"I understand, yes. Well, I have experienced a curious disturbance
in--_not_ in my physical region primarily. I mean my nerves are all
right, and my body is all right. I have no delusions exactly, but my
spirit is tortured by a calamitous fear which first came upon me in a
strange manner."

John Silence leaned forward a moment and took the speaker's hand and
held it in his own for a few brief seconds, closing his eyes as he did
so. He was not feeling his pulse, or doing any of the things that
doctors ordinarily do; he was merely absorbing into himself the main
note of the man's mental condition, so as to get completely his own
point of view, and thus be able to treat his case with true sympathy. A
very close observer might perhaps have noticed that a slight tremor ran
through his frame after he had held the hand for a few seconds.

"Tell me quite frankly, Mr. Pender," he said soothingly, releasing the
hand, and with deep attention in his manner, "tell me all the steps that
led to the beginning of this invasion. I mean tell me what the
particular drug was, and why you took it, and how it affected you--"

"Then you know it began with a drug!" cried the author, with undisguised
astonishment.

"I only know from what I observe in you, and in its effect upon myself.
You are in a surprising psychical condition. Certain portions of your
atmosphere are vibrating at a far greater rate than others. This is the
effect of a drug, but of no ordinary drug. Allow me to finish, please.
If the higher rate of vibration spreads all over, you will become, of
course, permanently cognisant of a much larger world than the one you
know normally. If, on the other hand, the rapid portion sinks back to
the usual rate, you will lose these occasional increased perceptions you
now have."

"You amaze me!" exclaimed the author; "for your words exactly describe
what I have been feeling--"

"I mention this only in passing, and to give you confidence before you
approach the account of your real affliction," continued the doctor.
"All perception, as you know, is the result of vibrations; and
clairvoyance simply means becoming sensitive to an increased scale of
vibrations. The awakening of the inner senses we hear so much about
means no more than that. Your partial clairvoyance is easily explained.
The only thing that puzzles me is how you managed to procure the drug,
for it is not easy to get in pure form, and no adulterated tincture
could have given you the terrific impetus I see you have acquired. But,
please proceed now and tell me your story in your own way."

"This _Cannabis indica_," the author went on, "came into my possession
last autumn while my wife was away. I need not explain how I got it, for
that has no importance; but it was the genuine fluid extract, and I
could not resist the temptation to make an experiment. One of its
effects, as you know, is to induce torrential laughter--"

"Yes; sometimes."

"--I am a writer of humorous tales, and I wished to increase my own
sense of laughter--to see the ludicrous from an abnormal point of view.
I wished to study it a bit, if possible, and--"

"Tell me!"

"I took an experimental dose. I starved for six hours to hasten the
effect, locked myself into this room, and gave orders not to be
disturbed. Then I swallowed the stuff and waited."

"And the effect?"

"I waited one hour, two, three, four, five hours. Nothing happened. No
laughter came, but only a great weariness instead. Nothing in the room
or in my thoughts came within a hundred miles of a humorous aspect."

"Always a most uncertain drug," interrupted the doctor. "We make a very
small use of it on that account."

"At two o'clock in the morning I felt so hungry and tired that I decided
to give up the experiment and wait no longer. I drank some milk and went
upstairs to bed. I felt flat and disappointed. I fell asleep at once and
must have slept for about an hour, when I awoke suddenly with a great
noise in my ears. It was the noise of my own laughter! I was simply
shaking with merriment. At first I was bewildered and thought I had been
laughing in dreams, but a moment later I remembered the drug, and was
delighted to think that after all I had got an effect. It had been
working all along, only I had miscalculated the time. The only
unpleasant thing _then_ was an odd feeling that I had not waked
naturally, but had been wakened by some one else--deliberately. This
came to me as a certainty in the middle of my noisy laughter and
distressed me."

"Any impression who it could have been?" asked the doctor, now listening
with close attention to every word, very much on the alert.

Pender hesitated and tried to smile. He brushed his hair from his
forehead with a nervous gesture.

"You must tell me all your impressions, even your fancies; they are
quite as important as your certainties."

"I had a vague idea that it was some one connected with my forgotten
dream, some one who had been at me in my sleep, some one of great
strength and great ability--or great force--quite an unusual
personality--and, I was certain, too--a woman."

"A good woman?" asked John Silence quietly.

Pender started a little at the question and his sallow face flushed; it
seemed to surprise him. But he shook his head quickly with an
indefinable look of horror.

"Evil," he answered briefly, "appallingly evil, and yet mingled with the
sheer wickedness of it was also a certain perverseness--the perversity
of the unbalanced mind."

He hesitated a moment and looked up sharply at his interlocutor. A shade
of suspicion showed itself in his eyes.

"No," laughed the doctor, "you need not fear that I'm merely humouring
you, or think you mad. Far from it. Your story interests me exceedingly
and you furnish me unconsciously with a number of clues as you tell it.
You see, I possess some knowledge of my own as to these psychic byways."

"I was shaking with such violent laughter," continued the narrator,
reassured in a moment, "though with no clear idea what was amusing me,
that I had the greatest difficulty in getting up for the matches, and
was afraid I should frighten the servants overhead with my explosions.
When the gas was lit I found the room empty, of course, and the door
locked as usual. Then I half dressed and went out on to the landing, my
hilarity better under control, and proceeded to go downstairs. I wished
to record my sensations. I stuffed a handkerchief into my mouth so as
not to scream aloud and communicate my hysterics to the entire
household."

"And the presence of this--this--?"

"It was hanging about me all the time," said Pender, "but for the moment
it seemed to have withdrawn. Probably, too, my laughter killed all other
emotions."

"And how long did you take getting downstairs?"

"I was just coming to that. I see you know all my 'symptoms' in advance,
as it were; for, of course, I thought I should never get to the bottom.
Each step seemed to take five minutes, and crossing the narrow hall at
the foot of the stairs--well, I could have sworn it was half an hour's
journey had not my watch certified that it was a few seconds. Yet I
walked fast and tried to push on. It was no good. I walked apparently
without advancing, and at that rate it would have taken me a week to get
down Putney Hill."

"An experimental dose radically alters the scale of time and space
sometimes--"

"But, when at last I got into my study and lit the gas, the change came
horridly, and sudden as a flash of lightning. It was like a douche of
icy water, and in the middle of this storm of laughter--"

"Yes; what?" asked the doctor, leaning forward and peering into his
eyes.

"--I was overwhelmed with terror," said Pender, lowering his reedy
voice at the mere recollection of it.

He paused a moment and mopped his forehead. The scared, hunted look in
his eyes now dominated the whole face. Yet, all the time, the corners of
his mouth hinted of possible laughter as though the recollection of that
merriment still amused him. The combination of fear and laughter in his
face was very curious, and lent great conviction to his story; it also
lent a bizarre expression of horror to his gestures.

"Terror, was it?" repeated the doctor soothingly.

"Yes, terror; for, though the Thing that woke me seemed to have gone,
the memory of it still frightened me, and I collapsed into a chair. Then
I locked the door and tried to reason with myself, but the drug made my
movements so prolonged that it took me five minutes to reach the door,
and another five to get back to the chair again. The laughter, too, kept
bubbling up inside me--great wholesome laughter that shook me like gusts
of wind--so that even my terror almost made me laugh. Oh, but I may tell
you, Dr. Silence, it was altogether vile, that mixture of fear and
laughter, altogether vile!

"Then, all at once, the things in the room again presented their funny
side to me and set me off laughing more furiously than ever. The
bookcase was ludicrous, the arm-chair a perfect clown, the way the clock
looked at me on the mantelpiece too comic for words; the arrangement of
papers and inkstand on the desk tickled me till I roared and shook and
held my sides and the tears streamed down my cheeks. And that footstool!
Oh, that absurd footstool!"

He lay back in his chair, laughing to himself and holding up his hands
at the thought of it, and at the sight of him Dr. Silence laughed too.

"Go on, please," he said, "I quite understand. I know something myself
of the hashish laughter."

The author pulled himself together and resumed, his face growing quickly
grave again.

"So, you see, side by side with this extravagant, apparently causeless
merriment, there was also an extravagant, apparently causeless, terror.
The drug produced the laughter, I knew; but what brought in the terror I
could not imagine. Everywhere behind the fun lay the fear. It was terror
masked by cap and bells; and I became the playground for two opposing
emotions, armed and fighting to the death. Gradually, then, the
impression grew in me that this fear was caused by the invasion--so you
called it just now--of the 'person' who had wakened me; she was utterly
evil; inimical to my soul, or at least to all in me that wished for
good. There I stood, sweating and trembling, laughing at everything in
the room, yet all the while with this white terror mastering my heart.
And this creature was putting--putting her--"

He hesitated again, using his handkerchief freely.

"Putting what?"

"--putting ideas into my mind," he went on, glancing nervously about the
room. "Actually tapping my thought-stream so as to switch off the usual
current and inject her own. How mad that sounds! I know it, but it's
true. It's the only way I can express it. Moreover, while the operation
terrified me, the skill with which it was accomplished filled me afresh
with laughter at the clumsiness of men by comparison. Our ignorant,
bungling methods of teaching the minds of others, of inculcating ideas,
and so on, overwhelmed me with laughter when I understood this superior
and diabolical method. Yet my laughter seemed hollow and ghastly, and
ideas of evil and tragedy trod close upon the heels of the comic. Oh,
doctor, I tell you again, it was unnerving!"

John Silence sat with his head thrust forward to catch every word of the
story which the other continued to pour out in nervous, jerky sentences
and lowered voice.

"You _saw_ nothing--no one--all this time?" he asked.

"Not with my eyes. There was no visual hallucination. But in my mind
there began to grow the vivid picture of a woman--large, dark-skinned,
with white teeth and masculine features, and one eye--the left--so
drooping as to appear almost closed. Oh, such a face--!"

"A face you would recognize again?"

Pender laughed dreadfully.

"I wish I could forget it," he whispered, "I only wish I could forget
it!" Then he sat forward in his chair suddenly, and grasped the doctor's
hand with an emotional gesture.

"I _must_ tell you how grateful I am for your patience and sympathy," he
cried, with a tremor in his voice, "and--that you do not think me mad. I
have told no one else a quarter of all this, and the mere freedom of
speech--the relief of sharing my affliction with another--has helped me
already more than I can possibly say."

Dr. Silence pressed his hand and looked steadily into the frightened
eyes. His voice was very gentle when he replied.

"Your case, you know, is very singular, but of absorbing interest to
me," he said, "for it threatens, not your physical existence, but the
temple of your psychical existence--the inner life. Your mind would not
be permanently affected here and now, in this world; but in the
existence after the body is left behind, you might wake up with your
spirit so twisted, so distorted, so befouled, that you would be
_spiritually insane_--a far more radical condition than merely being
insane here."

There came a strange hush over the room, and between the two men sitting
there facing one another.

"Do you really mean--Good Lord!" stammered the author as soon as he
could find his tongue.

"What I mean in detail will keep till a little later, and I need only
say now that I should not have spoken in this way unless I were quite
positive of being able to help you. Oh, there's no doubt as to that,
believe me. In the first place, I am very familiar with the workings of
this extraordinary drug, this drug which has had the chance effect of
opening you up to the forces of another region; and, in the second, I
have a firm belief in the reality of super-sensuous occurrences as well
as considerable knowledge of psychic processes acquired by long and
painful experiment. The rest is, or should be, merely sympathetic
treatment and practical application. The hashish has partially opened
another world to you by increasing your rate of psychical vibration, and
thus rendering you abnormally sensitive. Ancient forces attached to this
house have attacked you. For the moment I am only puzzled as to their
precise nature; for were they of an ordinary character, I should myself
be psychic enough to feel them. Yet I am conscious of feeling nothing as
yet. But now, please continue, Mr. Pender, and tell me the rest of your
wonderful story; and when you have finished, I will talk about the means
of cure."

Pender shifted his chair a little closer to the friendly doctor and then
went on in the same nervous voice with his narrative.

"After making some notes of my impressions I finally got upstairs again
to bed. It was four o'clock in the morning. I laughed all the way up--at
the grotesque banisters, the droll physiognomy of the staircase window,
the burlesque grouping of the furniture, and the memory of that
outrageous footstool in the room below; but nothing more happened to
alarm or disturb me, and I woke late in the morning after a dreamless
sleep, none the worse for my experiment except for a slight headache and
a coldness of the extremities due to lowered circulation."

"Fear gone, too?" asked the doctor.

"I seemed to have forgotten it, or at least ascribed it to mere
nervousness. Its reality had gone, anyhow for the time, and all that day
I wrote and wrote and wrote. My sense of laughter seemed wonderfully
quickened and my characters acted without effort out of the heart of
true humour. I was exceedingly pleased with this result of my
experiment. But when the stenographer had taken her departure and I came
to read over the pages she had typed out, I recalled her sudden glances
of surprise and the odd way she had looked up at me while I was
dictating. I was amazed at what I read and could hardly believe I had
uttered it."

"And why?"

"It was so distorted. The words, indeed, were mine so far as I could
remember, but the meanings seemed strange. It frightened me. The sense
was so altered. At the very places where my characters were intended to
tickle the ribs, only curious emotions of sinister amusement resulted.
Dreadful innuendoes had managed to creep into the phrases. There was
laughter of a kind, but it was bizarre, horrible, distressing; and my
attempt at analysis only increased my dismay. The story, as it read
then, made me shudder, for by virtue of these slight changes it had come
somehow to hold the soul of horror, of horror disguised as merriment.
The framework of humour was there, if you understand me, but the
characters had turned sinister, and their laughter was evil."

"Can you show me this writing?"

The author shook his head.

"I destroyed it," he whispered. "But, in the end, though of course much
perturbed about it, I persuaded myself that it was due to some
after-effect of the drug, a sort of reaction that gave a twist to my
mind and made me read macabre interpretations into words and situations
that did not properly hold them."

"And, meanwhile, did the presence of this person leave you?"

"No; that stayed more or less. When my mind was actively employed I
forgot it, but when idle, dreaming, or doing nothing in particular,
there she was beside me, influencing my mind horribly--"

"In what way, precisely?" interrupted the doctor.

"Evil, scheming thoughts came to me, visions of crime, hateful pictures
of wickedness, and the kind of bad imagination that so far has been
foreign, indeed impossible, to my normal nature--"

"The pressure of the Dark Powers upon the personality," murmured the
doctor, making a quick note.

"Eh? I didn't quite catch--"

"Pray, go on. I am merely making notes; you shall know their purport
fully later."

"Even when my wife returned I was still aware of this Presence in the
house; it associated itself with my inner personality in most intimate
fashion; and outwardly I always felt oddly constrained to be polite and
respectful towards it--to open doors, provide chairs and hold myself
carefully deferential when it was about. It became very compelling at
last, and, if I failed in any little particular, I seemed to know that
it pursued me about the house, from one room to another, haunting my
very soul in its inmost abode. It certainly came before my wife so far
as my attentions were concerned.

"But, let me first finish the story of my experimental dose, for I took
it again the third night, and underwent a very similar experience,
delayed like the first in coming, and then carrying me off my feet when
it did come with a rush of this false demon-laughter. This time,
however, there was a reversal of the changed scale of space and time; it
shortened instead of lengthened, so that I dressed and got downstairs
in about twenty seconds, and the couple of hours I stayed and worked in
the study passed literally like a period of ten minutes."

"That is often true of an overdose," interjected the doctor, "and you
may go a mile in a few minutes, or a few yards in a quarter of an hour.
It is quite incomprehensible to those who have never experienced it, and
is a curious proof that time and space are merely forms of thought."

"This time," Pender went on, talking more and more rapidly in his
excitement, "another extraordinary effect came to me, and I experienced
a curious changing of the senses, so that I perceived external things
through one large main sense-channel instead of through the five
divisions known as sight, smell, touch, and so forth. You will, I know,
understand me when I tell you that I _heard_ sights and _saw_ sounds. No
language can make this comprehensible, of course, and I can only say,
for instance, that the striking of the clock I saw as a visible picture
in the air before me. I saw the sounds of the tinkling bell. And in
precisely the same way I heard the colours in the room, especially the
colours of those books in the shelf behind you. Those red bindings I
heard in deep sounds, and the yellow covers of the French bindings next
to them made a shrill, piercing note not unlike the chattering of
starlings. That brown bookcase muttered, and those green curtains
opposite kept up a constant sort of rippling sound like the lower notes
of a woodhorn. But I only was conscious of these sounds when I looked
steadily at the different objects, and thought about them. The room, you
understand, was not full of a chorus of notes; but when I concentrated
my mind upon a colour, I heard, as well as saw, it."

"That is a known, though rarely-obtained, effect of _Cannabis indica_,"
observed the doctor. "And it provoked laughter again, did it?"

"Only the muttering of the cupboard-bookcase made me laugh. It was so
like a great animal trying to get itself noticed, and made me think of a
performing bear--which is full of a kind of pathetic humour, you know.
But this mingling of the senses produced no confusion in my brain. On
the contrary, I was unusually clear-headed and experienced an
intensification of consciousness, and felt marvellously alive and
keen-minded.

"Moreover, when I took up a pencil in obedience to an impulse to
sketch--a talent not normally mine--I found that I could draw nothing
but heads, nothing, in fact, but one head--always the same--the head of
a dark-skinned woman, with huge and terrible features and a very
drooping left eye; and so well drawn, too, that I was amazed, as you may
imagine--"

"And the expression of the face--?"

Pender hesitated a moment for words, casting about with his hands in the
air and hunching his shoulders. A perceptible shudder ran over him.

"What I can only describe as--_blackness_," he replied in a low tone;
"the face of a dark and evil soul."

"You destroyed that, too?" queried the doctor sharply.

"No; I have kept the drawings," he said, with a laugh, and rose to get
them from a drawer in the writing-desk behind him.

"Here is all that remains of the pictures, you see," he added, pushing a
number of loose sheets under the doctor's eyes; "nothing but a few
scrawly lines. That's all I found the next morning. I had really drawn
no heads at all--nothing but those lines and blots and wriggles. The
pictures were entirely subjective, and existed only in my mind which
constructed them out of a few wild strokes of the pen. Like the altered
scale of space and time it was a complete delusion. These all passed, of
course, with the passing of the drug's effects. But the other thing did
not pass. I mean, the presence of that Dark Soul remained with me. It is
here still. It is real. I don't know how I can escape from it."

"It is attached to the house, not to you personally. You must leave the
house."

"Yes. Only I cannot afford to leave the house, for my work is my sole
means of support, and--well, you see, since this change I cannot even
write. They are horrible, these mirthless tales I now write, with their
mockery of laughter, their diabolical suggestion. Horrible! I shall go
mad if this continues."

He screwed his face up and looked about the room as though he expected
to see some haunting shape.

"The influence in this house, induced by my experiment, has killed in a
flash, in a sudden stroke, the sources of my humour, and, though I still
go on writing funny tales--I have a certain name, you know--my
inspiration has dried up, and much of what I write I have to burn--yes,
doctor, to burn, before any one sees it."

"As utterly alien to your own mind and personality?"

"Utterly! As though some one else had written it--"

"Ah!"

"And shocking!" He passed his hand over his eyes a moment and let the
breath escape softly through his teeth. "Yet most damnably clever in the
consummate way the vile suggestions are insinuated under cover of a kind
of high drollery. My stenographer left me, of course--and I've been
afraid to take another--"

John Silence got up and began to walk about the room leisurely without
speaking; he appeared to be examining the pictures on the wall and
reading the names of the books lying about. Presently he paused on the
hearthrug, with his back to the fire, and turned to look his patient
quietly in the eyes. Pender's face was grey and drawn; the hunted
expression dominated it; the long recital had told upon him.

"Thank you, Mr. Pender," he said, a curious glow showing about his fine,
quiet face, "thank you for the sincerity and frankness of your account.
But I think now there is nothing further I need ask you." He indulged in
a long scrutiny of the author's haggard features, drawing purposely the
man's eyes to his own and then meeting them with a look of power and
confidence calculated to inspire even the feeblest soul with courage.
"And, to begin with," he added, smiling pleasantly, "let me assure you
without delay that you need have no alarm, for you are no more insane
or deluded than I myself am--"

Pender heaved a deep sigh and tried to return the smile.

"--and this is simply a case, so far as I can judge at present, of a
very singular psychical invasion, and a very sinister one, too, if you
perhaps understand what I mean--"

"It's an odd expression; you used it before, you know," said the author
wearily, yet eagerly listening to every word of the diagnosis, and
deeply touched by the intelligent sympathy which did not at once
indicate the lunatic asylum.

"Possibly," returned the other, "and an odd affliction too, you'll
allow, yet one not unknown to the nations of antiquity, nor to those
moderns, perhaps, who recognize the freedom of action under certain
pathogenic conditions between this world and another."

"And you think," asked Pender hastily, "that it is all primarily due to
the _Cannabis_? There is nothing radically amiss with myself--nothing
incurable, or--?"

"Due entirely to the overdose," Dr. Silence replied emphatically, "to
the drug's direct action upon your psychical being. It rendered you
ultra-sensitive and made you respond to an increased rate of vibration.
And, let me tell you, Mr. Pender, that your experiment might have had
results far more dire. It has brought you into touch with a somewhat
singular class of Invisible, but of one, I think, chiefly human in
character. You might, however, just as easily have been drawn out of
human range altogether, and the results of such a contingency would
have been exceedingly terrible. Indeed, you would not now be here to
tell the tale. I need not alarm you on that score, but mention it as a
warning you will not misunderstand or underrate after what you have been
through.

"You look puzzled. You do not quite gather what I am driving at; and it
is not to be expected that you should, for you, I suppose, are the
nominal Christian with the nominal Christian's lofty standard of ethics,
and his utter ignorance of spiritual possibilities. Beyond a somewhat
childish understanding of 'spiritual wickedness in high places,' you
probably have no conception of what is possible once you break down the
slender gulf that is mercifully fixed between you and that Outer World.
But my studies and training have taken me far outside these orthodox
trips, and I have made experiments that I could scarcely speak to you
about in language that would be intelligible to you."

He paused a moment to note the breathless interest of Pender's face and
manner. Every word he uttered was calculated; he knew exactly the value
and effect of the emotions he desired to waken in the heart of the
afflicted being before him.

"And from certain knowledge I have gained through various experiences,"
he continued calmly, "I can diagnose your case as I said before to be
one of psychical invasion."

"And the nature of this--er--invasion?" stammered the bewildered writer
of humorous tales.

"There is no reason why I should not say at once that I do not yet
quite know," replied Dr. Silence. "I may first have to make one or two
experiments--"

"On me?" gasped Pender, catching his breath.

"Not exactly," the doctor said, with a grave smile, "but with your
assistance, perhaps. I shall want to test the conditions of the
house--to ascertain, if possible, the character of the forces, of this
strange personality that has been haunting you--"

"At present you have no idea exactly who--what--why--" asked the other
in a wild flurry of interest, dread and amazement.

"I have a very good idea, but no proof rather," returned the doctor.
"The effects of the drug in altering the scale of time and space, and
merging the senses have nothing primarily to do with the invasion. They
come to any one who is fool enough to take an experimental dose. It is
the other features of your case that are unusual. You see, you are now
in touch with certain violent emotions, desires, purposes, still active
in this house, that were produced in the past by some powerful and evil
personality that lived here. How long ago, or why they still persist so
forcibly, I cannot positively say. But I should judge that they are
merely forces acting automatically with the momentum of their terrific
original impetus."

"Not directed by a living being, a conscious will, you mean?"

"Possibly not--but none the less dangerous on that account, and more
difficult to deal with. I cannot explain to you in a few minutes the
nature of such things, for you have not made the studies that would
enable you to follow me; but I have reason to believe that on the
dissolution at death of a human being, its forces may still persist and
continue to act in a blind, unconscious fashion. As a rule they speedily
dissipate themselves, but in the case of a very powerful personality
they may last a long time. And, in some cases--of which I incline to
think this is one--these forces may coalesce with certain non-human
entities who thus continue their life indefinitely and increase their
strength to an unbelievable degree. If the original personality was
evil, the beings attracted to the left-over forces will also be evil. In
this case, I think there has been an unusual and dreadful aggrandizement
of the thoughts and purposes left behind long ago by a woman of
consummate wickedness and great personal power of character and
intellect. Now, do you begin to see what I am driving at a little?"

Pender stared fixedly at his companion, plain horror showing in his
eyes. But he found nothing to say, and the doctor continued--

"In your case, predisposed by the action of the drug, you have
experienced the rush of these forces in undiluted strength. They wholly
obliterate in you the sense of humour, fancy, imagination,--all that
makes for cheerfulness and hope. They seek, though perhaps automatically
only, to oust your own thoughts and establish themselves in their place.
You are the victim of a psychical invasion. At the same time, you have
become clairvoyant in the true sense. You are also a clairvoyant
victim."

Pender mopped his face and sighed. He left his chair and went over to
the fireplace to warm himself.

"You must think me a quack to talk like this, or a madman," laughed Dr.
Silence. "But never mind that. I have come to help you, and I can help
you if you will do what I tell you. It is very simple: you must leave
this house at once. Oh, never mind the difficulties; we will deal with
those together. I can place another house at your disposal, or I would
take the lease here off your hands, and later have it pulled down. Your
case interests me greatly, and I mean to see you through, so you have no
anxiety, and can drop back into your old groove of work tomorrow! The
drug has provided you, and therefore me, with a short-cut to a very
interesting experience. I am grateful to you."

The author poked the fire vigorously, emotion rising in him like a tide.
He glanced towards the door nervously.

"There is no need to alarm your wife or to tell her the details of our
conversation," pursued the other quietly. "Let her know that you will
soon be in possession again of your sense of humour and your health, and
explain that I am lending you another house for six months. Meanwhile I
may have the right to use this house for a night or two for my
experiment. Is that understood between us?"

"I can only thank you from the bottom of my heart," stammered Pender,
unable to find words to express his gratitude.

Then he hesitated for a moment, searching the doctor's face anxiously.

"And your experiment with the house?" he said at length.

"Of the simplest character, my dear Mr. Pender. Although I am myself an
artificially trained psychic, and consequently aware of the presence of
discarnate entities as a rule, I have so far felt nothing here at all.
This makes me sure that the forces acting here are of an unusual
description. What I propose to do is to make an experiment with a view
of drawing out this evil, coaxing it from its lair, so to speak, in
order that it may _exhaust itself through me_ and become dissipated for
ever. I have already been inoculated," he added; "I consider myself to
be immune."

"Heavens above!" gasped the author, collapsing on to a chair.

"Hell beneath! might be a more appropriate exclamation," the doctor
laughed. "But, seriously, Mr. Pender, that is what I propose to do--with
your permission."

"Of course, of course," cried the other, "you have my permission and my
best wishes for success. I can see no possible objection, but--"

"But what?"

"I pray to Heaven you will not undertake this experiment alone, will
you?"

"Oh dear, no; not alone."

"You will take a companion with good nerves, and reliable in case of
disaster, won't you?"

"I shall bring two companions," the doctor said.

"Ah, that's better. I feel easier. I am sure you must have among your
acquaintances men who--"

"I shall not think of bringing men, Mr. Pender."

The other looked up sharply.

"No, or women either; or children."

"I don't understand. Who will you bring, then?"

"Animals," explained the doctor, unable to prevent a smile at his
companion's expression of surprise--"two animals, a cat and a dog."

Pender stared as if his eyes would drop out upon the floor, and then led
the way without another word into the adjoining room where his wife was
awaiting them for tea.


II

A few days later the humorist and his wife, with minds greatly relieved,
moved into a small furnished house placed at their free disposal in
another part of London; and John Silence, intent upon his approaching
experiment, made ready to spend a night in the empty house on the top of
Putney Hill. Only two rooms were prepared for occupation: the study on
the ground floor and the bedroom immediately above it; all other doors
were to be locked, and no servant was to be left in the house. The motor
had orders to call for him at nine o'clock the following morning.

And, meanwhile, his secretary had instructions to look up the past
history and associations of the place, and learn everything he could
concerning the character of former occupants, recent or remote.

The animals, by whose sensitiveness he intended to test any unusual
conditions in the atmosphere of the building, Dr. Silence selected with
care and judgment. He believed (and had already made curious experiments
to prove it) that animals were more often, and more truly, clairvoyant
than human beings. Many of them, he felt convinced, possessed powers of
perception far superior to that mere keenness of the senses common to
all dwellers in the wilds where the senses grow specially alert; they
had what he termed "animal clairvoyance," and from his experiments with
horses, dogs, cats, and even birds, he had drawn certain deductions,
which, however, need not be referred to in detail here.

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.

He selected his animals, therefore, with wisdom so that they might
afford a differing test, each in its own way, and that one should not
merely communicate its own excitement to the other. He took a dog and a
cat.

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.

"Smoke" described its temperament as well as its appearance. Its
movements, its individuality, its posing as a little furry mass of
concealed mysteries, its elfin-like elusiveness, all combined to justify
its name; and a subtle painter might have pictured it as a wisp of
floating smoke, the fire below betraying itself at two points only--the
glowing eyes.

All its forces ran to intelligence--secret intelligence, wordless,
incalculable intuition of the Cat. It was, indeed, _the_ cat for the
business in hand.

The selection of the dog was not so simple, for the doctor owned many;
but after much deliberation he chose a collie, called Flame from his
yellow coat. True, it was a trifle old, and stiff in the joints, and
even beginning to grow deaf, but, on the other hand, it was a very
particular friend of Smoke's, and had fathered it from kittenhood
upwards so that a subtle understanding existed between them. It was this
that turned the balance in its favour, this and its courage. Moreover,
though good-tempered, it was a terrible fighter, and its anger when
provoked by a righteous cause was a fury of fire, and irresistible.

It had come to him quite young, straight from the shepherd, with the air
of the hills yet in its nostrils, and was then little more than skin and
bones and teeth. For a collie it was sturdily built, its nose blunter
than most, its yellow hair stiff rather than silky, and it had full
eyes, unlike the slit eyes of its breed. Only its master could touch it,
for it ignored strangers, and despised their pattings--when any dared to
pat it. There was something patriarchal about the old beast. He was in
earnest, and went through life with tremendous energy and big things in
view, as though he had the reputation of his whole race to uphold. And
to watch him fighting against odds was to understand why he was
terrible.

In his relations with Smoke he was always absurdly gentle; also he was
fatherly; and at the same time betrayed a certain diffidence or shyness.
He recognized that Smoke called for strong yet respectful management.
The cat's circuitous methods puzzled him, and his elaborate pretences
perhaps shocked the dog's liking for direct, undisguised action. Yet,
while he failed to comprehend these tortuous feline mysteries, he was
never contemptuous or condescending; and he presided over the safety of
his furry black friend somewhat as a father, loving but intuitive, might
superintend the vagaries of a wayward and talented child. And, in
return, Smoke rewarded him with exhibitions of fascinating and audacious
mischief.

And these brief descriptions of their characters are necessary for the
proper understanding of what subsequently took place.

With Smoke sleeping in the folds of his fur coat, and the collie lying
watchful on the seat opposite, John Silence went down in his motor after
dinner on the night of November 15th.

And the fog was so dense that they were obliged to travel at quarter
speed the entire way.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was after ten o'clock when he dismissed the motor and entered the
dingy little house with the latchkey provided by Pender. He found the
hall gas turned low, and a fire in the study. Books and food had also
been placed ready by the servant according to instructions. Coils of fog
rushed in after him through the opened door and filled the hall and
passage with its cold discomfort.

The first thing Dr. Silence did was to lock up Smoke in the study with a
saucer of milk before the fire, and then make a search of the house with
Flame. The dog ran cheerfully behind him all the way while he tried the
doors of the other rooms to make sure they were locked. He nosed about
into corners and made little excursions on his own account. His manner
was expectant. He knew there must be something unusual about the
proceeding, because it was contrary to the habits of his whole life not
to be asleep at this hour on the mat in front of the fire. He kept
looking up into his master's face, as door after door was tried, with an
expression of intelligent sympathy, but at the same time a certain air
of disapproval. Yet everything his master did was good in his eyes, and
he betrayed as little impatience as possible with all this unnecessary
journeying to and fro. If the doctor was pleased to play this sort of
game at such an hour of the night, it was surely not for him to object.
So he played it too; and was very busy and earnest about it into the
bargain.

After an uneventful search they came down again to the study, and here
Dr. Silence discovered Smoke washing his face calmly in front of the
fire. The saucer of milk was licked dry and clean; the preliminary
examination that cats always make in new surroundings had evidently been
satisfactorily concluded. He drew an arm-chair up to the fire, stirred
the coals into a blaze, arranged the table and lamp to his satisfaction
for reading, and then prepared surreptitiously to watch the animals. He
wished to observe them carefully without their being aware of it.

Now, in spite of their respective ages, it was the regular custom of
these two to play together every night before sleep. Smoke always made
the advances, beginning with grave impudence to pat the dog's tail, and
Flame played cumbrously, with condescension. It was his duty, rather
than pleasure; he was glad when it was over, and sometimes he was very
determined and refused to play at all.

And this night was one of the occasions on which he was firm.

The doctor, looking cautiously over the top of his book, watched the cat
begin the performance. It started by gazing with an innocent expression
at the dog where he lay with nose on paws and eyes wide open in the
middle of the floor. Then it got up and made as though it meant to walk
to the door, going deliberately and very softly. Flame's eyes followed
it until it was beyond the range of sight, and then the cat turned
sharply and began patting his tail tentatively with one paw. The tail
moved slightly in reply, and Smoke changed paws and tapped it again. The
dog, however, did not rise to play as was his wont, and the cat fell to
patting it briskly with both paws. Flame still lay motionless.

This puzzled and bored the cat, and it went round and stared hard into
its friend's face to see what was the matter. Perhaps some inarticulate
message flashed from the dog's eyes into its own little brain, making it
understand that the program for the night had better not begin with
play. Perhaps it only realized that its friend was immovable. But,
whatever the reason, its usual persistence thenceforward deserted it,
and it made no further attempts at persuasion. Smoke yielded at once to
the dog's mood; it sat down where it was and began to wash.

But the washing, the doctor noted, was by no means its real purpose; it
only used it to mask something else; it stopped at the most busy and
furious moments and began to stare about the room. Its thoughts wandered
absurdly. It peered intently at the curtains; at the shadowy corners; at
empty space above; leaving its body in curiously awkward positions for
whole minutes together. Then it turned sharply and stared with a sudden
signal of intelligence at the dog, and Flame at once rose somewhat
stiffly to his feet and began to wander aimlessly and restlessly to and
fro about the floor. Smoke followed him, padding quietly at his heels.
Between them they made what seemed to be a deliberate search of the
room.

And, here, as he watched them, noting carefully every detail of the
performance over the top of his book, yet making no effort to interfere,
it seemed to the doctor that the first beginnings of a faint distress
betrayed themselves in the collie, and in the cat the stirrings of a
vague excitement.

He observed them closely. The fog was thick in the air, and the tobacco
smoke from his pipe added to its density; the furniture at the far end
stood mistily, and where the shadows congregated in hanging clouds under
the ceiling, it was difficult to see clearly at all; the lamplight only
reached to a level of five feet from the floor, above which came layers
of comparative darkness, so that the room appeared twice as lofty as it
actually was. By means of the lamp and the fire, however, the carpet was
everywhere clearly visible.

The animals made their silent tour of the floor, sometimes the dog
leading, sometimes the cat; occasionally they looked at one another as
though exchanging signals; and once or twice, in spite of the limited
space, he lost sight of one or other among the fog and the shadows.
Their curiosity, it appeared to him, was something more than the
excitement lurking in the unknown territory of a strange room; yet, so
far, it was impossible to test this, and he purposely kept his mind
quietly receptive lest the smallest mental excitement on his part should
communicate itself to the animals and thus destroy the value of their
independent behaviour.

They made a very thorough journey, leaving no piece of furniture
unexamined, or unsmelt. Flame led the way, walking slowly with lowered
head, and Smoke followed demurely at his heels, making a transparent
pretence of not being interested, yet missing nothing. And, at length,
they returned, the old collie first, and came to rest on the mat before
the fire. Flame rested his muzzle on his master's knee, smiling
beatifically while he patted the yellow head and spoke his name; and
Smoke, coming a little later, pretending he came by chance, looked from
the empty saucer to his face, lapped up the milk when it was given him
to the last drop, and then sprang upon his knees and curled round for
the sleep it had fully earned and intended to enjoy.

Silence descended upon the room. Only the breathing of the dog upon the
mat came through the deep stillness, like the pulse of time marking the
minutes; and the steady drip, drip of the fog outside upon the
window-ledges dismally testified to the inclemency of the night beyond.
And the soft crashings of the coals as the fire settled down into the
grate became less and less audible as the fire sank and the flames
resigned their fierceness.

It was now well after eleven o'clock, and Dr. Silence devoted himself
again to his book. He read the words on the printed page and took in
their meaning superficially, yet without starting into life the
correlations of thought and suggestion that should accompany interesting
reading. Underneath, all the while, his mental energies were absorbed in
watching, listening, waiting for what might come. He was not over
sanguine himself, yet he did not wish to be taken by surprise.
Moreover, the animals, his sensitive barometers, had incontinently gone
to sleep.

After reading a dozen pages, however, he realized that his mind was
really occupied in reviewing the features of Pender's extraordinary
story, and that it was no longer necessary to steady his imagination by
studying the dull paragraphs detailed in the pages before him. He laid
down his book accordingly, and allowed his thoughts to dwell upon the
features of the Case. Speculations as to the meaning, however, he
rigorously suppressed, knowing that such thoughts would act upon his
imagination like wind upon the glowing embers of a fire.

As the night wore on the silence grew deeper and deeper, and only at
rare intervals he heard the sound of wheels on the main road a hundred
yards away, where the horses went at a walking pace owing to the density
of the fog. The echo of pedestrian footsteps no longer reached him, the
clamour of occasional voices no longer came down the side street. The
night, muffled by fog, shrouded by veils of ultimate mystery, hung about
the haunted villa like a doom. Nothing in the house stirred. Stillness,
in a thick blanket, lay over the upper storeys. Only the mist in the
room grew more dense, he thought, and the damp cold more penetrating.
Certainly, from time to time, he shivered.

The collie, now deep in slumber, moved occasionally,--grunted, sighed,
or twitched his legs in dreams. Smoke lay on his knees, a pool of warm,
black fur, only the closest observation detecting the movement of his
sleek sides. It was difficult to distinguish exactly where his head and
body joined in that circle of glistening hair; only a black satin nose
and a tiny tip of pink tongue betrayed the secret.

Dr. Silence watched him, and felt comfortable. The collie's breathing
was soothing. The fire was well built, and would burn for another two
hours without attention. He was not conscious of the least nervousness.
He particularly wished to remain in his ordinary and normal state of
mind, and to force nothing. If sleep came naturally, he would let it
come--and even welcome it. The coldness of the room, when the fire died
down later, would be sure to wake him again; and it would then be time
enough to carry these sleeping barometers up to bed. From various
psychic premonitions he knew quite well that the night would not pass
without adventure; but he did not wish to force its arrival; and he
wished to remain normal, and let the animals remain normal, so that,
when it came, it would be unattended by excitement or by any straining
of the attention. Many experiments had made him wise. And, for the rest,
he had no fear.

Accordingly, after a time, he did fall asleep as he had expected, and
the last thing he remembered, before oblivion slipped up over his eyes
like soft wool, was the picture of Flame stretching all four legs at
once, and sighing noisily as he sought a more comfortable position for
his paws and muzzle upon the mat.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a good deal later when he became aware that a weight lay upon his
chest, and that something was pencilling over his face and mouth. A soft
touch on the cheek woke him. Something was patting him.

He sat up with a jerk, and found himself staring straight into a pair of
brilliant eyes, half green, half black. Smoke's face lay level with his
own; and the cat had climbed up with its front paws upon his chest.

The lamp had burned low and the fire was nearly out, yet Dr. Silence saw
in a moment that the cat was in an excited state. It kneaded with its
front paws into his chest, shifting from one to the other. He felt them
prodding against him. It lifted a leg very carefully and patted his
cheek gingerly. Its fur, he saw, was standing ridgewise upon its back;
the ears were flattened back somewhat; the tail was switching sharply.
The cat, of course, had wakened him with a purpose, and the instant he
realized this, he set it upon the arm of the chair and sprang up with a
quick turn to face the empty room behind him. By some curious instinct,
his arms of their own accord assumed an attitude of defence in front of
him, as though to ward off something that threatened his safety. Yet
nothing was visible. Only shapes of fog hung about rather heavily in the
air, moving slightly to and fro.

His mind was now fully alert, and the last vestiges of sleep gone. He
turned the lamp higher and peered about him. Two things he became aware
of at once: one, that Smoke, while excited, was _pleasurably_ excited;
the other, that the collie was no longer visible upon the mat at his
feet. He had crept away to the corner of the wall farthest from the
window, and lay watching the room with wide-open eyes, in which lurked
plainly something of alarm.

Something in the dog's behaviour instantly struck Dr. Silence as
unusual, and, calling him by name, he moved across to pat him. Flame got
up, wagged his tail, and came over slowly to the rug, uttering a low
sound that was half growl, half whine. He was evidently perturbed about
something, and his master was proceeding to administer comfort when his
attention was suddenly drawn to the antics of his other four-footed
companion, the cat.

And what he saw filled him with something like amazement.

Smoke had jumped down from the back of the arm-chair and now occupied
the middle of the carpet, where, with tail erect and legs stiff as
ramrods, it was steadily pacing backwards and forwards in a narrow
space, uttering, as it did so, those curious little guttural sounds of
pleasure that only an animal of the feline species knows how to make
expressive of supreme happiness. Its stiffened legs and arched back made
it appear larger than usual, and the black visage wore a smile of
beatific joy. Its eyes blazed magnificently; it was in an ecstasy.

At the end of every few paces it turned sharply and stalked back again
along the same line, padding softly, and purring like a roll of little
muffled drums. It behaved precisely as though it were rubbing against
the ankles of some one who remained invisible. A thrill ran down the
doctor's spine as he stood and stared. His experiment was growing
interesting at last.

He called the collie's attention to his friend's performance to see
whether he too was aware of anything standing there upon the carpet, and
the dog's behaviour was significant and corroborative. He came as far
as his master's knees and then stopped dead, refusing to investigate
closely. In vain Dr. Silence urged him; he wagged his tail, whined a
little, and stood in a half-crouching attitude, staring alternately at
the cat and at his master's face. He was, apparently, both puzzled and
alarmed, and the whine went deeper and deeper down into his throat till
it changed into an ugly snarl of awakening anger.

Then the doctor called to him in a tone of command he had never known to
be disregarded; but still the dog, though springing up in response,
declined to move nearer. He made tentative motions, pranced a little
like a dog about to take to water, pretended to bark, and ran to and fro
on the carpet. So far there was no actual fear in his manner, but he was
uneasy and anxious, and nothing would induce him to go within touching
distance of the walking cat. Once he made a complete circuit, but always
carefully out of reach; and in the end he returned to his master's legs
and rubbed vigorously against him. Flame did not like the performance at
all: that much was quite clear.

For several minutes John Silence watched the performance of the cat with
profound attention and without interfering. Then he called to the animal
by name.

"Smoke, you mysterious beastie, what in the world are you about?" he
said, in a coaxing tone.

The cat looked up at him for a moment, smiling in its ecstasy, blinking
its eyes, but too happy to pause. He spoke to it again. He called to it
several times, and each time it turned upon him its blazing eyes, drunk
with inner delight, opening and shutting its lips, its body large and
rigid with excitement. Yet it never for one instant paused in its short
journeys to and fro.

He noted exactly what it did: it walked, he saw, the same number of
paces each time, some six or seven steps, and then it turned sharply and
retraced them. By the pattern of the great roses in the carpet he
measured it. It kept to the same direction and the same line. It behaved
precisely as though it were rubbing against something solid.
Undoubtedly, there was something standing there on that strip of carpet,
something invisible to the doctor, something that alarmed the dog, yet
caused the cat unspeakable pleasure.

"Smokie!" he called again, "Smokie, you black mystery, what is it
excites you so?"

Again the cat looked up at him for a brief second, and then continued
its sentry-walk, blissfully happy, intensely preoccupied. And, for an
instant, as he watched it, the doctor was aware that a faint uneasiness
stirred in the depths of his own being, focusing itself for the moment
upon this curious behaviour of the uncanny creature before him.

There rose in him quite a new realization of the mystery connected with
the whole feline tribe, but especially with that common member of it,
the domestic cat--their hidden lives, their strange aloofness, their
incalculable subtlety. How utterly remote from anything that human
beings understood lay the sources of their elusive activities. As he
watched the indescribable bearing of the little creature mincing along
the strip of carpet under his eyes, coquetting with the powers of
darkness, welcoming, maybe, some fearsome visitor, there stirred in his
heart a feeling strangely akin to awe. Its indifference to human kind,
its serene superiority to the obvious, struck him forcibly with fresh
meaning; so remote, so inaccessible seemed the secret purposes of its
real life, so alien to the blundering honesty of other animals. Its
absolute poise of bearing brought into his mind the opium-eater's words
that "no dignity is perfect which does not at some point ally itself
with the mysterious"; and he became suddenly aware that the presence of
the dog in this foggy, haunted room on the top of Putney Hill was
uncommonly welcome to him. He was glad to feel that Flame's dependable
personality was with him. The savage growling at his heels was a
pleasant sound. He was glad to hear it. That marching cat made him
uneasy.

Finding that Smoke paid no further attention to his words, the doctor
decided upon action. Would it rub against his leg, too? He would take it
by surprise and see.

He stepped quickly forward and placed himself upon the exact strip of
carpet where it walked.

But no cat is ever taken by surprise! The moment he occupied the space
of the Intruder, setting his feet on the woven roses midway in the line
of travel, Smoke suddenly stopped purring and sat down. It lifted up its
face with the most innocent stare imaginable of its green eyes. He could
have sworn it laughed. It was a perfect child again. In a single second
it had resumed its simple, domestic manner; and it gazed at him in such
a way that he almost felt Smoke was the normal being, and _his_ was the
eccentric behaviour that was being watched. It was consummate, the
manner in which it brought about this change so easily and so quickly.

"Superb little actor!" he laughed in spite of himself, and stooped to
stroke the shining black back. But, in a flash, as he touched its fur,
the cat turned and spat at him viciously, striking at his hand with one
paw. Then, with a hurried scutter of feet, it shot like a shadow across
the floor and a moment later was calmly sitting over by the
window-curtains washing its face as though nothing interested it in the
whole world but the cleanness of its cheeks and whiskers.

John Silence straightened himself up and drew a long breath. He realized
that the performance was temporarily at an end. The collie, meanwhile,
who had watched the whole proceeding with marked disapproval, had now
lain down again upon the mat by the fire, no longer growling. It seemed
to the doctor just as though something that had entered the room while
he slept, alarming the dog, yet bringing happiness to the cat, had now
gone out again, leaving all as it was before. Whatever it was that
excited its blissful attentions had retreated for the moment.

He realized this intuitively. Smoke evidently realized it, too, for
presently he deigned to march back to the fireplace and jump upon his
master's knees. Dr. Silence, patient and determined, settled down once
more to his book. The animals soon slept; the fire blazed cheerfully;
and the cold fog from outside poured into the room through every
available chink and crannie.

For a long time silence and peace reigned in the room and Dr. Silence
availed himself of the quietness to make careful notes of what had
happened. He entered for future use in other cases an exhaustive
analysis of what he had observed, especially with regard to the effect
upon the two animals. It is impossible here, nor would it be
intelligible to the reader unversed in the knowledge of the region known
to a scientifically trained psychic like Dr. Silence, to detail these
observations. But to him it was clear, up to a certain point--and for
the rest he must still wait and watch. So far, at least, he realized
that while he slept in the chair--that is, while his will was
dormant--the room had suffered intrusion from what he recognized as an
intensely active Force, and might later be forced to acknowledge as
something more than merely a blind force, namely, a distinct
personality.

So far it had affected himself scarcely at all, but had acted directly
upon the simpler organisms of the animals. It stimulated keenly the
centres of the cat's psychic being, inducing a state of instant
happiness (intensifying its consciousness probably in the same way a
drug or stimulant intensifies that of a human being); whereas it alarmed
the less sensitive dog, causing it to feel a vague apprehension and
distress.

His own sudden action and exhibition of energy had served to disperse it
temporarily, yet he felt convinced--the indications were not lacking
even while he sat there making notes--that it still remained near to
him, conditionally if not spatially, and was, as it were, gathering
force for a second attack.

And, further, he intuitively understood that the relations between the
two animals had undergone a subtle change: that the cat had become
immeasurably superior, confident, sure of itself in its own peculiar
region, whereas Flame had been weakened by an attack he could not
comprehend and knew not how to reply to. Though not yet afraid, he was
defiant--ready to act against a fear that he felt to be approaching. He
was no longer fatherly and protective towards the cat. Smoke held the
key to the situation; and both he and the cat knew it.

Thus, as the minutes passed, John Silence sat and waited, keenly on the
alert, wondering how soon the attack would be renewed, and at what point
it would be diverted from the animals and directed upon himself.

The book lay on the floor beside him, his notes were complete. With one
hand on the cat's fur, and the dog's front paws resting against his
feet, the three of them dozed comfortably before the hot fire while the
night wore on and the silence deepened towards midnight.

It was well after one o'clock in the morning when Dr. Silence turned the
lamp out and lighted the candle preparatory to going up to bed. Then
Smoke suddenly woke with a loud sharp purr and sat up. It neither
stretched, washed nor turned: it listened. And the doctor, watching it,
realized that a certain indefinable change had come about that very
moment in the room. A swift readjustment of the forces within the four
walls had taken place--a new disposition of their personal equations.
The balance was destroyed, the former harmony gone. Smoke, most
sensitive of barometers, had been the first to feel it, but the dog was
not slow to follow suit, for on looking down he noted that Flame was no
longer asleep. He was lying with eyes wide open, and that same instant
he sat up on his great haunches and began to growl.

Dr. Silence was in the act of taking the matches to re-light the lamp
when an audible movement in the room behind made him pause. Smoke leaped
down from his knee and moved a few paces across the carpet. Then it
stopped and stared fixedly; and the doctor stood up on the rug to watch.

As he rose the sound was repeated, and he discovered that it was not in
the room as he first thought, but outside, and that it came from more
directions than one. There was a rushing, sweeping noise against the
window-panes, and simultaneously a sound of something brushing against
the door--out in the hall. Smoke advanced sedately across the carpet,
twitching his tail, and sat down within a foot of the door. The
influence that had destroyed the harmonious conditions of the room had
apparently moved in advance of its cause. Clearly, something was about
to happen.

For the first time that night John Silence hesitated; the thought of
that dark narrow hall-way, choked with fog, and destitute of human
comfort, was unpleasant. He became aware of a faint creeping of his
flesh. He knew, of course, that the actual opening of the door was not
necessary to the invasion of the room that was about to take place,
since neither doors nor windows, nor any other solid barriers could
interpose an obstacle to what was seeking entrance. Yet the opening of
the door would be significant and symbolic, and he distinctly shrank
from it.

But for a moment only. Smoke, turning with a show of impatience,
recalled him to his purpose, and he moved past the sitting, watching
creature, and deliberately opened the door to its full width.

What subsequently happened, happened in the feeble and flickering light
of the solitary candle on the mantelpiece.

Through the opened door he saw the hall, dimly lit and thick with fog.
Nothing, of course, was visible--nothing but the hat-stand, the African
spears in dark lines upon the wall and the high-backed wooden chair
standing grotesquely underneath on the oilcloth floor. For one instant
the fog seemed to move and thicken oddly; but he set that down to the
score of the imagination. The door had opened upon nothing.

Yet Smoke apparently thought otherwise, and the deep growling of the
collie from the mat at the back of the room seemed to confirm his
judgment.

For, proud and self-possessed, the cat had again risen to his feet, and
having advanced to the door, was now ushering some one slowly into the
room. Nothing could have been more evident. He paced from side to side,
bowing his little head with great _empressement_ and holding his
stiffened tail aloft like a flagstaff. He turned this way and that,
mincing to and fro, and showing signs of supreme satisfaction. He was in
his element. He welcomed the intrusion, and apparently reckoned that his
companions, the doctor and the dog, would welcome it likewise.

The Intruder had returned for a second attack.

Dr. Silence moved slowly backwards and took up his position on the
hearthrug, keying himself up to a condition of concentrated attention.

He noted that Flame stood beside him, facing the room, with body
motionless, and head moving swiftly from side to side with a curious
swaying movement. His eyes were wide open, his back rigid, his neck and
jaws thrust forward, his legs tense and ready to leap. Savage, ready for
attack or defence, yet dreadfully puzzled and perhaps already a little
cowed, he stood and stared, the hair on his spine and sides positively
bristling outwards as though a wind played through them. In the dim
firelight he looked like a great yellow-haired wolf, silent, eyes
shooting dark fire, exceedingly formidable. It was Flame, the terrible.

Smoke, meanwhile, advanced from the door towards the middle of the room,
adopting the very slow pace of an invisible companion. A few feet away
it stopped and began to smile and blink its eyes. There was something
deliberately coaxing in its attitude as it stood there undecided on the
carpet, clearly wishing to effect some sort of introduction between the
Intruder and its canine friend and ally. It assumed its most winning
manners, purring, smiling, looking persuasively from one to the other,
and making quick tentative steps first in one direction and then in the
other. There had always existed such perfect understanding between them
in everything. Surely Flame would appreciate Smoke's intentions now, and
acquiesce.

But the old collie made no advances. He bared his teeth, lifting his
lips till the gums showed, and stood stockstill with fixed eyes and
heaving sides. The doctor moved a little farther back, watching intently
the smallest movement, and it was just then he divined suddenly from the
cat's behaviour and attitude that it was not only a single companion it
had ushered into the room, but _several_. It kept crossing over from one
to the other, looking up at each in turn. It sought to win over the dog
to friendliness with them all. The original Intruder had come back with
reinforcements. And at the same time he further realized that the
Intruder was something more than a blindly acting force, impersonal
though destructive. It was a Personality, and moreover a great
personality. And it was accompanied for the purposes of assistance by a
host of other personalities, minor in degree, but similar in kind.

He braced himself in the corner against the mantelpiece and waited, his
whole being roused to defence, for he was now fully aware that the
attack had spread to include himself as well as the animals, and he must
be on the alert. He strained his eyes through the foggy atmosphere,
trying in vain to see what the cat and dog saw; but the candlelight
threw an uncertain and flickering light across the room and his eyes
discerned nothing. On the floor Smoke moved softly in front of him like
a black shadow, his eyes gleaming as he turned his head, still trying
with many insinuating gestures and much purring to bring about the
introductions he desired.

But it was all in vain. Flame stood riveted to one spot, motionless as a
figure carved in stone.

Some minutes passed, during which only the cat moved, and there came a
sharp change. Flame began to back towards the wall. He moved his head
from side to side as he went, sometimes turning to snap at something
almost behind him. _They_ were advancing upon him, trying to surround
him. His distress became very marked from now onwards, and it seemed to
the doctor that his anger merged into genuine terror and became
overwhelmed by it. The savage growl sounded perilously like a whine, and
more than once he tried to dive past his master's legs, as though
hunting for a way of escape. He was trying to avoid something that
everywhere blocked the way.

This terror of the indomitable fighter impressed the doctor enormously;
yet also painfully; stirring his impatience; for he had never before
seen the dog show signs of giving in, and it distressed him to witness
it. He knew, however, that he was not giving in easily, and understood
that it was really impossible for him to gauge the animal's sensations
properly at all. What Flame felt, and saw, must be terrible indeed to
turn him all at once into a coward. He faced something that made him
afraid of more than his life merely. The doctor spoke a few quick words
of encouragement to him, and stroked the bristling hair. But without
much success. The collie seemed already beyond the reach of comfort such
as that, and the collapse of the old dog followed indeed very speedily
after this.

And Smoke, meanwhile, remained behind, watching the advance, but not
joining in it; sitting, pleased and expectant, considering that all was
going well and as it wished. It was kneading on the carpet with its
front paws--slowly, laboriously, as though its feet were dipped in
treacle. The sound its claws made as they caught in the threads was
distinctly audible. It was still smiling, blinking, purring.

Suddenly the collie uttered a poignant short bark and leaped heavily to
one side. His bared teeth traced a line of whiteness through the gloom.
The next instant he dashed past his master's legs, almost upsetting his
balance, and shot out into the room, where he went blundering wildly
against walls and furniture. But that bark was significant; the doctor
had heard it before and knew what it meant: for it was the cry of the
fighter against odds and it meant that the old beast had found his
courage again. Possibly it was only the courage of despair, but at any
rate the fighting would be terrific. And Dr. Silence understood, too,
that he dared not interfere. Flame must fight his own enemies in his own
way.

But the cat, too, had heard that dreadful bark; and it, too, had
understood. This was more than it had bargained for. Across the dim
shadows of that haunted room there must have passed some secret signal
of distress between the animals. Smoke stood up and looked swiftly about
him. He uttered a piteous meow and trotted smartly away into the greater
darkness by the windows. What his object was only those endowed with the
spirit-like intelligence of cats might know. But, at any rate, he had at
last ranged himself on the side of his friend. And the little beast
meant business.

At the same moment the collie managed to gain the door. The doctor saw
him rush through into the hall like a flash of yellow light. He shot
across the oilcloth, and tore up the stairs, but in another second he
appeared again, flying down the steps and landing at the bottom in a
tumbling heap, whining, cringing, terrified. The doctor saw him slink
back into the room again and crawl round by the wall towards the cat.
Was, then, even the staircase occupied? Did _They_ stand also in the
hall? Was the whole house crowded from floor to ceiling?

The thought came to add to the keen distress he felt at the sight of the
collie's discomfiture. And, indeed, his own personal distress had
increased in a marked degree during the past minutes, and continued to
increase steadily to the climax. He recognized that the drain on his own
vitality grew steadily, and that the attack was now directed against
himself even more than against the defeated dog, and the too much
deceived cat.

It all seemed so rapid and uncalculated after that--the events that took
place in this little modern room at the top of Putney Hill between
midnight and sunrise--that Dr. Silence was hardly able to follow and
remember it all. It came about with such uncanny swiftness and terror;
the light was so uncertain; the movements of the black cat so difficult
to follow on the dark carpet, and the doctor himself so weary and taken
by surprise--that he found it almost impossible to observe accurately,
or to recall afterwards precisely what it was he had seen or in what
order the incidents had taken place. He never could understand what
defect of vision on his part made it seem as though the cat had
duplicated itself at first, and then increased indefinitely, so that
there were at least a dozen of them darting silently about the floor,
leaping softly on to chairs and tables, passing like shadows from the
open door to the end of the room, all black as sin, with brilliant green
eyes flashing fire in all directions. It was like the reflections from a
score of mirrors placed round the walls at different angles. Nor could
he make out at the time why the size of the room seemed to have altered,
grown much larger, and why it extended away behind him where ordinarily
the wall should have been. The snarling of the enraged and terrified
collie sounded sometimes so far away; the ceiling seemed to have raised
itself so much higher than before, and much of the furniture had changed
in appearance and shifted marvellously.

It was all so confused and confusing, as though the little room he knew
had become merged and transformed into the dimensions of quite another
chamber, that came to him, with its host of cats and its strange
distances, in a sort of vision.

But these changes came about a little later, and at a time when his
attention was so concentrated upon the proceedings of Smoke and the
collie, that he only observed them, as it were, subconsciously. And the
excitement, the flickering candlelight, the distress he felt for the
collie, and the distorting atmosphere of fog were the poorest possible
allies to careful observation.

At first he was only aware that the dog was repeating his short
dangerous bark from time to time, snapping viciously at the empty air, a
foot or so from the ground. Once, indeed, he sprang upwards and
forwards, working furiously with teeth and paws, and with a noise like
wolves fighting, but only to dash back the next minute against the wall
behind him. Then, after lying still for a bit, he rose to a crouching
position as though to spring again, snarling horribly and making short
half-circles with lowered head. And Smoke all the while meowed piteously
by the window as though trying to draw the attack upon himself.

Then it was that the rush of the whole dreadful business seemed to turn
aside from the dog and direct itself upon his own person. The collie had
made another spring and fallen back with a crash into the corner, where
he made noise enough in his savage rage to waken the dead before he fell
to whining and then finally lay still. And directly afterwards the
doctor's own distress became intolerably acute. He had made a half
movement forward to come to the rescue when a veil that was denser than
mere fog seemed to drop down over the scene, draping room, walls,
animals and fire in a mist of darkness and folding also about his own
mind. Other forms moved silently across the field of vision, forms that
he recognized from previous experiments, and welcomed not. Unholy
thoughts began to crowd into his brain, sinister suggestions of evil
presented themselves seductively. Ice seemed to settle about his heart,
and his mind trembled. He began to lose memory--memory of his identity,
of where he was, of what he ought to do. The very foundations of his
strength were shaken. His will seemed paralysed.

And it was then that the room filled with this horde of cats, all dark
as the night, all silent, all with lamping eyes of green fire. The
dimensions of the place altered and shifted. He was in a much larger
space. The whining of the dog sounded far away, and all about him the
cats flew busily to and fro, silently playing their tearing, rushing
game of evil, weaving the pattern of their dark purpose upon the floor.
He strove hard to collect himself and remember the words of power he had
made use of before in similar dread positions where his dangerous
practice had sometimes led; but he could recall nothing consecutively; a
mist lay over his mind and memory; he felt dazed and his forces
scattered. The deeps within were too troubled for healing power to come
out of them.

It was glamour, of course, he realized afterwards, the strong glamour
thrown upon his imagination by some powerful personality behind the
veil; but at the time he was not sufficiently aware of this and, as with
all true glamour, was unable to grasp where the true ended and the false
began. He was caught momentarily in the same vortex that had sought to
lure the cat to destruction through its delight, and threatened utterly
to overwhelm the dog through its terror.

There came a sound in the chimney behind him like wind booming and
tearing its way down. The windows rattled. The candle flickered and went
out. The glacial atmosphere closed round him with the cold of death, and
a great rushing sound swept by overhead as though the ceiling had lifted
to a great height. He heard the door shut. Far away it sounded. He felt
lost, shelterless in the depths of his soul. Yet still he held out and
resisted while the climax of the fight came nearer and nearer.... He had
stepped into the stream of forces awakened by Pender and he knew that he
must withstand them to the end or come to a conclusion that it was not
good for a man to come to. Something from the region of utter cold was
upon him.

And then quite suddenly, through the confused mists about him, there
slowly rose up the Personality that had been all the time directing the
battle. Some force entered his being that shook him as the tempest
shakes a leaf, and close against his eyes--clean level with his face--he
found himself staring into the wreck of a vast dark Countenance, a
countenance that was terrible even in its ruin.

For ruined it was, and terrible it was, and the mark of spiritual evil
was branded everywhere upon its broken features. Eyes, face and hair
rose level with his own, and for a space of time he never could properly
measure, or determine, these two, a man and a woman, looked straight
into each other's visages and down into each other's hearts.

And John Silence, the soul with the good, unselfish motive, held his own
against the dark discarnate woman whose motive was pure evil, and whose
soul was on the side of the Dark Powers.

It was the climax that touched the depth of power within him and began
to restore him slowly to his own. He was conscious, of course, of
effort, and yet it seemed no superhuman one, for he had recognized the
character of his opponent's power, and he called upon the good within
him to meet and overcome it. The inner forces stirred and trembled in
response to his call. They did not at first come readily as was their
habit, for under the spell of glamour they had already been
diabolically lulled into inactivity, but come they eventually did,
rising out of the inner spiritual nature he had learned with so much
time and pain to awaken to life. And power and confidence came with
them. He began to breathe deeply and regularly, and at the same time to
absorb into himself the forces opposed to him, and to _turn them to his
account_. By ceasing to resist, and allowing the deadly stream to pour
into him unopposed, he used the very power supplied by his adversary and
thus enormously increased his own.

For this spiritual alchemy he had learned. He understood that force
ultimately is everywhere one and the same; it is the motive behind that
makes it good or evil; and his motive was entirely unselfish. He
knew--provided he was not first robbed of self-control--how vicariously
to absorb these evil radiations into himself and change them magically
into his own good purposes. And, since his motive was pure and his soul
fearless, they could not work him harm.

Thus he stood in the main stream of evil unwittingly attracted by
Pender, deflecting its course upon himself; and after passing through
the purifying filter of his own unselfishness these energies could only
add to his store of experience, of knowledge, and therefore of power.
And, as his self-control returned to him, he gradually accomplished this
purpose, even though trembling while he did so.

Yet the struggle was severe, and in spite of the freezing chill of the
air, the perspiration poured down his face. Then, by slow degrees, the
dark and dreadful countenance faded, the glamour passed from his soul,
the normal proportions returned to walls and ceiling, the forms melted
back into the fog, and the whirl of rushing shadow-cats disappeared
whence they came.

And with the return of the consciousness of his own identity John
Silence was restored to the full control of his own will-power. In a
deep, modulated voice he began to utter certain rhythmical sounds that
slowly rolled through the air like a rising sea, filling the room with
powerful vibratory activities that whelmed all irregularities of lesser
vibrations in its own swelling tone. He made certain sigils, gestures
and movements at the same time. For several minutes he continued to
utter these words, until at length the growing volume dominated the
whole room and mastered the manifestation of all that opposed it. For
just as he understood the spiritual alchemy that can transmute evil
forces by raising them into higher channels, so he knew from long study
the occult use of sound, and its direct effect upon the plastic region
wherein the powers of spiritual evil work their fell purposes. Harmony
was restored first of all to his own soul, and thence to the room and
all its occupants.

And, after himself, the first to recognize it was the old dog lying in
his corner. Flame began suddenly uttering sounds of pleasure, that
"something" between a growl and a grunt that dogs make upon being
restored to their master's confidence. Dr. Silence heard the thumping of
the collie's tail against the ground. And the grunt and the thumping
touched the depth of affection in the man's heart, and gave him some
inkling of what agonies the dumb creature had suffered.

Next, from the shadows by the window, a somewhat shrill purring
announced the restoration of the cat to its normal state. Smoke was
advancing across the carpet. He seemed very pleased with himself, and
smiled with an expression of supreme innocence. He was no shadow-cat,
but real and full of his usual and perfect self-possession. He marched
along, picking his way delicately, but with a stately dignity that
suggested his ancestry with the majesty of Egypt. His eyes no longer
glared; they shone steadily before him; they radiated, not excitement,
but knowledge. Clearly he was anxious to make amends for the mischief to
which he had unwittingly lent himself owing to his subtle and electric
constitution.

Still uttering his sharp high purrings he marched up to his master and
rubbed vigorously against his legs. Then he stood on his hind feet and
pawed his knees and stared beseechingly up into his face. He turned his
head towards the corner where the collie still lay, thumping his tail
feebly and pathetically.

John Silence understood. He bent down and stroked the creature's living
fur, noting the line of bright blue sparks that followed the motion of
his hand down its back. And then they advanced together towards the
corner where the dog was.

Smoke went first and put his nose gently against his friend's muzzle,
purring while he rubbed, and uttering little soft sounds of affection in
his throat. The doctor lit the candle and brought it over. He saw the
collie lying on its side against the wall; it was utterly exhausted, and
foam still hung about its jaws. Its tail and eyes responded to the
sound of its name, but it was evidently very weak and overcome. Smoke
continued to rub against its cheek and nose and eyes, sometimes even
standing on its body and kneading into the thick yellow hair. Flame
replied from time to time by little licks of the tongue, most of them
curiously misdirected.

But Dr. Silence felt intuitively that something disastrous had happened,
and his heart was wrung. He stroked the dear body, feeling it over for
bruises or broken bones, but finding none. He fed it with what remained
of the sandwiches and milk, but the creature clumsily upset the saucer
and lost the sandwiches between its paws, so that the doctor had to feed
it with his own hand. And all the while Smoke meowed piteously.

Then John Silence began to understand. He went across to the farther
side of the room and called aloud to it.

"Flame, old man! come!"

At any other time the dog would have been upon him in an instant,
barking and leaping to the shoulder. And even now he got up, though
heavily and awkwardly, to his feet. He started to run, wagging his tail
more briskly. He collided first with a chair, and then ran straight into
a table. Smoke trotted close at his side, trying his very best to guide
him. But it was useless. Dr. Silence had to lift him up into his own
arms and carry him like a baby. For he was blind.


III

It was a week later when John Silence called to see the author in his
new house, and found him well on the way to recovery and already busy
again with his writing. The haunted look had left his eyes, and he
seemed cheerful and confident.

"Humour restored?" laughed the doctor, as soon as they were comfortably
settled in the room overlooking the Park.

"I've had no trouble since I left that dreadful place," returned Pender
gratefully; "and thanks to you--"

The doctor stopped him with a gesture.

"Never mind that," he said, "we'll discuss your new plans afterwards,
and my scheme for relieving you of the house and helping you settle
elsewhere. Of course it must be pulled down, for it's not fit for any
sensitive person to live in, and any other tenant might be afflicted in
the same way you were. Although, personally, I think the evil has
exhausted itself by now."

He told the astonished author something of his experiences in it with
the animals.

"I don't pretend to understand," Pender said, when the account was
finished, "but I and my wife are intensely relieved to be free of it
all. Only I must say I should like to know something of the former
history of the house. When we took it six months ago I heard no word
against it."

Dr. Silence drew a typewritten paper from his pocket.

"I can satisfy your curiosity to some extent," he said, running his eye
over the sheets, and then replacing them in his coat; "for by my
secretary's investigations I have been able to check certain information
obtained in the hypnotic trance by a 'sensitive' who helps me in such
cases. The former occupant who haunted you appears to have been a woman
of singularly atrocious life and character who finally suffered death by
hanging, after a series of crimes that appalled the whole of England and
only came to light by the merest chance. She came to her end in the year
1798, for it was not this particular house she lived in, but a much
larger one that then stood upon the site it now occupies, and was then,
of course, not in London, but in the country. She was a person of
intellect, possessed of a powerful, trained will, and of consummate
audacity, and I am convinced availed herself of the resources of the
lower magic to attain her ends. This goes far to explain the virulence
of the attack upon yourself, and why she is still able to carry on after
death the evil practices that formed her main purpose during life."

"You think that after death a soul can still consciously direct--"
gasped the author.

"I think, as I told you before, that the forces of a powerful
personality may still persist after death in the line of their original
momentum," replied the doctor; "and that strong thoughts and purposes
can still react upon suitably prepared brains long after their
originators have passed away.

"If you knew anything of magic," he pursued, "you would know that
thought is dynamic, and that it may call into existence forms and
pictures that may well exist for hundreds of years. For, not far
removed from the region of our human life, is another region where
floats the waste and drift of all the centuries, the limbo of the shells
of the dead; a densely populated region crammed with horror and
abomination of all descriptions, and sometimes galvanized into active
life again by the will of a trained manipulator, a mind versed in the
practices of lower magic. That this woman understood its vile commerce,
I am persuaded, and the forces she set going during her life have simply
been accumulating ever since, and would have continued to do so had they
not been drawn down upon yourself, and afterwards discharged and
satisfied through me.

"Anything might have brought down the attack, for, besides drugs, there
are certain violent emotions, certain moods of the soul, certain
spiritual fevers, if I may so call them, which directly open the inner
being to a cognizance of this astral region I have mentioned. In your
case it happened to be a peculiarly potent drug that did it."

"But now, tell me," he added, after a pause, handing to the perplexed
author a pencil-drawing he had made of the dark countenance that had
appeared to him during the night on Putney Hill--"tell me if you
recognize this face?"

Pender looked at the drawing closely, greatly astonished. He shuddered
as he looked.

"Undoubtedly," he said, "it is the face I kept trying to draw--dark,
with the great mouth and jaw, and the drooping eye. That is the woman."

Dr. Silence then produced from his pocket-book an old-fashioned woodcut
of the same person which his secretary had unearthed from the records of
the Newgate Calendar. The woodcut and the pencil drawing were two
different aspects of the same dreadful visage. The men compared them for
some moments in silence.

"It makes me thank God for the limitations of our senses," said Pender
quietly, with a sigh; "continuous clairvoyance must be a sore
affliction."

"It is indeed," returned John Silence significantly, "and if all the
people nowadays who claim to be clairvoyant were really so, the
statistics of suicide and lunacy would be considerably higher than they
are. It is little wonder," he added, "that your sense of humour was
clouded, with the mind-forces of that dead monster trying to use your
brain for their dissemination. You have had an interesting adventure,
Mr. Felix Pender, and, let me add, a fortunate escape."

The author was about to renew his thanks when there came a sound of
scratching at the door, and the doctor sprang up quickly.

"It's time for me to go. I left my dog on the step, but I suppose--"

Before he had time to open the door, it had yielded to the pressure
behind it and flew wide open to admit a great yellow-haired collie. The
dog, wagging his tail and contorting his whole body with delight, tore
across the floor and tried to leap up upon his owner's breast. And there
was laughter and happiness in the old eyes; for they were clear again as
the day.

                                                     ALGERNON BLACKWOOD.



THE AFFLICTIONS OF AN ENGLISH CAT


When the report of your first meeting arrived in London, O! French
Animals, it caused the hearts of the friends of Animal Reform to beat
faster. In my own humble experience, I have so many proofs of the
superiority of Beasts over Man that in my character of an English Cat I
see the occasion, long awaited, of publishing the story of my life, in
order to show how my poor soul has been tortured by the hypocritical
laws of England. On two occasions, already, some Mice, whom I have made
a vow to respect since the bill passed by your august parliament, have
taken me to Colburn's, where, observing old ladies, spinsters of
uncertain years, and even young married women, correcting proofs, I have
asked myself why, having claws, I should not make use of them in a
similar manner. One never knows what women think, especially the women
who write, while a Cat, victim of English perfidy, is interested to say
more than she thinks, and her profuseness may serve to compensate for
what these ladies do not say. I am ambitious to be the Mrs. Inchbald of
Cats and I beg you to have consideration for my noble efforts, O! French
Cats, among whom has risen the noblest house of our race, that of Puss
in Boots, eternal type of Advertiser, whom so many men have imitated but
to whom no one has yet erected a monument.

I was born at the home of a parson in Catshire, near the little town of
Miaulbury. My mother's fecundity condemned nearly all her infants to a
cruel fate, because, as you know, the cause of the maternal intemperance
of English cats, who threaten to populate the whole world, has not yet
been decided. Toms and females each insist it is due to their own
amiability and respective virtues. But impertinent observers have
remarked that Cats in England are required to be so boringly proper that
this is their only distraction. Others pretend that herein may lie
concealed great questions of commerce and politics, having to do with
the English rule of India, but these matters are not for my paws to
write of and I leave them to the _Edinburgh-Review_. I was not drowned
with the others on account of the whiteness of my robe. Also I was named
Beauty. Alas! the parson, who had a wife and eleven daughters, was too
poor to keep me. An elderly female noticed that I had an affection for
the parson's Bible; I slept on it all the time, not because I was
religious, but because it was the only clean spot I could find in the
house. She believed, perhaps, that I belonged to the sect of sacred
animals which had already furnished the she-ass of Balaam, and took me
away with her. I was only two months old at this time. This old woman,
who gave evenings for which she sent out cards inscribed _Tea and
Bible_, tried to communicate to me the fatal science of the daughters of
Eve. Her method, which consisted in delivering long lectures on personal
dignity and on the obligations due the world, was a very successful one.
In order to avoid these lectures one submitted to martyrdom.

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."

As a simple Cat of good sense, I found much hypocrisy in this doctrine,
but I was so young!

"And when I am in the gutter?" thought I, looking at the old woman.

"Once alone, and sure of not being seen by anybody, well, Beauty, you
can sacrifice respectability with much more charm because you have been
discreet in public. It is in the observance of this very precept that
the perfection of the moral English shines the brightest: they occupy
themselves exclusively with appearances, this world being, alas, only
illusion and deception."

I admit that these disguises were revolting to all my animal good sense,
but on account of the whipping, it seemed preferable to understand that
exterior propriety was all that was demanded of an English Cat. From
this moment I accustomed myself to conceal the titbits that I loved
under the bed. Nobody ever saw me eat, or drink, or make my toilet. I
was regarded as the pearl of Cats.

Now I had occasion to observe those stupid men who are called savants.
Among the doctors and others who were friends of my mistress, there was
this Simpson, a fool, a son of a rich landowner, who was waiting for a
bequest, and who, to deserve it, explained all animal actions by
religious theories. He saw me one evening lapping milk from a saucer and
complimented the old woman on the manner in which I had been bred,
seeing me lick first the edges of the saucer and gradually diminish the
circle of fluid.

"See," he said, "how in saintly company all becomes perfection: Beauty
understands eternity, because she describes the circle which is its
emblem in lapping her milk."

Conscience obliges me to state that the aversion of Cats to wetting
their fur was the only reason for my fashion of drinking, but we will
always be badly understood by the savants who are much more preoccupied
in showing their own wit, than in discovering ours.

When the ladies or the gentlemen lifted me to pass their hands over my
snowy back to make the sparks fly from my hair, the old woman remarked
with pride, "You can hold her without having any fear for your dress;
she is admirably well-bred!" Everybody said I was an angel; I was loaded
with delicacies, but I assure you that I was profoundly bored. I was
well aware of the fact that a young female Cat of the neighbourhood had
run away with a Tom. This word, Tom, caused my soul a suffering which
nothing could alleviate, not even the compliments I received, or rather
that my mistress lavished on herself.

"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.

Arabella, my mistress, was a young person like many others in England;
she was not sure whom she wanted for a husband. The absolute liberty
that is permitted girls in choosing a husband drives them nearly crazy,
especially when they recall that English custom does not sanction
intimate conversation after marriage. I was far from dreaming that the
London Cats had adopted this severity, that the English laws would be
cruelly applied to me, and that I would be a victim of the court at the
terrible Doctors' Commons. Arabella was charming to all the men she met,
and every one of them believed that he was going to marry this beautiful
girl, but when an affair threatened to terminate in wedlock, she would
find some pretext for a break, conduct which did not seem very
respectable to me. "Marry a bow-legged man! Never!" she said of one. "As
to that little fellow he is snub-nosed." Men were all so much alike to
me that I could not understand this uncertainty founded on purely
physical differences.

Finally one day an old English Peer, seeing me, said to her: "You have a
beautiful Cat. She resembles you. She is white, she is young, she should
have a husband. Let me bring her a magnificent Angora that I have at
home."

Three days later the Peer brought in the handsomest Tom of the Peerage.
Puff, with a black coat, had the most magnificent eyes, green and
yellow, but cold and proud. The long silky hair of his tail, remarkable
for its yellow rings, swept the carpet. Perhaps he came from the
imperial house of Austria, because, as you see, he wore the colours. His
manners were those of a Cat who had seen the court and the great world.
His severity, in the matter of carrying himself, was so great that he
would not scratch his head were anybody present. Puff had travelled on
the continent. To sum up, he was so remarkably handsome that he had
been, it was said, caressed by the Queen of England. Simple and naïve as
I was I leaped at his neck to engage him in play, but he refused under
the pretext that we were being watched. I then perceived that this
English Cat Peer owed this forced and fictitious gravity that in England
is called respectability to age and to intemperance at table. His
weight, that men admired, interfered with his movements. Such was the
true reason for his not responding to my pleasant advances. Calm and
cold he sat on his unnamable, agitating his beard, looking at me and
at times closing his eyes. In the society world of English Cats, Puff
was the richest kind of catch for a Cat born at a parson's. He had two
valets in his service; he ate from Chinese porcelain, and he drank only
black tea. He drove in a carriage in Hyde Park and had been to
parliament.

My mistress kept him. Unknown to me, all the feline population of London
learned that Miss Beauty from Catshire had married Puff, marked with the
colours of Austria. During the night I heard a concert in the street.
Accompanied by my lord, who, according to his taste, walked slowly, I
descended. We found the Cats of the Peerage, who had come to
congratulate me and to ask me to join their Ratophile Society. They
explained that nothing was more common than running after Rats and Mice.
The words, shocking, vulgar, were constantly on their lips. To conclude,
they had formed, for the glory of the country, a Temperance Society. A
few nights later my lord and I went on the roof of Almack's to hear a
grey Cat speak on the subject. In his exhortation, which was constantly
supported by cries of "Hear! Hear!" he proved that Saint Paul in writing
about charity had the Cats of England in mind. It was then the special
duty of the English, who could go from one end of the world to the other
on their ships without fear of the sea, to spread the principles of the
_morale ratophile_. As a matter of fact English Cats were already
preaching the doctrines of the Society, based on the hygienic
discoveries of science. When Rats and Mice were dissected little
distinction could be found between them and Cats; the oppression of one
race by the other then was opposed to the Laws of Beasts, which are
stronger even than the Laws of Men. "They are our brothers," he
continued. And he painted such a vivid picture of the suffering of a Rat
in the jaws of a Cat that I burst into tears.

Observing that I was deceived by this speech, Lord Puff confided to me
that England expected to do an immense trade in Rats and Mice; that if
the Cats would eat no more, Rats would be England's best product; that
there was always a practical reason concealed behind English morality;
and that the alliance between morality and trade was the only alliance
on which England really counted.

Puff appeared to me to be too good a politician ever to make a
satisfactory husband.

A country Cat made the observation that on the continent, especially at
Paris, near the fortifications, Tom Cats were sacrificed daily by the
Catholics. Somebody interrupted with the cry of "Question!" Added to
these cruel executions was the frightful slander of passing the brave
animals off for Rabbits, a lie and a barbarity which he attributed to an
ignorance of the true Anglican religion which did not permit lying and
cheating except in the government, foreign affairs, and the cabinet.

He was treated as a radical and a dreamer. "We are here in the interests
of the Cats of England, not in those of continental Cats!" cried a fiery
Tory Tom. Puff went to sleep. Just as the assembly was breaking up a
young Cat from the French embassy, whose accent proclaimed his
nationality, addressed me these delicious words:

"Dear Beauty, it will be an eternity before Nature forms another Cat as
perfect as you. The cashmere of Persia and the Indies is like camel's
hair when it is compared to your fine and brilliant silk. You exhale a
perfume which is the concentrated essence of the felicity of the angels,
an odour I have detected in the salon of the Prince de Talleyrand, which
I left to come to this stupid meeting. The fire of your eyes illuminates
the night! Your ears would be entirely perfect if they would listen to
my supplications. There is not a rose in England as rose as the rose
flesh which borders your little rose mouth. A fisherman would search in
vain in the depths of Ormus for pearls of the quality of your teeth.
Your dear face, fine and gracious, is the loveliest that England has
produced. Near to your celestial robe the snow of the Alps would seem to
be red. Ah! those coats which are only to be seen in your fogs! Softly
and gracefully your paws bear your body which is the culmination of the
miracles of creation, but your tail, the subtle interpreter of the
beating of your heart, surpasses it. Yes! never was there such an
exquisite curve, more correct roundness. No Cat ever moved more
delicately. Come away from this old fool of a Puff, who sleeps like an
English Peer in parliament, who besides is a scoundrel who has sold
himself to the Whigs, and who, owing to a too long sojourn at Bengal,
has lost everything that can please a Cat."

Then, without having the air of looking at him, I took in the appearance
of this charming French Tom. He was a careless little rogue and not in
any respect like an English Cat. His cavalier manner as well as his way
of shaking his ear stamped him as a gay bachelor without a care. I avow
that I was weary of the solemnity of English Cats, and of their purely
practical propriety. Their respectability, especially, seemed ridiculous
to me. The excessive naturalness of this badly groomed Cat surprised me
in its violent contrast to all that I had seen in London. Besides my
life was so strictly regulated, I knew so well what I had to count on
for the rest of my days, that I welcomed the promise of the unexpected
in the physiognomy of this French Cat. My whole life appeared insipid to
me. I comprehended that I could live on the roofs with an amazing
creature who came from that country where the inhabitants consoled
themselves for the victories of the greatest English general by these
words:

                   Malbrouk s'en va-t-en guerre,
                  _Mironton_, TON, TON, MIRONTAINE!

Nevertheless I awakened my lord, told him how late it was, and suggested
that we ought to go in. I gave no sign of having listened to this
declaration, and my apparent insensibility petrified Brisquet. He
remained behind, more surprised than ever because he considered himself
handsome. I learned later that it was an easy matter for him to seduce
most Cats. I examined him through a corner of my eye: he ran away with
little bounds, returned, leaping the width of the street, then jumped
back again, like a French Cat in despair. A true Englishman would have
been decent enough not to let me see how he felt.

Some days later my lord and I were stopping in the magnificent house of
the old Peer; then I went in the carriage for a drive in Hyde Park. We
ate only chicken bones, fishbones, cream, milk, and chocolate. However
heating this diet might prove to others my so-called husband remained
sober. He was respectable even in his treatment of me. Generally he
slept from seven in the evening at the whist table on the knees of his
Grace. On this account my soul received no satisfaction and I pined
away. This condition was aggravated by a little affection of the
intestines occasioned by pure herring oil (the Port Wine of English
Cats), which Puff used, and which made me very ill. My mistress sent for
a physician who had graduated at Edinburgh after having studied a long
time in Paris. Having diagnosed my malady he promised my mistress that
he would cure me the next day. He returned, as a matter of fact, and
took an instrument of French manufacture out of his pocket. I felt a
kind of fright on perceiving a barrel of white metal terminating in a
slender tube. At the sight of this mechanism, which the doctor exhibited
with satisfaction, Their Graces blushed, became irritable, and muttered
several fine sentiments about the dignity of the English: for instance
that the Catholics of old England were more distinguished for their
opinions of this infamous instrument than for their opinions of the
Bible. The Duke added that at Paris the French unblushingly made an
exhibition of it in their national theatre in a comedy by Molière, but
that in London a watchman would not dare pronounce its name.

"Give her some calomel."

"But Your Grace would kill her!" cried the doctor.

"The French can do as they like," replied His Grace. "I do not know, no
more do you, what would happen if this degrading instrument were
employed, but what I do know is that a true English physician should
cure his patients only with the old English remedies."

This physician, who was beginning to make a big reputation, lost all his
practice in the great world. Another doctor was called in, who asked me
some improper questions about Puff, and who informed me that the real
device of the English was: _Dieu et mon droit congugal!_

One night I heard the voice of the French Cat in the street. Nobody
could see us; I climbed up the chimney and, appearing on the housetop,
cried, "In the rain-trough!" This response gave him wings; he was at my
side in the twinkling of an eye. Would you believe that this French Cat
had the audacity to take advantage of my exclamation. He cried, "Come to
my arms," daring to become familiar with me, a Cat of distinction,
without knowing me better. I regarded him frigidly and, to give him a
lesson, I told him that I belonged to the Temperance Society.

"I see, sir," I said to him, "by your accent and by the looseness of
your conversation, that you, like all Catholic Cats, are inclined to
laugh and make sport, believing that confession will purge you, but in
England we have another standard of morality. We are always respectable,
even in our pleasures."

This young Cat, struck by the majesty of English cant, listened to me
with a kind of attention which made me hope I could convert him to
Protestantism. He then told me in purple words that he would do anything
I wished provided I would permit him to adore me. I looked at him
without being able to reply because his very beautiful and splendid eyes
sparkled like stars; they lighted the night. Made bold by my silence, he
cried "Dear Minette!"

"What new indecency is this?" I demanded, being well aware that French
Cats are very free in their references.

Brisquet assured me that on the continent everybody, even the King
himself, said to his daughter, _Ma petite Minette_, to show his
affection, that many of the prettiest and most aristocratic young wives
called their husbands, _Mon petit chat_, even when they did not love
them. If I wanted to please him I would call him, _Mon petit homme_!
Then he raised his paws with infinite grace. Thoroughly frightened I ran
away. Brisquet was so happy that he sang _Rule Britannia_, and the next
day his dear voice hummed again in my ears.

"Ah! you also are in love, dear Beauty," my mistress said to me,
observing me extended on the carpet, the paws flat, the body in soft
abandon, bathing in the poetry of my memories.

I was astonished that a woman should show so much intelligence, and so,
raising my dorsal spine, I began to rub up against her legs and to purr
lovingly with the deepest chords of my contralto voice.

While my mistress was scratching my head and caressing me and while I
was looking at her tenderly a scene occurred in Bond Street which had
terrible results for me.

Puck, a nephew of Puff's, in line to succeed him and who, for the time
being, lived in the barracks of the Life Guards, ran into my dear
Brisquet. The sly Captain Puck complimented the _attaché_ on his success
with me, adding that I had resisted the most charming Toms in England.
Brisquet, foolish, vain Frenchman that he was, responded that he would
be happy to gain my attention, but that he had a horror of Cats who
spoke to him of temperance, the Bible, etc.

"Oh!" said Puck, "she talks to you then?"

Dear French Brisquet thus became a victim of English diplomacy, but
later he committed one of these impardonable faults which irritate all
well-bred Cats in England. This little idiot was truly very
inconsistent. Did he not bow to me in Hyde Park and try to talk with me
familiarly as if we were well acquainted? I looked straight through him
coldly and severely. The coachman seeing this Frenchman insult me
slashed him with his whip. Brisquet was cut but not killed and he
received the blow with such nonchalance, continuing to look at me, that
I was absolutely fascinated. I loved him for the manner in which he took
his punishment, seeing only me, feeling only the favour of my presence,
conquering the natural inclination of Cats to flee at the slightest
warning of hostility. He could not know that I came near dying, in spite
of my apparent coldness. From that moment I made up my mind to elope.
That evening, on the roof, I threw myself tremblingly into his arms.

"My dear," I asked him, "have you the capital necessary to pay damages
to old Puff?"

"I have no other capital," replied the French Cat, laughing, "than the
hairs of my moustache, my four paws, and this tail." Then he swept the
gutter with a proud gesture.

"Not any capital," I cried, "but then you are only an adventurer, my
dear!"

"I love adventures," he said to me tenderly. "In France it is the custom
to fight a duel in the circumstances to which you allude. French Cats
have recourse to their claws and not to their gold."

"Poor country," I said to him, "and why does it send beasts so denuded
of capital to the foreign embassies?"

"That's simple enough," said Brisquet. "Our new government does not love
money--at least it does not love its employees to have money. It only
seeks intellectual capacity."

Dear Brisquet answered me so lightly that I began to fear he was
conceited.

"Love without money is nonsense," I said. "While you were seeking food
you would not occupy yourself with me, my dear."

By way of response this charming Frenchman assured me that he was a
direct descendant of Puss in Boots. Besides he had ninety-nine ways of
borrowing money and we would have, he said, only a single way of
spending it. To conclude, he knew music and could give lessons. In fact,
he sang to me, in poignant tones, a national romance of his country, _Au
clair de la lune_....

At this inopportune moment, when seduced by his reasoning, I had
promised dear Brisquet to run away with him as soon as he could keep a
wife comfortably, Puck appeared, followed by several other Cats.

"I am lost!" I cried.

The very next day, indeed, the bench of Doctors' Commons was occupied by
a _procès-verbal_ in criminal conversation. Puff was deaf; his nephews
took advantage of his weakness. Questioned by them, Puff said that at
night I had flattered him by calling him, _Mon petit homme_! This was
one of the most terrible things against me, because I could not explain
where I had learned these words of love. The judge, without knowing it,
was prejudiced against me, and I noted that he was in his second
childhood. His lordship never suspected the low intrigues of which I was
the victim. Many little Cats, who should have defended me against public
opinion, swore that Puff was always asking for his angel, the joy of his
eyes, his sweet Beauty! My own mother, come to London, refused to see me
or to speak to me, saying that an English Cat should always be above
suspicion, and that I had embittered her old age. Finally the servants
testified against me. I then saw perfectly clearly how everybody lost
his head in England. When it is a matter of a criminal conversation, all
sentiment is dead; a mother is no longer a mother, a nurse wants to take
back her milk, and all the Cats howl in the streets. But the most
infamous thing of all was that my old attorney who, in his time, would
believe in the innocence of the Queen of England, to whom I had
confessed everything to the last detail, who had assured me that there
was no reason to whip a Cat, and to whom, to prove my innocence, I
avowed that I did not even know the meaning of the words, "criminal
conversation" (he told me that the crime was so called precisely because
one spoke so little while committing it), this attorney, bribed by
Captain Puck, defended me so badly that my case appeared to be lost.
Under these circumstances I went on the stand myself.

"My Lords," I said, "I am an English Cat and I am innocent. What would
be said of the justice of old England if...."

Hardly had I pronounced these words than I was interrupted by a murmur
of voices, so strongly had the public been influenced by the
_Cat-Chronicle_ and by Puck's friends.

"She questions the justice of old England which has created the jury!"
cried some one.

"She wishes to explain to you, My Lords," cried my adversary's
abominable lawyer, "that she went on the rooftop with a French Cat in
order to convert him to the Anglican faith, when, as a matter of fact,
she went there to learn how to say, _Mon petit homme_, in French, to her
husband, to listen to the abominable principles of papism, and to learn
to disregard the laws and customs of old England!"

Such piffle always drives an English audience wild. Therefore the words
of Puck's attorney were received with tumultuous applause. I was
condemned at the age of twenty-six months, when I could prove that I
still was ignorant of the very meaning of the word, Tom. But from all
this I gathered that it was on account of such practices that Albion
was called Old England.

I fell into a deep miscathropy which was caused less by my divorce than
by the death of my dear Brisquet, whom Puck had had killed by a mob,
fearing his vengeance. Also nothing made me more furious than to hear
the loyalty of English Cats spoken of.

You see, O! French Animals, that in familiarizing ourselves with men, we
borrow from them all their vices and bad institutions. Let us return to
the wild life where we obey only our instincts, and where we do not find
customs in conflict with the sacred wishes of Nature. At this moment I
am writing a treatise on the abuse of the working classes of animals, in
order to get them to pledge themselves to refrain from turning spits, to
refuse to allow themselves to be harnessed to carriages, in order, to
sum up, to teach them the means of protecting themselves against the
oppression of the grand aristocracy. Although we are celebrated for our
scribbling I believe that Miss Martineau would not repudiate me. You
know that on the continent literature has become the haven of all Cats
who protest against the immoral monopoly of marriage, who resist the
tyranny of institutions, and who desire to encourage natural laws. I
have omitted to tell you that, although Brisquet's body was slashed with
a wound in the back, the coroner, by an infamous hypocrisy, declared
that he had poisoned himself with arsenic, as if so gay, so light-headed
a Cat could have reflected long enough on the subject of life to
conceive so serious an idea, and as if a Cat whom I loved could have the
least desire to quit this existence! But with Marsh's apparatus spots
have been found on a plate.

                                                     HONORÉ DE BALZAC.

                                          Translated by Carl Van Vechten.



GIPSY


On a fair Saturday afternoon in November Penrod's little old dog Duke
returned to the ways of his youth and had trouble with a strange cat on
the back porch. This indiscretion, so uncharacteristic, was due to the
agitation of a surprised moment, for Duke's experience had inclined him
to a peaceful pessimism, and he had no ambition for hazardous
undertakings of any sort. He was given to musing but not to avoidable
action, and he seemed habitually to hope for something which he was
pretty sure would not happen. Even in his sleep, this gave him an air of
wistfulness.

Thus, being asleep in a nook behind the metal refuse-can, when the
strange cat ventured to ascend the steps of the porch, his appearance
was so unwarlike that the cat felt encouraged to extend its field of
reconnaissance--for the cook had been careless, and the backbone of a
three-pound whitefish lay at the foot of the refuse-can.

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.

His extraordinary size, his daring, and his utter lack of sympathy soon
made him the leader--and, at the same time, the terror--of all the
loose-lived cats in a wide neighbourhood. He contracted no friendships
and had no confidants. He seldom slept in the same place twice in
succession, and though he was wanted by the police, he was not found. In
appearance he did not lack distinction of an ominous sort; the slow,
rhythmic, perfectly controlled mechanism of his tail, as he impressively
walked abroad, was incomparably sinister. This stately and dangerous
walk of his, his long, vibrant whiskers, his scars, his yellow eye, so
ice-cold, so fire-hot, haughty as the eye of Satan, gave him the deadly
air of a mousquetaire duellist. His soul was in that walk and in that
eye; it could be read--the soul of a bravo of fortune, living on his
wits and his valour, asking no favours and granting no quarter.
Intolerant, proud, sullen, yet watchful and constantly planning--purely
a militarist, believing in slaughter as in a religion, and confident
that art, science, poetry, and the good of the world were happily
advanced thereby--Gipsy had become, though technically not a wildcat,
undoubtedly the most untamed cat at large in the civilized world. Such,
in brief, was the terrifying creature which now elongated its neck, and,
over the top step of the porch, bent a calculating scrutiny upon the
wistful and slumberous Duke.

The scrutiny was searching but not prolonged. Gipsy muttered
contemptuously to himself, "Oh, sheol; I'm not afraid o' _that_!" And he
approached the fishbone, his padded feet making no noise upon the
boards. It was a desirable fishbone, large, with a considerable portion
of the fish's tail still attached to it.

It was about a foot from Duke's nose, and the little dog's dreams began
to be troubled by his olfactory nerve. This faithful sentinel, on guard
even while Duke slept, signalled that alarums and excursions by parties
unknown were taking place, and suggested that attention might well be
paid. Duke opened one drowsy eye. What that eye beheld was monstrous.

Here was a strange experience--the horrific vision in the midst of
things so accustomed. Sunshine fell sweetly upon porch and backyard;
yonder was the familiar stable, and from its interior came the busy hum
of a carpenter shop, established that morning by Duke's young master, in
association with Samuel Williams and Herman. Here, close by, were the
quiet refuse-can and the wonted brooms and mops leaning against the
latticed wall at the end of the porch, and there, by the foot of the
steps, was the stone slab of the cistern, with the iron cover displaced
and lying beside the round opening, where the carpenters had left it,
not half an hour ago, after lowering a stick of wood into the water, "to
season it." All about Duke were these usual and reassuring environs of
his daily life, and yet it was his fate to behold, right in the midst of
them, and in ghastly juxtaposition to his face, a thing of nightmare and
lunacy.

Gipsy had seized the fishbone by the middle. Out from one side of his
head, and mingling with his whiskers, projected the long, spiked spine
of the big fish: down from the other side of that ferocious head dangled
the fish's tail, and from above the remarkable effect thus produced shot
the intolerable glare of two yellow eyes. To the gaze of Duke, still
blurred by slumber, this monstrosity was all of one piece--the bone
seemed a living part of it. What he saw was like those interesting
insect-faces which the magnifying glass reveals to great M. Fabre. It
was impossible for Duke to maintain the philosophic calm of M. Fabre,
however; there was no magnifying glass between him and this spined and
spiky face. Indeed, Duke was not in a position to think the matter over
quietly. If he had been able to do that, he would have said to himself:
"We have here an animal of most peculiar and unattractive appearance,
though, upon examination, it seems to be only a cat stealing a fishbone.
Nevertheless, as the thief is large beyond all my recollection of cats
and has an unpleasant stare, I will leave this spot at once."

On the contrary, Duke was so electrified by his horrid awakening that he
completely lost his presence of mind. In the very instant of his first
eye's opening, the other eye and his mouth behaved similarly, the latter
loosing upon the quiet air one shriek of mental agony before the little
dog scrambled to his feet and gave further employment to his voice in a
frenzy of profanity. At the same time the subterranean diapason of a
demoniac bass viol was heard; it rose to a wail, and rose and rose again
till it screamed like a small siren. It was Gipsy's war-cry, and, at the
sound of it, Duke became a frothing maniac. He made a convulsive frontal
attack upon the hobgoblin--and the massacre began.

Never releasing the fishbone for an instant, Gipsy laid back his ears in
a chilling way, beginning to shrink into himself like a concertina, but
rising amidships so high that he appeared to be giving an imitation of
that peaceful beast, the dromedary. Such was not his purpose, however,
for, having attained his greatest possible altitude, he partially sat
down and elevated his right arm after the manner of a semaphore. This
semaphore arm remained rigid for a second, threatening; then it vibrated
with inconceivable rapidity, feinting. But it was the treacherous left
that did the work. Seemingly this left gave Duke three lightning little
pats upon the right ear, but the change in his voice indicated that
these were no love-taps. He yelled "help!" and "bloody murder!"

Never had such a shattering uproar, all vocal, broken out upon a
peaceful afternoon. Gipsy possessed a vocabulary for cat-swearing
certainly second to none out of Italy, and probably equal to the best
there, while Duke remembered and uttered things he had not thought of
for years.

The hum of the carpenter shop ceased, and Sam Williams appeared in the
stable doorway. He stared insanely.

"My gorry!" he shouted. "Duke's havin' a fight with the biggest cat you
ever saw in your life! C'mon!"

His feet were already in motion toward the battlefield, with Penrod and
Herman hurrying in his wake. Onward they sped, and Duke was encouraged
by the sight and sound of these reinforcements to increase his own
outrageous clamours and to press home his attack. But he was
ill-advised. This time it was the right arm of the semaphore that
dipped--and Duke's honest nose was but too conscious of what happened in
consequence.

A lump of dirt struck the refuse-can with violence, and Gipsy beheld the
advance of overwhelming forces. They rushed upon him from two
directions, cutting off the steps of the porch. Undaunted, the
formidable cat raked Duke's nose again, somewhat more lingeringly, and
prepared to depart with his fishbone. He had little fear for himself,
because he was inclined to think that, unhampered, he could whip
anything on earth; still, things seemed to be growing rather warm and he
saw nothing to prevent his leaving.

And though he could laugh in the face of so unequal an antagonist as
Duke, Gipsy felt that he was never at his best or able to do himself
full justice unless he could perform that feline operation inaccurately
known as "spitting." To his notion, this was an absolute essential to
combat; but, as all cats of the slightest pretensions to technique
perfectly understand, it can neither be well done nor produce the best
effects unless the mouth be opened to its utmost capacity so as to
expose the beginnings of the alimentary canal, down which--at least that
is the intention of the threat--the opposing party will soon be passing.
And Gipsy could not open his mouth without relinquishing his fishbone.

Therefore, on small accounts he decided to leave the field to his
enemies and to carry the fishbone elsewhere. He took two giant leaps.
The first landed him upon the edge of the porch. There, without an
instant's pause, he gathered his fur-sheathed muscles, concentrated
himself into one big steel spring, and launched himself superbly into
space. He made a stirring picture, however brief, as he left the solid
porch behind him and sailed upward on an ascending curve into the sunlit
air. His head was proudly up; he was the incarnation of menacing power
and of self-confidence. It is possible that the white-fish's spinal
column and flopping tail had interfered with his vision, and in
launching himself he may have mistaken the dark, round opening of the
cistern for its dark, round cover. In that case, it was a leap
calculated and executed with precision, for as the boys clamoured their
pleased astonishment, Gipsy descended accurately into the orifice and
passed majestically from public view, with the fishbone still in his
mouth and his haughty head still high.

There was a grand splash!                    BOOTH TARKINGTON.



THE BLUE DRYAD


"According to that theory"--said a critical friend, _à propos_ of the
last story but one--"susceptibility of 'discipline' would be the chief
test of animal character, which means that the best dogs get their
character from men. If so--"

"You pity the poor brutes?"

"Oh no. I was going to say that on that principle cats should have next
to no character at all."

"They have plenty," I said, "but it's usually bad--at least hopelessly
unromantic. Who ever heard of a heroic or self-denying cat? Cats do what
they like, not what you want them to do."

He laughed. "Sometimes they do what you like very much. You haven't
heard Mrs. Warburton-Kinneir's cat-story?"

"The Warburton-Kinneirs! I didn't know they were back in England."

"Oh yes. They've been six months in Hampshire, and now they are in town.
She has Thursday afternoons."

"Good," I said, "I'll go the very next Friday, and take my chance...."

Fortunately only one visitor appeared to tea. And as soon as I had
explained my curiosity, he joined me in petitioning for the story which
follows:--

       *       *       *       *       *

Stoffles was her name, a familiar abbreviation, and Mephistophelian was
her nature. She had all the usual vices of the feline tribe, including
a double portion of those which men are so fond of describing as
feminine. Vain, indolent, selfish, with a highly cultivated taste for
luxury and neatness in her personal appearance, she was distinguished by
all those little irritating habits and traits for which nothing but an
affectionate heart (a thing in her case conspicuous by its absence) can
atone.

It would be incorrect, perhaps, to say that Stoffles did not care for
the society of my husband and myself. She liked the best of everything,
and these our circumstances allowed us to give her. For the rest, though
in kitten days suspected of having caught a mouse, she had never been
known in after life to do anything which the most lax of economists
could describe as useful. She would lie all day in the best arm-chair
enjoying real or pretended slumbers, which never affected her appetite
at supper-time; although in that eventide which is the feline morn she
would, if certain of a sufficient number of admiring spectators,
condescend to amuse their dull human intelligence by exhibitions of her
dexterity. But she was soon bored, and had no conception of altruistic
effort. Abundantly cautious and prudent in all matters concerning her
own safety and comfort, she had that feline celerity of vanishing like
air or water before the foot, hand, or missile of irritated man; while
on the other hand, when a sensitive specimen of the gentler sex (my
grandmother, for example) was attentively holding the door open for her,
she would stiffen and elongate her whole body, and, regardless of all
exhibitions of kindly impatience, proceed out of the drawing-room as
slowly as a funeral _cortège_ of crocodiles.

A good-looking Persian cat is an ornamental piece of furniture in a
house; but though fond of animals, I never succeeded in getting up an
affection for Stoffles until the occurrence of the incident here to be
related. Even in this, however, I cannot conceal from myself that the
share which she took was taken, as usual, solely for her own
satisfaction.

We lived, you know, in a comfortable old-fashioned house facing the
highroad, on the slope of a green hill from which one looked across the
gleaming estuary (or the broad mud-flats) of Southampton Water on to the
rich, rolling woodland of the New Forest. I say we, but in fact for some
months I had been alone, and my husband had just returned from one of
his sporting and scientific expeditions in South America. He had already
won fame as a naturalist, and had succeeded in bringing home alive quite
a variety of beasts, usually of the reptile order, whose extreme rarity
seemed to me a merciful provision of Nature.

But all his previous triumphs were completely eclipsed, I soon learned,
by the capture, alive, on this last expedition, of an abominably
poisonous snake, known to those who knew it as the Blue Dryad, or more
familiarly in backwoods slang, as the Half-hour Striker, in vague
reference to its malignant and fatal qualities. The time in which a
snake-bite takes effect is, by the way, no very exact test of its
virulence, the health and condition not only of the victim, but of the
snake, having of course to be taken into account.

But the Blue Dryad, sometimes erroneously described as a variety of
rattlesnake, is, I understand, supposed to kill the average man, under
favourable circumstances, in less time even than the deadly
Copperhead--which it somewhat resembles, except that it is larger in
size, and bears a peculiar streak of faint peacock-blue down the back,
only perceptible in a strong light. This precious reptile was destined
for the Zoological Gardens.

Being in extremely delicate health at the time, I need hardly say that I
knew nothing of these gruesome details until afterwards. Henry (that is
my husband), after entering my room with a robust and sunburned
appearance that did my heart good, merely observed--as soon as we had
exchanged greetings--that he had brought home a pretty snake which
"wouldn't (just as long, that is to say, as it couldn't) do the
slightest harm,"--an evasive assurance which I accepted as became the
nervous wife of an enthusiastic naturalist. I believe I insisted on its
not coming into the house.

The cook, indeed, on my husband expressing a wish to put it in the
kitchen, had taken up a firmer position: she had threatened to "scream"
if "the vermin" were introduced into her premises; which ultimatum,
coming from a stalwart young woman with unimpaired lungs, was
sufficient.

Fortunately the weather was very hot (being in July of the
ever-memorable summer of 1893), so it was decided that the Blue Dryad,
wrapped in flannel and securely confined in a basket, should be left in
the sun, on the farthest corner of the verandah, during the hour or so
in the afternoon when my husband had to visit the town on business.

He had gone off with a cousin of mine, an officer of Engineers in
India, stationed, I think, at Lahore, and home on leave. I remember that
they were a long time, or what seemed to me a long time, over their
luncheon; and the last remark of our guest as he came out of the
dining-room remained in my head as even meaningless words will run in
the head of any idle invalid shut up for most of the day in a silent
room. What he said was, in the positive tone of one emphasizing a
curious and surprising statement, "D'you know, by the way, it's the
_one_ animal that doesn't care a rap for the cobra." And, my husband
seeming to express disbelief and a desire to change the subject as they
entered my boudoir, "It's a holy fact! Goes for it, so smart! Has the
beggar on toast before you can say 'Jack Robinson!'"

The observation did not interest me, but simply ran in my head. Then
they came into my room, only for a few moments, as I was not to be
tired. The Engineer tried to amuse Stoffles, who was seized with such a
fit of mortal boredom that he transferred his attentions to Ruby, the
Gordon setter, a devoted and inseparable friend of mine, under whose
charge I was shortly left as they passed out of the house. The
Lieutenant, it appears, went last, and inadvertently closed without
fastening the verandah door. Thereby hangs a tale of the most trying
quarter of an hour it has been my lot to experience.

I suppose I may have been asleep for ten minutes or so when I was
awakened by the noise of Ruby's heavy body jumping out through the open
window. Feeling restless and seeing me asleep, he had imagined himself
entitled to a short spell off guard. Had the door not been ostensibly
latched he would have made his way out by it, being thoroughly used to
opening doors and such tricks--a capacity which in fact proved fatal to
him. That it was unlatched I saw in a few moments, for the dog on his
return forced it open with a push and trotted up in a disturbed manner
to my bedside. I noticed a tiny spot of blood on the black side of his
nose, and naturally supposed he had scratched himself against a bush or
a piece of wire. "Ruby," I said, "what have you been doing?" Then he
whined as if in pain, crouching close to my side and shaking in every
limb. I should say that I was myself lying with a shawl over my feet on
a deep sofa with a high back. I turned to look at Stoffles, who was
slowly perambulating the room, looking for flies and other insects (her
favourite amusement) on the wainscot. When I glanced again at the dog
his appearance filled me with horror; he was standing, obviously from
pain, swaying from side to side and breathing hard. As I watched, his
body grew more and more rigid. With his eyes fixed on the half-open
door, he drew back as if from the approach of some dreaded object,
raised his head with a pitiful attempt at a bark, which broke off into a
stifled howl, rolled over sideways suddenly, and lay dead. The horrid
stiffness of the body, almost resembling a stuffed creature overset,
made me believe that he had died as he stood, close to my side, perhaps
meaning to defend me--more probably, since few dogs would be proof
against such a terror, trusting that I should protect him against the
_thing coming in at the door_. Unable to resist the unintelligible idea
that the dog had been frightened to death, I followed the direction of
his last gaze, and at first saw nothing. The next moment I observed
round the corner of the verandah door a small, dark, and slender object,
swaying gently up and down like a dry bough in the wind. It had passed
right into the room with the same slow, regular motion before I realized
what it was and what had happened.

My poor, stupid Ruby must have nosed at the basket on the verandah till
he succeeded somehow in opening it, and have been bitten in return for
his pains by the abominable beast which had been warranted in this
insufficient manner to do no harm, and which I now saw angrily rearing
its head and hissing fiercely at the dead dog within three yards of my
face.

I am not one of those women who jump on chairs or tables when they see a
mouse, but I have a constitutional horror of the most harmless reptiles.
Watching the Blue Dryad as it glided across the patch of sunlight
streaming in from the open window, and knowing what it was, I confess to
being as nearly frightened out of my wits as I ever hope to be. If I had
been well, perhaps I might have managed to scream and run away. As it
was, I simply dared not speak or move a finger for fear of attracting
the beast's attention to myself. Thus I remained a terrified spectator
of the astonishing scene which followed. The whole thing seemed to me
like a dream. As the beast entered the room, I seemed again to hear my
cousin making the remark above mentioned about the cobra. _What_ animal,
I wondered dreamily, could he have meant? Not Ruby! Ruby was dead. I
looked at his stiff body again and shuddered. The whistle of a train
sounded from the valley below, and then an errand-boy passed along the
road at the back of the house (for the second or third time that day)
singing in a cracked voice the fragment of a popular melody, of which I
am sorry to say I know no more--

          "I've got a little cat,
          And I'm very fond of that;
    But daddy wouldn't buy me a bow, wow, wow;"

the _wow-wows_ becoming fainter and further as the youth strode down the
hill. If I had been "myself," as the poor folk say, this coincidence
would have made me laugh, for at that very moment Stoffles, weary of
patting flies and spiders on the back, appeared gently purring on the
crest, so to speak, of the sofa.

It has often occurred to me since that if the scale of things had been
enlarged--if Stoffles, for example, had been a Bengal tiger, and the
Dryad a boa-constrictor or crocodile,--the tragedy which followed would
have been worthy of the pen of any sporting and dramatic historian. I
can only say that, being transacted in such objectionable proximity to
myself, the thing was as impressive as any combat of mastodon and
iguanodon could have been to primitive man.

Stoffles, as I have said, was inordinately vain and self-conscious.
Stalking along the top of the sofa-back and bearing erect the bushy
banner of her magnificent tail, she looked the most ridiculous creature
imaginable. She had proceeded half-way on this pilgrimage towards me
when suddenly, with the rapidity of lightning, as her ear caught the
sound of the hiss and her eyes fell upon the Blue Dryad, her whole
civilized "play-acting" demeanour vanished, and her body stiffened and
contracted to the form of a watchful wild beast with the ferocious and
instinctive antipathy to a natural enemy blazing from its eyes. No
change of a shaken kaleidoscope could have been more complete or more
striking. In one light bound she was on the floor in a compressed,
defensive attitude, with all four feet close together, near, but not too
near, the unknown but clearly hostile intruder; and to my surprise, the
snake turned and made off towards the window. Stoffles trotted lightly
after, obviously interested in its method of locomotion. Then she made a
long arm and playfully dropped a paw upon its tail. The snake wriggled
free in a moment, and coiling its whole length, some three and a half
feet, fronted this new and curious antagonist.

At the very first moment, I need hardly say, I expected that one short
stroke of that little pointed head against the cat's delicate body would
quickly have settled everything. But one is apt to forget that a snake
(I suppose because in romances snakes always "dart") can move but slowly
and awkwardly over a smooth surface, such as a tiled or wooden floor.
The long body, in spite of its wonderful construction, and of the
attitudes in which it is frequently drawn, is no less subject to the
laws of gravitation than that of a hedgehog. A snake that "darts" when
it has nothing secure to hold on by, only overbalances itself. With half
or two-thirds of the body firmly coiled against some rough object or
surface, the head--of a poisonous snake at least--is indeed a deadly
weapon of precision. This particular reptile, perhaps by some instinct,
had now wriggled itself on to a large and thick fur rug about twelve
feet square, upon which arena took place the extraordinary contest that
followed.

The audacity of the cat astonished me from the first. I have no reason
to believe she had ever seen a snake before, yet by a sort of instinct
she seemed to know exactly what she was doing. As the Dryad raised its
head, with glittering eyes and forked tongue, Stoffles crouched with
both front paws in the air, sparring as I had seen her do sometimes with
a large moth. The first round passed so swiftly that mortal eye could
hardly see with distinctness what happened. The snake made a dart, and
the cat, all claws, aimed two rapid blows at its advancing head. The
first missed, but the second I could see came home, as the brute,
shaking its neck and head, withdrew further into the jungle--I mean, of
course, the rug. But Stoffles, who had no idea of the match ending in
this manner, crept after it, with an air of attractive carelessness
which was instantly rewarded. A full two feet of the Dryad's body
straightened like a black arrow, and seemed to strike right into the
furry side of its antagonist--seemed, I say, to slow going human eyes;
but the latter shrank, literally _fell_ back, collapsing with such
suddenness that she seemed to have turned herself inside out, and become
the mere skin of a cat. As the serpent recovered itself, she pounced on
it like lightning, driving at least half a dozen claws well home, and
then, apparently realizing that she had not a good enough hold, sprang
lightly into the air from off the body, alighting about a yard off.
There followed a minute of sparring in the air; the snake seemingly
half afraid to strike, the cat waiting on its every movement.

Now, the poisonous snake when provoked is an irritable animal, and the
next attack of the Dryad, maddened by the scratchings of puss and its
own unsuccessful exertions, was so furious, and so close to myself, that
I shuddered for the result. Before this stage, I might perhaps, with a
little effort have escaped, but now panic fear glued me to the spot;
indeed I could not have left my position on the sofa without almost
treading upon Stoffles, whose bristling back was not a yard from my
feet. At last, I thought--as the Blue Dryad, for one second coiled close
as a black silk cable, sprang out the next as straight and sharp as the
piston-rod of an engine,--this lump of feline vanity and conceit is done
for, and--I could not help thinking--it will probably be my turn next!
Little did I appreciate the resources of Stoffles, who without a change
in her vigilant pose, without a wink of her fierce green eyes, sprang
backwards and upwards on to the top of me and there confronted the enemy
as calm as ever, sitting, if you please, upon my feet! I don't know that
any gymnastic performance ever surprised me more than this, though I
have seen this very beast drop twenty feet from a window-sill on to a
stone pavement without appearing to notice any particular change of
level. Cats with so much plumage have probably their own reasons for not
flying.

Trembling all over with fright, I could not but observe that she was
trembling too--with rage. Whether instinct inspired her with the
advantages of a situation so extremely unpleasant to me, I cannot say.
The last act of the drama rapidly approached, and no more strategic
catastrophe was ever seen.

For a snake, as everybody knows, naturally rears its head when fighting.
In that position, though one may hit it with a stick, it is extremely
difficult, as this battle had shown, to get hold of. Now, as the Dryad,
curled to a capital S, quivering and hissing advanced for the last time
to the charge, it was bound to strike across the edge of the sofa on
which I lay, at the erect head of Stoffles, which vanished with a
juggling celerity that would have dislocated the collar-bone of any
other animal in creation. From such an exertion the snake recovered
itself with an obvious effort, quick beyond question, but not nearly
quick enough. Before I could well see that it had missed its aim,
Stoffles had launched out like a spring released, and, burying eight or
ten claws in the back of its enemy's head, pinned it down against the
stiff cushion of the sofa. The tail of the agonized reptile flung wildly
in the air and flapped on the arched back of the imperturbable tigress.
The whiskered muzzle of Stoffles dropped quietly, and her teeth met
once, twice, thrice, like the needle and hook of a sewing-machine, in
the neck of the Blue Dryad; and when, after much deliberation, she let
it go, the beast fell into a limp tangle on the floor.

When I saw that the thing was really dead I believe I must have fainted.
Coming to myself, I heard hurried steps and voices. "Great heavens!" my
husband was screaming, "where has the brute got to?" "It's all right,"
said the Engineer; "just you come and look here, old man. Commend me to
the coolness of that cat. After the murder of your priceless specimen,
here's Stoffles cleaning her fur in one of her serenest Anglo-Saxon
attitudes."

So she was. My husband looked grave as I described the scene. "Didn't I
tell you so?" said the Engineer, "and this beast, I take it, is worse
than any cobra."

I can easily believe he was right. From the gland of the said beast, as
I afterwards learned, they extracted enough poison to be the death of
twenty full-grown human beings.

Tightly clasped between its minute teeth was found (what interested me
more) a few long hairs, late the property of Stoffles.

Stoffles, however--she is still with us--has a superfluity of long hair,
and is constantly leaving it about.

                                                        G. H. POWELL.



DICK BAKER'S CAT


One of my comrades there--another of those victims of eighteen years of
unrequited toil and blighted hopes--was one of the gentlest spirits that
ever bore its patient cross in a weary exile: grave and simple Dick
Baker, pocket-miner of Dead-Horse Gulch. He was forty-six, grey as a
rat, earnest, thoughtful, slenderly educated, slouchily dressed and
clay-soiled, but his heart was finer metal than any gold his shovel ever
brought to light--than any, indeed, that ever was mined or minted.

Whenever he was out of luck and a little downhearted, he would fall to
mourning over the loss of a wonderful cat he used to own (for where
women and children are not, men of kindly impulses take up with pets,
for they must love something). And he always spoke of the strange
sagacity of that cat with the air of a man who believed in his secret
heart that there was something human about it--maybe even supernatural.

I heard him talking about this animal once. He said:

"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.

"Well, by an' by, up comes this yer quartz excitement. Everybody was
into it--everybody was pick'n' 'n' blast'n' instead of shovelin' dirt on
the hillside--everybody was putt'n' down a shaft instead of scrapin' the
surface. Noth'n' would do Jim, but _we_ must tackle the ledges, too, 'n'
so we did. We commenced putt'n' down a shaft, 'n' Tom Quartz he begin to
wonder what in the Dickens it was all about. _He_ hadn't ever seen any
mining like that before, 'n' he was all upset, as you may say--he
couldn't come to a right understanding of it no way--it was too many for
_him_. He was down on it too, you bet you--he was down on it
powerful--'n' always appeared to consider it the cussedest foolishness
out. But that cat, you know, was _always_ agin new-fangled
arrangements--somehow he never could abide 'em. _You_ know how it is
with old habits. But by an' by Tom Quartz begin to git sort of
reconciled a little, though he never _could_ altogether understand that
eternal sinkin' of a shaft an' never pannin' out anything. At last he
got to comin' down in the shaft, hisself, to try to cipher it out. An'
when he'd git the blues, 'n' feel kind o' scruffy, 'n' aggravated 'n'
disgusted--knowin' as he did, that the bills was runnin' up all the time
an' we warn't makin' a cent--he would curl up on a gunny-sack in the
corner an' go to sleep. Well, one day when the shaft was down about
eight foot, the rock got so hard that we had to put in a blast--the
first blast'n' we'd ever done since Tom Quartz was born. An' then we lit
the fuse 'n' clumb out 'n' got off 'bout fifty yards--'n' forgot 'n'
left Tom Quartz sound asleep on the gunny-sack. In 'bout a minute we
seen a puff of smoke bust up out of the hole, 'n' then everything let go
with an awful crash, 'n' about four million ton of rocks 'n' dirt 'n'
smoke 'n' splinters shot up 'bout a mile an' a half into the air, an' by
George, right in the dead centre of it was old Tom Quartz a-goin' end
over end, an' a-snortin' an' a-sneez'n, an' a-clawin' an' a-reach'n' for
things like all possessed. But it warn't no use, you know, it warn't no
use. An' that was the last we see of _him_ for about two minutes 'n' a
half, an' then all of a sudden it begin to rain rocks and rubbage an'
directly he come down ker-whoop about ten foot off f'm where we stood.
Well, I reckon he was p'raps the orneriest-lookin' beast you ever see.
One ear was sot back on his neck, 'n' his tail was stove up, 'n' his
eye-winkers was singed off, 'n' he was all blacked up with powder an'
smoke, an' all sloppy with mud 'n' slush f'm one end to the other. Well,
sir, it warn't no use to try to apologize--we couldn't say a word. He
took a sort of a disgusted look at hisself, 'n' then he looked at
us--an' it was just exactly the same as if he had said--'Gents, maybe
_you_ think it's smart to take advantage of a cat that ain't had no
experience of quartz-minin', but _I_ think _different_'--an' then he
turned on his heel 'n' marched off home without ever saying another
word.

"That was jest his style. An' maybe you won't believe it, but after that
you never see a cat so prejudiced agin quartz-mining as what he was. An'
by an' by when he _did_ get to goin' down in the shaft ag'in, you'd 'a'
been astonished at his sagacity. The minute we'd tetch off a blast 'n'
the fuse'd begin to sizzle, he'd give a look as much as to say, 'Well,
I'll have to git you to excuse _me_,' an' it was supris'n' the way he'd
shin out of that hole 'n' go f'r a tree. Sagacity? It ain't no name for
it. 'Twas _inspiration_!"

I said, "Well, Mr. Baker, his prejudice against quartz-mining _was_
remarkable, considering how he came by it. Couldn't you ever cure him of
it?"

"_Cure him!_ No! When Tom Quartz was sot once, he was _always_ sot--and
you might 'a' blowed him up as much as three million times 'n' you'd
never 'a' broken him of his cussed prejudice ag'in quartz-mining."

                                                       MARK TWAIN.



THE BLACK CAT


For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I
neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it in
a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet mad am I
not--and very surely do I not dream. But tomorrow I die, and today I
would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the
world plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere
household events. In their consequences these events have
terrified--have tortured--have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to
expound them. To me they presented little but horror--to many they will
seem less terrible than _baroques_. Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect
may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the commonplace--some
intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own,
which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing
more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.

From my infancy I was noted for the docility and humanity of my
disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make
me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was
indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent
most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing
them. This peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and in my
manhood I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To
those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious dog,
I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the
intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the
unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute which goes directly to
the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry
friendship and gossamer fidelity of mere _Man_.

I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not
uncongenial with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she
lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We
had birds, gold-fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and _a cat_.

This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black,
and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence,
my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made
frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion which regarded all black
cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever _serious_ upon this
point, and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it
happens just now to be remembered.

Pluto--this was the cat's name--was my favourite pet and playmate. I
alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It
was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me
through the streets.

Our friendship lasted in this manner for several years, during which my
general temperament and character--through the instrumentality of the
Fiend Intemperance--had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical
alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more
irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself
to use intemperate language to my wife. At length, I even offered her
personal violence. My pets of course were made to feel the change in my
disposition. I not only neglected but ill-used them. For Pluto, however,
I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him,
as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the
dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my
disease grew upon me--for what disease is like Alcohol!--and at length
even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat
peevish--even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill-temper.

One night, returning home much intoxicated from one of my haunts about
town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him, when, in
his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with
his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no
longer. My original soul seemed at once to take its flight from my body,
and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fiber
of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a penknife, opened it,
grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its
eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the
damnable atrocity.

When reason returned with the morning--when I had slept off the fumes of
the night's debauch--I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of
remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty, but it was at best a
feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again
plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.

In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The socket of the lost eye
presented, it is true, a frightful appearance, but he no longer appeared
to suffer any pain. He went about the house as usual, but, as might be
expected, fled in extreme terror at my approach. I had so much of my old
heart left as to be at first grieved by this evident dislike on the part
of a creature which had once so loved me. But this feeling soon gave
place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable
overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSENESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes
no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives than I am that
perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart--one of
the indivisible primary faculties or sentiments which gave direction to
the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself
committing a vile or a silly action for no other reason than because he
knows he should _not_? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth
of our best judgment, to violate that which is _Law_, merely because we
understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my
final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to _vex
itself_--to offer violence to its own nature--to do wrong for the
wrong's sake only--that urged me to continue and finally to consummate
the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. One morning, in
cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of
a tree; hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the
bitterest remorse at my heart; hung it _because_ I knew it had loved me,
and _because_ I felt it had given me no reason of offence; hung it
_because_ I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin--a deadly sin
that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it, if such a
thing were possible, even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the
Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.

On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused
from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in flames.
The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my wife,
a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration. The
destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and
I resigned myself forward to despair.

I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and
effect between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain
of facts, and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect. On the
day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls with one
exception had fallen in. This exception was found in a compartment wall,
not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house, and against
which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here in great
measure resisted the action of the fire, a fact which I attributed to
its having recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were
collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular portion
of it with very minute and eager attention. The words "Strange!"
"Singular!" and other similar expressions, excited my curiosity. I
approached and saw, as if graven in _bas relief_ upon the white surface
the figure of a gigantic _cat_. The impression was given with an
accuracy truly marvellous. There was a rope about the animal's neck.

When I first beheld this apparition--for I could scarcely regard it as
less--my wonder and my terror were extreme. But at length reflection
came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a garden
adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire this garden had been
immediately filled by the crowd, by some one of whom the animal must
have been cut from the tree and thrown through an open window into my
chamber. This had probably been done with the view of arousing me from
sleep. The falling of other walls had compressed the victim of my
cruelty into the substance of the freshly-spread plaster; the lime of
which, with the flames and the _ammonia_ from the carcass, had then
accomplished the portraiture as I saw it.

Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if not altogether to my
conscience, for the startling fact just detailed, it did not the less
fail to make a deep impression upon my fancy. For months I could not rid
myself of the phantasm of the cat, and during this period there came
back into my spirit a half-sentiment that seemed, but was not, remorse.
I went so far as to regret the loss of the animal, and to look about me
among the vile haunts which I now habitually frequented for another pet
of the same species, and of somewhat similar appearance, with which to
supply its place.

One night, as I sat half-stupefied in a den of more than infamy, my
attention was suddenly drawn to some black object, reposing upon the
head of one of the immense hogsheads of gin or of rum, which constituted
the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been looking steadily at the
top of this hogshead for some minutes, and what now caused me surprise
was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the object thereupon. I
approached it, and touched it with my hand. It was a black cat--a very
large one--fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every
respect but one. Pluto had not a white hair upon any portion of his
body; but this cat had a large, although indefinite splotch of white,
covering nearly the whole region of the breast.

Upon my touching him he immediately arose, purred loudly, rubbed against
my hand, and appeared delighted with my notice. This, then, was the very
creature of which I was in search. I at once offered to purchase it of
the landlord; but this person made no claim to it--knew nothing of
it--had never seen it before.

I continued my caresses, and when I prepared to go home the animal
evinced a disposition to accompany me. I permitted it to do so,
occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded. When it reached the
house it domesticated itself at once, and became immediately a great
favourite with my wife.

For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within me. This
was just the reverse of what I had anticipated, but--I know not how or
why it was--its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted and
annoyed. By slow degrees these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose
into the bitterness of hatred. I avoided the creature; a certain sense
of shame, and the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty, preventing
me from physically abusing it. I did not, for some weeks, strike or
otherwise violently ill-use it, but gradually--very gradually--I came to
look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently from its
odious presence as from the breath of a pestilence.

What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast was the discovery, on
the morning after I brought it home, that, like Pluto, it also had been
deprived of one of its eyes. This circumstance, however, only endeared
it to my wife, who, as I have already said, possessed in a high degree
that humanity of feeling which had once been my distinguishing trait,
and the source of my simplest and purest pleasures.

With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality for myself seemed
to increase. It followed my footsteps with a pertinacity which it would
be difficult to make the reader comprehend. Whenever I sat, it would
crouch beneath my chair or spring upon my knees, covering me with its
loathsome caresses. If I arose to walk it would get between my feet and
thus nearly throw me down, or, fastening its long and sharp claws in my
dress, clamber in this manner to my breast. At such times, although I
longed to destroy it with a blow, I was yet withheld from so doing,
partly by a memory of my former crime, but chiefly--let me confess it at
once--by absolute _dread_ of the beast.

This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil--and yet I should be
at a loss how otherwise to define it. I am almost ashamed to own--yes,
even in this felon's cell, I am almost ashamed to own--that the terror
and horror with which the animal inspired me had been heightened by one
of the merest chimeras it would be possible to conceive. My wife had
called my attention more than once to the character of the mark of white
hair, of which I have spoken, and which constituted the sole visible
difference between the strange beast and the one I had destroyed. The
reader will remember that this mark, although large, had been originally
very indefinite, but by slow degrees--degrees nearly imperceptible, and
which for a long time my reason struggled to reject as fanciful--it had
at length assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline. It was now the
representation of an object that I shudder to name--and for this above
all I loathed and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster _had
I dared_--it was now, I say, the image of a hideous--of a ghastly
thing--of the GALLOWS!--O, mournful and terrible engine of horror and of
crime--of agony and of death!

And now was I indeed wretched beyond the wretchedness of mere humanity.
And _a brute beast_--whose fellow I had contemptuously destroyed--_a
brute beast_ to work out for _me_--for me a man, fashioned in the image
of the High God--so much of insufferable woe! Alas! neither by day nor
by night knew I the blessing of rest any more! During the former the
creature left me no moment alone; and in the latter I started hourly
from dreams of unutterable fear, to find the hot breath of _the thing_
upon my face, and its vast weight--an incarnate nightmare that I had no
power to shake off--incumbent eternally upon my _heart_!

Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of
the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole
intimates--the darkest and most evil of thoughts. The moodiness of my
usual temper increased to hatred of all things and of all mankind; while
from the sudden frequent and ungovernable outbursts of a fury to which I
now blindly abandoned myself, my uncomplaining wife, alas! was the most
usual and the most patient of sufferers.

One day she accompanied me upon some household errand into the cellar of
the old building which our poverty compelled us to inhabit. The cat
followed me down the steep stairs, and nearly throwing me headlong,
exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an ax, and forgetting in my wrath
the childish dread which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at
the animal, which of course would have proved instantly fatal had it
descended as I wished. But this blow was arrested by the hand of my
wife. Goaded by the interference into a rage more than demoniacal, I
withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the ax in her brain. She fell
dead upon the spot without a groan.

This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith and with entire
deliberation to the task of concealing the body. I knew that I could not
remove it from the house, either by day or by night, without the risk of
being observed by the neighbours. Many projects entered my mind. At one
period I thought of cutting the corpse into minute fragments and
destroying them by fire. At another I resolved to dig a grave for it in
the floor of the cellar. Again, I deliberated about casting it in the
well in the yard--about packing it in a box, as if merchandise, with the
usual arrangements, and so getting a porter to take it from the house.
Finally I hit upon what I considered a far better expedient than either
of these. I determined to wall it up in the cellar--as the monks of the
middle ages are recorded to have walled up their victims.

For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its walls were
loosely constructed and had lately been plastered throughout with a
rough plaster, which the dampness of the atmosphere had prevented from
hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a projection caused by a
false chimney or fireplace, that had been filled up and made to resemble
the rest of the cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily displace
the bricks at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the whole up as
before, so that no eye could detect anything suspicious.

And in this calculation I was not deceived. By means of a crowbar I
easily dislodged the bricks, and having carefully deposited the body
against the inner wall, I propped it in that position, while with little
trouble I relaid the whole structure as it originally stood. Having
procured mortar, sand, and hair with every possible precaution, I
prepared a plaster which could not be distinguished from the old, and
with this I very carefully went over the new brick-work. When I had
finished I felt satisfied that all was all right. The wall did not
present the slightest appearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish
on the floor was picked up with the minutest care. I looked around
triumphantly, and said to myself--"Here at last, then, my labour has not
been in vain."

My next step was to look for the beast which had been the cause of so
much wretchedness, for I had at length firmly resolved to put it to
death. Had I been able to meet with it at the moment there could have
been no doubt of its fate, but it appeared that the crafty animal had
been alarmed at the violence of my previous anger, and forbore to
present itself in my present mood. It is impossible to describe or to
imagine the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the
detested creature occasioned in my bosom. It did not make its appearance
during the night--and thus for one night at least since its introduction
into the house I soundly and tranquilly slept, aye, _slept_ even with
the burden of murder upon my soul!

The second and the third day passed, and still my tormentor came not.
Once again I breathed as a freeman. The monster, in terror, had fled the
premises forever! I should behold it no more! My happiness was supreme!
The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little. Some few inquiries
had been made, but these had been readily answered. Even a search had
been instituted--but of course nothing was to be discovered. I looked
upon my future felicity as secured.

Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of the police came
very unexpectedly into the house, and proceeded again to make rigorous
investigation of the premises. Secure, however, in the inscrutability of
my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever. The officers
bade me accompany them in their search. They left no nook or corner
unexplored. At length, for the third or fourth time they descended into
the cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that of
one who slumbers in innocence. I walked the cellar from end to end. I
folded my arms upon my bosom, and roamed easily to and fro. The police
were thoroughly satisfied, and prepared to depart. The glee at my heart
was too strong to be restrained. I burned to say if but one word by way
of triumph, and to render doubly sure their assurance of my
guiltlessness.

"Gentlemen," I said at last, as the party ascended the steps, "I delight
to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health, and a little
more courtesy. By the by, gentlemen, this--this is a very
well-constructed house," [In the rabid desire to say something easily, I
scarcely knew what I uttered at all,] "I may say an _excellently_
well-constructed house. These walls--are you going, gentlemen?--these
walls are solidly put together;" and here, through the mere frenzy of
bravado, I rapped heavily with a cane which I held in my hand upon that
very portion of the brick-work behind which stood the corpse of the wife
of my bosom.

But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the arch-fiend! No
sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence than I was
answered by a voice from within the tomb!--by a cry, at first muffled
and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into
one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman--a
howl--a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as
might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the
damned in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation.

Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, I staggered to the
opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs remained
motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next a dozen
stout arms were toiling at the wall. It fell bodily. The corpse, already
greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of
the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye
of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder,
and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled
the monster up within the tomb.

                                                        EDGAR ALLAN POE.



MADAME JOLICOEUR'S CAT


Being somewhat of an age, and a widow of dignity--the late Monsieur
Jolicoeur has held the responsible position under Government of
Ingénieur des Ponts et Chaussées--yet being also of a provocatively
fresh plumpness, and a Marseillaise, it was of necessity that Madame
Veuve Jolicoeur, on being left lonely in the world save for the
companionship of her adored Shah de Perse, should entertain expectations
of the future that were antipodal and antagonistic: on the one hand, of
an austere life suitable to a widow of a reasonable maturity and of an
assured position; on the other hand, of a life, not austere, suitable to
a widow still of a provocatively fresh plumpness and by birth a
Marseillaise.

Had Madame Jolicoeur possessed a severe temperament and a resolute
mind--possessions inherently improbable, in view of her birthplace--she
would have made her choice between these equally possible futures with a
promptness and with a finality that would have left nothing at loose
ends. So endowed, she would have emphasized her not excessive age by a
slightly excessive gravity of dress and of deportment; and would have
adorned it, and her dignified widowhood, by becoming dévote: and
thereafter, clinging with a modest ostentation only to her piety, would
have radiated, as time made its marches, an always increasingly
exemplary grace. But as Madame Jolicoeur did not possess a
temperament that even bordered on severity, and as her mind was a sort
that made itself up in at least twenty different directions in a single
moment--as she was, in short, an entirely typical and therefore an
entirely delightful Provençale--the situation was so much too much for
her that, by the process of formulating a great variety of
irreconcilable conclusions, she left everything at loose ends by not
making any choice at all.

In effect, she simply stood attendant upon what the future had in store
for her: and meanwhile avowedly clung only, in default of piety, to her
adored Shah de Perse--to whom was given, as she declared in disconsolate
negligence of her still provocatively fresh plumpness, all of the
bestowable affection that remained in the devastated recesses of her
withered heart.

To preclude any possibility of compromising misunderstanding, it is but
just to Madame Jolicoeur to explain at once that the personage thus in
receipt of the contingent remainder of her blighted affections--far from
being, as his name would suggest, an Oriental potentate temporarily
domiciled in Marseille to whom she had taken something more than a
passing fancy--was a Persian superb black cat; and a cat of such rare
excellencies of character and of acquirements as fully to deserve all of
the affection that any heart of the right sort--withered, or
otherwise--was disposed to bestow upon him.

Cats of his perfect beauty, of his perfect grace, possibly might be
found, Madame Jolicoeur 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!

But the rare little cat tantrums of the Shah de Perse--if to his so
gentle excesses may be applied so strong a term--were but as sun-spots
on the effulgence of his otherwise constant amiability. His regnant
desires, by which his worthy little life was governed, were to love and
to please. He was the most cuddlesome cat, Madame Jolicoeur
unhesitatingly asserted, that ever had lived; and he had a purr--softly
thunderous and winningly affectionate--that was in keeping with his
cuddlesome ways. When, of his own volition, he would jump into her
abundant lap and go to burrowing with his little soft round head beneath
her soft round elbows, the while gurglingly purring forth his love for
her, Madame Jolicoeur, quite justifiably, at times was moved to tears.
Equally was his sweet nature exhibited in his always eager willingness
to show off his little train of cat accomplishments. He would give his
paw with a courteous grace to any lady or gentleman--he drew the caste
line rigidly--who asked for it. For his mistress, he would spring to a
considerable height and clutch with his two soft paws--never by any
mistake scratching--her outstretched wrist, and so would remain
suspended while he delicately nibbled from between her fingers her
edible offering. For her, he would make an almost painfully real
pretence of being a dead cat: extending himself upon the rug with an
exaggeratedly death-like rigidity--and so remaining until her command to
be alive again brought him briskly to rub himself, rising on his hind
legs and purring mellowly, against her comfortable knees.

All of these interesting tricks, with various others that may be passed
over, he would perform with a lively zest whenever set at them by a mere
word of prompting; but his most notable trick was a game in which he
engaged with his mistress not at word of command, but--such was his
intelligence--simply upon her setting the signal for it. The signal was
a close-fitting white cap--to be quite frank, a night-cap--that she
tied upon her head when it was desired that the game should be played.

It was of the game that Madame Jolicoeur 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 Jolicoeur: 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 Jolicoeur 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 Jolicoeur'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 Jolicoeur 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 Jolicoeur's chair. It was as
though to the Shah de Perse the white night-cap of Madame Jolicoeur,
displayed in accordance with the rules of the game, were an oriflamme:
akin to, but in minor points differing from, the helmet of Navarre.

Being such a cat, it will be perceived that Madame Jolicoeur had
reason in her avowed intention to bestow upon him all of the bestowable
affection remnant in her withered heart's devastated recesses; and,
equally, that she would not be wholly desolate, having such a cat to
comfort her, while standing impartially attendant upon the decrees of
fate.

       *       *       *       *       *

To assert that any woman not conspicuously old and quite conspicuously
of a fresh plumpness could be left in any city isolate, save for a cat's
company, while the fates were spinning new threads for her, would be to
put a severe strain upon credulity. To make that assertion specifically
of Madame Jolicoeur, and specifically--of all cities in the world!--of
Marseille, would be to strain credulity fairly to the breaking point. On
the other hand, to assert that Madame Jolicoeur, in defence of her
isolation, was disposed to plant machine-guns in the doorway of her
dwelling--a house of modest elegance on the Pavé d'Amour, at the
crossing of the Rue Bausset--would be to go too far. Nor indeed--aside
from the fact that the presence of such engines of destruction would
not have been tolerated by the other residents of the quietly
respectable Pavé d'Amour--was Madame Jolicoeur herself, as has been
intimated, temperamentally inclined to go to such lengths as
machine-guns in maintenance of her somewhat waveringly desired privacy
in a merely cat-enlivened solitude.

Between these widely separated extremes of conjectural possibility lay
the mediate truth of the matter: which truth--thus resembling precious
gold in its valueless rock matrix--lay embedded in, and was to be
extracted from, the irresponsible utterances of the double row of
loosely hung tongues, always at hot wagging, ranged along the two sides
of the Rue Bausset.

Madame Jouval, a milliner of repute--delivering herself with the
generosity due to a good customer from whom an order for a trousseau was
a not unremote possibility, yet with the acumen perfected by her
professional experiences--summed her views of the situation, in talk
with Madame Vic, proprietor of the Vic bakery, in these words: "It is of
the convenances, and equally is it of her own melancholy necessities,
that this poor Madame retires for a season to sorrow in a suitable
seclusion in the company of her sympathetic cat. Only in such retreat
can she give vent fitly to her desolating grief. But after storm comes
sunshine: and I am happily assured by her less despairing appearance,
and by the new mourning that I have been making for her, that even now,
from the bottomless depth of her affliction, she looks beyond the
storm."

"I well believe it!" snapped Madame Vic. "That the appearance of Madame
Jolicoeur at any time has been despairing is a matter that has
escaped my notice. As to the mourning that she now wears, it is a
defiance of all propriety. Why, with no more than that of colour in her
frock"--Madame Vic upheld her thumb and finger infinitesimally
separated--"and with a mere pin-point of a flower in her bonnet, she
would be fit for the opera!"

Madame Vic spoke with a caustic bitterness that had its roots. Her own
venture in second marriage had been catastrophic--so catastrophic that
her neglected bakery had gone very much to the bad. Still more closely
to the point, Madame Jolicoeur--incident to finding entomologic
specimens misplaced in her breakfast-rolls--had taken the leading part
in an interchange of incivilities with the bakery's proprietor, and had
withdrawn from it her custom.

"And even were her mournings not a flouting of her short year of
widowhood," continued Madame Vic, with an acrimony that abbreviated the
term of widowhood most unfairly--"the scores of eligible suitors who
openly come streaming to her door, and are welcomed there, are as
trumpets proclaiming her audacious intentions and her indecorous
desires. Even Monsieur Brisson is in that outrageous procession! Is it
not enough that she should entice a repulsively bald-headed notary and
an old rake of a major to make their brazen advances, without suffering
this anatomy of a pharmacien to come treading on their heels?--he with
his hands imbrued in the life-blood of the unhappy old woman whom his
mismade prescription sent in agony to the tomb! Pah! I have no patience
with her! She and her grief and her seclusion and her sympathetic cat,
indeed! It all is a tragedy of indiscretion--that shapes itself as a
revolting farce!"

It will be observed that Madame Vic, in framing her bill of particulars,
practically reduced her alleged scores of Madame Jolicoeur's suitors
to precisely two--since the bad third was handicapped so heavily by that
notorious matter of the mismade prescription as to be a negligible
quantity, quite out of the race. Indeed, it was only the preposterous
temerity of Monsieur Brisson--despairingly clutching at any chance to
retrieve his broken fortunes--that put him in the running at all. With
the others, in such slighting terms referred to by Madame Vic--Monsieur
Peloux, a notary of standing, and the Major Gontard, of the Twenty-ninth
of the Line--the case was different. It had its sides.

"That this worthy lady reasonably may desire again to wed," declared
Monsieur Fromagin, actual proprietor of the Épicerie Russe--an
establishment liberally patronized by Madame Jolicoeur--"is as true as
that when she goes to make her choosings between these estimable
gentlemen she cannot make a choice that is wrong."

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!"

"Ah, there speaks the woman!" said Monsieur Fromagin, with a patronizing
smile distinctly irritating. "Madame will recognize--if she will but
bring herself to look a little beyond the mere outside--that what I have
advanced is not a matter of opinion but of fact. Observe: Here is
Monsieur Peloux--to whose trifling leanness and aristocratic baldness
the thoughtful give no attention--easily a notary in the very first
rank. As we all know, his services are sought in cases of the most
exigent importance--"

"For example," interrupted Madame Gauthier, "the case of the insurance
solicitor, in whose countless defraudings my own brother was a sufferer:
a creature of a vileness, whose deserts were unnumbered ages of
dungeons--and who, thanks to the chicaneries of Monsieur Peloux, at this
moment walks free as air!"

"It is of the professional duty of advocates," replied Monsieur
Fromagin, sententiously, "to defend their clients; on the successful
discharge of that duty--irrespective of minor details--depends their
fame. Madame neglects the fact that Monsieur Peloux, by his masterly
conduct of the case that she specifies, won for himself from his legal
colleagues an immense applause."

"The more shame to his legal colleagues!" commented Madame Gauthier
curtly.

"But leaving that affair quite aside," continued Monsieur Fromagin
airily, but with insistence, "here is this notable advocate who reposes
his important homages at Madame Jolicoeur's feet: he a man of an age
that is suitable, without being excessive; who has in the community an
assured position; whose more than moderate wealth is known. I insist,
therefore, that should she accept his homages she would do well."

"And I insist," declared Madame Gauthier stoutly, "that should she turn
her back upon the Major Gontard she would do most ill!"

"Madame a little disregards my premises," Monsieur Fromagin spoke in a
tone of forbearance, "and therefore a little argues--it is the privilege
of her sex--against the air. Distinctly, I do not exclude from Madame
Jolicoeur's choice that gallant Major: whose rank--now approaching him
to the command of a regiment, and fairly equalling the position at the
bar achieved by Monsieur Peloux--has been won, grade by grade, by deeds
of valour in his African campaignings which have made him conspicuous
even in the army that stands first in such matters of all the armies of
the world. Moreover--although, admittedly, in that way Monsieur Peloux
makes a better showing--he is of an easy affluence. On the Camargue he
has his excellent estate in vines, from which comes a revenue more than
sufficing to satisfy more than modest wants. At Les Martigues he has his
charming coquette villa, smothered in the flowers of his own planting,
to which at present he makes his agreeable escapes from his military
duties; and in which, when his retreat is taken, he will pass softly his
sunset years. With these substantial points in his favour, the standing
of the Major Gontard in this matter practically is of a parity with the
standing of Monsieur Peloux. Equally, both are worthy of Madame
Jolicoeur's consideration: both being able to continue her in the life
of elegant comfort to which she is accustomed; and both being on a
social plane--it is of her level accurately--to which the widow of an
ingénieur des ponts et chaussées neither steps up nor steps down. Having
now made clear, I trust, my reasonings, I repeat the proposition with
which Madame took issue: When Madame Jolicoeur goes to make her
choosings between these estimable gentlemen she cannot make a choice
that is wrong."

"And I repeat, Monsieur," said Madame Gauthier, lifting her basket from
the counter, "that in making her choosings Madame Jolicoeur either
goes to raise herself to the heights of a matured happiness, or to
plunge herself into bald-headed abysses of despair. Yes, Monsieur, that
far apart are her choosings!" And Madame Gauthier added, in communion
with herself as she passed to the street with her basket: "As for me, it
would be that adorable Major by a thousand times!"

       *       *       *       *       *

As was of reason, since hers was the first place in the matter, Madame
Jolicoeur herself carried on debatings--in the portion of her heart
that had escaped complete devastation--identical in essence with the
debatings of her case which went up and down the Rue Bausset.

Not having become dévote--in the year and more of opportunity open to
her for a turn in that direction--one horn of her original dilemma had
been eliminated, so to say, by atrophy. Being neglected, it had
withered: with the practical result that out of her very indecisions had
come a decisive choice. But to her new dilemma, of which the horns were
the Major and the Notary--in the privacy of her secret thoughts she made
no bones of admitting that this dilemma confronted her--the atrophying
process was not applicable; at least, not until it could be applied with
a sharp finality. Too long dallied with, it very well might lead to the
atrophy of both of them in dudgeon; and thence onward, conceivably, to
her being left to cling only to the Shah de Perse for all the remainder
of her days.

Therefore, to the avoidance of that too radical conclusion, Madame
Jolicoeur engaged in her debatings briskly: offering to herself, in
effect, the balanced arguments advanced by Monsieur Fromagin in favour
equally of Monsieur Peloux and of the Major Gontard; taking as her own,
with moderating exceptions and emendations, the views of Madame Gauthier
as to the meagreness and pallid baldness of the one and the sturdiness
and gallant bearing of the other; considering, from the standpoint of
her own personal knowledge in the premises, the Notary's disposition
toward a secretive reticence that bordered upon severity, in contrast
with the cordially frank and debonair temperament of the Major; and, at
the back of all, keeping well in mind the fundamental truths that
opportunity ever is evanescent and that time ever is on the wing.

As the result of her debatings, and not less as the result of experience
gained in her earlier campaigning, Madame Jolicoeur took up a
strategic position nicely calculated to inflame the desire for, by
assuming the uselessness of, an assault. In set terms, confirming
particularly her earlier and more general avowal, she declared equally
to the Major and to the Notary that absolutely the whole of her
bestowable affection--of the remnant in her withered heart available for
distribution--was bestowed upon the Shah de Perse: and so, with an
alluring nonchalance, left them to draw the logical conclusion that
their strivings to win that desirable quantity were idle--since a
definite disposition of it already had been made.

The reply of the Major Gontard to this declaration was in keeping with
his known amiability, but also was in keeping with his military habit of
command. "Assuredly," he said, "Madame shall continue to bestow, within
reason, her affections upon Monsieur le Shah; and with them that brave
animal--he is a cat of ten thousand--shall have my affections as well.
Already, knowing my feeling for him, we are friends--as Madame shall see
to her own convincing." Addressing himself in tones of kindly persuasion
to the Shah de Perse, he added: "Viens, Monsieur!"--whereupon the Shah
de Perse instantly jumped himself to the Major's knee and broke forth,
in response to a savant rubbing of his soft little jowls, into his
gurgling purr. "Voilà, Madame!" continued the Major. "It is to be
perceived that we have our good understandings, the Shah de Perse and I.
That we all shall live happily together tells itself without words. But
observe"--of a sudden the voice of the Major thrilled with a deep
earnestness, and his style of address changed to a familiarity that only
the intensity of his feeling condoned--"I am resolved that to me, above
all, shall be given thy dear affections. Thou shalt give me the perfect
flower of them--of that fact rest thou assured. In thy heart I am to be
the very first--even as in my heart thou thyself art the very first of
all the world. In Africa I have had my successes in my conquests and
holdings of fortresses. Believe me, I shall have an equal success in
conquering and in holding the sweetest fortress in France!"

Certainly, the Major Gontard had a bold way with him. But that it had
its attractions, not to say its compellings, Madame Jolicoeur could
not honestly deny.

On the part of the Notary--whose disposition, fostered by his
profession, was toward subtlety rather than toward boldness--Madame
Jolicoeur's declaration of cat rights was received with no such
belligerent blare of trumpets and beat of drums. He met it with a light
show of banter--beneath which, to come to the surface later, lay hidden
dark thoughts.

"Madame makes an excellent pleasantry," he said with a smile of the
blandest. "Without doubt, not a very flattering pleasantry--but I know
that her denial of me in favour of her cat is but a jesting at which we
both may laugh. And we may laugh together the better because, in the
roots of her jesting, we have our sympathies. I also have an intensity
of affection for cats"--to be just to Monsieur Peloux, who loathed cats,
it must be said that he gulped as he made this flagrantly untruthful
statement--"and with this admirable cat, so dear to Madame, it goes to
make itself that we speedily become enduring friends."

Curiously enough--a mere coincidence, of course--as the Notary uttered
these words so sharply at points with veracity, in the very moment of
them, the Shah de Perse stiffly retired into his sulkiest corner and
turned what had every appearance of being a scornful back upon the
world.

Judiciously ignoring this inopportunely equivocal incident, Monsieur
Peloux reverted to the matter in chief and concluded his deliverance in
these words: "I well understand, I repeat, that Madame for the moment
makes a comedy of herself and of her cat for my amusing. But I persuade
myself that her droll fancyings will not be lasting, and that she will
be serious with me in the end. Until then--and then most of all--I am at
her feet humbly: an unworthy, but a very earnest, suppliant for her
good-will. Should she have the cruelty to refuse my supplication, it
will remain with me to die in an unmerited despair!"

Certainly, this was an appeal--of a sort. But even without perceiving
the mitigating subtlety of its comminative final clause--so skilfully
worded as to leave Monsieur Peloux free to bring off his threatened
unmeritedly despairing death quite at his own convenience--Madame
Jolicoeur did not find it satisfying. In contrast with the Major
Gontard's ringingly audacious declarations of his habits in dealing with
fortresses, she felt that it lacked force. And, also--this, of course,
was a sheer weakness--she permitted herself to be influenced appreciably
by the indicated preferences of the Shah de Perse: who had jumped to the
knee of the Major with an affectionate alacrity; and who undeniably had
turned on the Notary--either by chance or by intention--a back of scorn.

As the general outcome of these several developments, Madame
Jolicoeur's debatings came to have in them--if I so may state the
trend of her mental activities--fewer bald heads and more moustaches;
and her never severely set purpose to abide in a loneliness relieved
only by the Shah de Perse was abandoned root and branch.

       *       *       *       *       *

While Madame Jolicoeur continued her debatings--which, in their
modified form, manifestly were approaching her to conclusions--water was
running under bridges elsewhere.

In effect, her hesitancies produced a period of suspense that gave
opportunity for, and by the exasperating delay of it stimulated, the
resolution of the Notary's dark thoughts into darker deeds. With reason,
he did not accept at its face value Madame Jolicoeur's declaration
touching the permanent bestowal of her remnant affections; but he did
believe that there was enough in it to make the Shah de Perse a delaying
obstacle to his own acquisition of them. When obstacles got in this
gentleman's way it was his habit to kick them out of it--a habit that
had not been unduly stunted by half a lifetime of successful practice at
the criminal bar.

Because of his professional relations with them, Monsieur Peloux had an
extensive acquaintance among criminals of varying shades of
intensity--at times, in his dubious doings, they could be useful to
him--hidden away in the shadowy nooks and corners of the city; and he
also had his emissaries through whom they could be reached. All the
conditions thus standing attendant upon his convenience, it was a facile
matter for him to make an appointment with one of these disreputables
at a cabaret of bad record in the Quartier de la Tourette: a
region--bordering upon the north side of the Vieux Port--that is at once
the oldest and the foulest quarter of Marseille.

In going to keep this appointment--as was his habit on such occasions,
in avoidance of possible spying upon his movements--he went deviously:
taking a cab to the Bassin de Carènage, as though some maritime matter
engaged him, and thence making the transit of the Vieux Port in a bateau
mouche. It was while crossing in the ferryboat that a sudden shuddering
beset him: as he perceived with horror--but without repentance--the pit
into which he descended. In his previous, always professional, meetings
with criminals his position had been that of unassailable dominance. In
his pending meeting--since he himself would be not only a criminal but
an inciter to crime--he would be, in the essence of the matter, the
under dog. Beneath his seemly black hat his bald head went whiter than
even its normal deathly whiteness, and perspiration started from its
every pore. Almost with a groan, he removed his hat and dried with his
handkerchief what were in a way his tears of shame.

Over the interview between Monsieur Peloux and his hireling--cheerfully
moistened, on the side of the hireling, with absinthe of a vileness in
keeping with its place of purchase--decency demands the partial drawing
of a veil. In brief, Monsieur Peloux--his guilty eyes averted, the
shame-tears streaming afresh from his bald head--presented his criminal
demand and stated the sum that he would pay for its gratification. This
sum--being in keeping with his own estimate of what it paid for--was so
much in excess of the hireling's views concerning the value of a mere
cat-killing that he fairly jumped at it.

"Be not disturbed, Monsieur!" he replied, with the fervour of one really
grateful, and with the expansive extravagance of a Marseillais keyed up
with exceptionally bad absinthe. "Be not disturbed in the smallest! In
this very coming moment this camel of a cat shall die a thousand deaths;
and in but another moment immeasurable quantities of salt and ashes
shall obliterate his justly despicable grave! To an instant
accomplishment of Monsieur's wishes I pledge whole-heartedly the word of
an honest man."

Actually--barring the number of deaths to be inflicted on the Shah de
Perse, and the needlessly defiling concealment of his burial-place--this
radical treatment of the matter was precisely what Monsieur Peloux
desired; and what, in terms of innuendo and euphuism, he had asked for.
But the brutal frankness of the hireling, and his evident delight in
sinning for good wages, came as an arousing shock to the enfeebled
remnant of the Notary's better nature--with a resulting vacillation of
purpose to which he would have risen superior had he been longer
habituated to the ways of crime.

"No! No!" he said weakly. "I did not mean that--by no means all of that.
At least--that is to say--you will understand me, my good man, that
enough will be done if you remove the cat from Marseille. Yes, that is
what I mean--take it somewhere. Take it to Cassis, to Arles, to
Avignon--where you will--and leave it there. The railway ticket is my
charge--and, also, you have an extra napoléon for your refreshment by
the way. Yes, that suffices. In a bag, you know--and soon!"

Returning across the Vieux Port in the bateau mouche, Monsieur Peloux no
longer shuddered in dread of crime to be committed--his shuddering was
for accomplished crime. On his bald head, unheeded, the gushing tears of
shame accumulated in pools.

       *       *       *       *       *

When leaves of absence permitted him to make retirements to his coquette
little estate at Les Martigues, the Major Gontard was as another
Cincinnatus: with the minor differences that the lickerish cookings of
the brave Marthe--his old femme de ménage: a veritable protagonist among
cooks, even in Provence--checked him on the side of severe simplicity;
that he would have welcomed with effusion lictors, or others, come to
announce his advance to a regiment; and that he made no use whatever of
a plow.

In the matter of the plow, he had his excuses. His two or three acres of
land lay on a hillside banked in tiny terraces--quite unsuited to the
use of that implement--and the whole of his agricultural energies were
given to the cultivation of flowers. Among his flowers, intelligently
assisted by old Michel, he worked with a zeal bred of his affection for
them; and after his workings, when the cool of evening was come, smoked
his pipe refreshingly while seated on the vine-bowered estrade before
his trim villa on the crest of the slope: the while sniffing with a just
interest at the fumes of old Marthe's cookings, and placidly delighting
in the ever-new beauties of the sunsets above the distant mountains and
their near-by reflected beauties in the waters of the Étang de Berre.

Save in his professional relations with recalcitrant inhabitants of
Northern Africa, he was of a gentle nature, this amiable warrior: ever
kindly, when kindliness was deserved, in all his dealings with mankind.
Equally, his benevolence was extended to the lower orders of
animals--that it was understood, and reciprocated, the willing jumping
of the Shah de Perse to his friendly knee made manifest--and was
exhibited in practical ways. Naturally, he was a liberal contributor to
the funds of the Société protectrice des animaux; and, what was more to
the purpose, it was his well-rooted habit to do such protecting as was
necessary, on his own account, when he chanced upon any suffering
creature in trouble or in pain.

Possessing these commendable characteristics, it follows that the doings
of the Major Gontard in the railway station at Pas de Lanciers--on the
day sequent to the day on which Monsieur Peloux was the promoter of a
criminal conspiracy--could not have been other than they were. Equally
does it follow that his doings produced the doings of the man with the
bag.

Pas de Lanciers is the little station at which one changes trains in
going from Marseille to Les Martigues. Descending from a first-class
carriage, the Major Gontard awaited the Martigues train--his leave was
for two days, and his thoughts were engaged pleasantly with the
breakfast that old Marthe would have ready for him and with plans for
his flowers. From a third-class carriage descended the man with the
bag, who also awaited the Martigues train. Presently--the two happening
to come together in their saunterings up and down the platform--the
Major's interest was aroused by observing that within the bag went on a
persistent wriggling; and his interest was quickened into characteristic
action when he heard from its interior, faintly but quite distinctly, a
very pitiful half-strangled little mew!

"In another moment," said the Major, addressing the man sharply, "that
cat will be suffocated. Open the bag instantly and give it air!"

"Pardon, Monsieur," replied the man, starting guiltily. "This excellent
cat is not suffocating. In the bag it breathes freely with all its
lungs. It is a pet cat, having the habitude to travel in this manner;
and, because it is of a friendly disposition, it is accustomed thus to
make its cheerful little remarks." By way of comment upon this
explanation, there came from the bag another half-strangled mew that was
not at all suggestive of cheerfulness. It was a faint miserable
mew--that told of cat despair!

At that juncture a down train came in on the other side of the platform,
a train on its way to Marseille.

"Thou art a brute!" said the Major, tersely. "I shall not suffer thy
cruelties to continue!" As he spoke, he snatched away the bag from its
uneasy possessor and applied himself to untying its confining cord.
Oppressed by the fear that goes with evil-doing, the man hesitated for a
moment before attempting to retrieve what constructively was his
property.

In that fateful moment the bag opened and a woebegone little black
cat-head appeared; and then the whole of a delighted little black
cat-body emerged--and cuddled with joy-purrs of recognition in its
deliverer's arms! Within the sequent instant the recognition was mutual.
"Thunder of guns!" cried the Major. "It is the Shah de Perse!"

Being thus caught red-handed, the hireling of Monsieur Peloux cowered.
"Brigand!" continued the Major. "Thou hast ravished away this charming
cat by the foulest of robberies. Thou art worse than the scum of Arab
camp-followings. And if I had thee to myself, over there in the desert,"
he added grimly, "thou shouldst go the same way!"

All overawed by the Major's African attitude, the hireling took to
whining. "Monsieur will believe me when I tell him that I am but an
unhappy tool--I, an honest man whom a rich tempter, taking advantage of
my unmerited poverty, has betrayed into crime. Monsieur himself shall
judge me when I have told him all!" And then--with creditably
imaginative variations on the theme of a hypothetical dying wife in
combination with six supposititious starving children--the man came
close enough to telling all to make clear that his backer in
cat-stealing was Monsieur Peloux!

With a gasp of astonishment, the Major again took the word. "What
matters it, animal, by whom thy crime was prompted? Thou art the
perpetrator of it--and to thee comes punishment! Shackles and prisons
are in store for thee! I shall--"

But what the Major Gontard had in mind to do toward assisting the march
of retributive justice is immaterial--since he did not do it. Even as
he spoke--in these terms of doom that qualifying conditions rendered
doomless--the man suddenly dodged past him, bolted across the platform,
jumped to the foot-board of a carriage of the just-starting train,
cleverly bundled himself through an open window, and so was gone:
leaving the Major standing lonely, with impotent rage filling his heart,
and with the Shah de Perse all a purring cuddle in his arms!

Acting on a just impulse, the Major Gontard sped to the telegraph
office. Two hours must pass before he could follow the miscreant; but
the departed train ran express to Marseille, and telegraphic heading-off
was possible. To his flowers, and to the romance of a breakfast that old
Marthe by then was in the very act of preparing for him, his thoughts
went in bitter relinquishment: but his purpose was stern! Plumping the
Shah de Perse down anyway on the telegraph table, and seizing a pen
fiercely, he began his writings. And then, of a sudden, an inspiration
came to him that made him stop in his writings--and that changed his
flames of anger into flames of joy.

His first act under the influence of this new and better emotion was to
tear his half-finished dispatch into fragments. His second act was to
assuage the needs, physical and psychical, of the Shah de Perse--near to
collapse for lack of food and drink, and his little cat feelings hurt by
his brusque deposition on the telegraph table--by carrying him tenderly
to the buffet; and there--to the impolitely over-obvious amusement of
the buffetière--purchasing cream without stint for the allaying of his
famishings. To his feasting the Shah de Perse went with the avid energy
begotten of his bag-compelled long fast. Dipping his little red tongue
deep into the saucer, he lapped with a vigour that all cream-splattered
his little black nose. Yet his admirable little cat manners were not
forgotten: even in the very thick of his eager lappings--pathetically
eager, in view of the cause of them--he purred forth gratefully, with a
gurgling chokiness, his earnest little cat thanks.

As the Major Gontard watched this pleasing spectacle his heart was all
aglow within him and his face was of a radiance comparable only with
that of an Easter-morning sun. To himself he was saying: "It is a dream
that has come to me! With the disgraced enemy in retreat, and with the
Shah de Perse for my banner, it is that I hold victoriously the whole
universe in the hollow of my hand!"

       *       *       *       *       *

While stopping appreciably short of claiming for himself a clutch upon
the universe, Monsieur Peloux also had his satisfactions on the evening
of the day that had witnessed the enlèvement of the Shah de Perse. By
his own eyes he knew certainly that that iniquitous kidnapping of a
virtuous cat had been effected. In the morning the hireling had brought
to him in his private office the unfortunate Shah de Perse--all
unhappily bagged, and even then giving vent to his pathetic
complainings--and had exhibited him, as a pièce justificatif, when
making his demand for railway fare and the promised extra napolèon. In
the mid-afternoon the hireling had returned, with the satisfying
announcement that all was accomplished: that he had carried the cat to
Pas de Lanciers, of an adequate remoteness, and there had left him with
a person in need of a cat who received him willingly. Being literally
true, this statement had in it so convincing a ring of sincerity that
Monsieur Peloux paid down in full the blood-money and dismissed his
bravo with commendation. Thereafter, being alone, he rubbed his
hands--gladly thinking of what was in the way to happen in sequence to
the permanent removal of this cat stumbling-block from his path.
Although professionally accustomed to consider the possibilities of
permutation, the known fact that petards at times are retroactive did
not present itself to his mind.

And yet--being only an essayist in crime, still unhardened--certain
compunctions beset him as he approached himself, on the to-be eventful
evening of that eventful day, to the door of Madame Jolicoeur's
modestly elegant dwelling on the Pavé d'Amour. In the back of his head
were justly self-condemnatory thoughts, to the general effect that he
was a blackguard and deserved to be kicked. In the dominant front of his
head, however, were thoughts of a more agreeable sort: of how he would
find Madame Jolicoeur all torn and rent by the bitter sorrow of her
bereavement; of how he would pour into her harried heart a flood of
sympathy by which that injured organ would be soothed and mollified; of
how she would be lured along gently to requite his tender condolence
with a softening gratitude--that presently would merge easily into the
yet softer phrase of love! It was a well-made program, and it had its
kernel of reason in his recognized ability to win bad causes--as that
of the insurance solicitor--by emotional pleadings which in the same
breath lured to lenience and made the intrinsic demerits of the cause
obscure.

"Madame dines," was the announcement that met Monsieur Peloux when, in
response to his ring, Madame Jolicoeur's door was opened for him by a
trim maid-servant. "But Madame already has continued so long her
dining," added the maid-servant, with a glint in her eyes that escaped
his preoccupied attention, "that in but another instant must come the
end. If M'sieu' will have the amiability to await her in the salon, it
will be for but a point of time!"

Between this maid-servant and Monsieur Peloux no love was lost.
Instinctively he was aware of, and resented, her views--practically
identical with those expressed by Madame Gauthier to Monsieur
Fromagin--touching his deserts as compared with the deserts of the Major
Gontard. Moreover, she had personal incentives to take her revenges.
From Monsieur Peloux, her only vail had been a miserable two-franc
Christmas box. From the Major, as from a perpetually verdant
Christmas-tree, boxes of bonbons and five-franc pieces at all times
descended upon her in showers.

Without perceiving the curious smile that accompanied this young
person's curiously cordial invitation to enter, he accepted the
invitation and was shown into the salon: where he seated himself--a
left-handedness of which he would have been incapable had he been less
perturbed--in Madame Jolicoeur's own special chair. An anatomical
vagary of the Notary's meagre person was the undue shortness of his body
and the undue length of his legs. Because of this eccentricity of
proportion, his bald head rose above the back of the chair to a height
approximately identical with that of its normal occupant.

His waiting time--extending from its promised point to what seemed to
him to be a whole geographical meridian--went slowly. To relieve it,
he took a book from the table, and in a desultory manner turned the
leaves. While thus perfunctorily engaged, he heard the clicking of an
opening door, and then the sound of voices: of Madame Jolicoeur's
voice, and of a man's voice--which latter, coming nearer, he recognized
beyond all doubting as the voice of the Major Gontard. Of other voices
there was not a sound: whence the compromising fact was obvious that
the two had gone through that long dinner together, and alone! Knowing,
as he did, Madame Jolicoeur's habitual disposition toward the
convenances--willingly to be boiled in oil rather than in the smallest
particular to abrade them--he perceived that only two explanations of
the situation were possible: either she had lapsed of a sudden into
madness; or--the thought was petrifying--the Major Gontard had won out
in his French campaigning on his known conquering African lines. The
cheerfully sane tone of the lady's voice forbade him to clutch at the
poor solace to be found in the first alternative--and so forced him to
accept the second. Yielding for a moment to his emotions, the
death-whiteness of his bald head taking on a still deathlier pallor,
Monsieur Peloux buried his face in his hands and groaned.

In that moment of his obscured perception a little black personage
trotted into the salon on soundless paws. Quite possibly, in his then
overwrought condition, had Monsieur Peloux seen this personage enter he
would have shrieked--in the confident belief that before him was a cat
ghost! Pointedly, it was not a ghost. It was the happy little Shah de
Perse himself--all a-frisk with the joy of his blessed home-coming and
very much alive! Knowing, as I do, many of the mysterious ways of little
cat souls, I even venture to believe that his overbubbling gladness
largely was due to his sympathetic perception of the gladness that his
home-coming had brought to two human hearts.

Certainly, all through that long dinner the owners of those hearts had
done their best, by their pettings and their pamperings of him, to make
him a participant in their deep happiness; and he, gratefully
respondent, had made his affectionate thankings by going through all of
his repertory of tricks--with one exception--again and again. Naturally,
his great trick, while unexhibited, repeatedly had been referred to.
Blushing delightfully, Madame Jolicoeur had told about the night-cap
that was a necessary part of it; and had promised--blushing still more
delightfully--that at some time, in the very remote future, the Major
should see it performed. For my own part, because of my knowledge of
little cat souls, I am persuaded that the Shah de Perse, while missing
the details of this love-laughing talk, did get into his head the
general trend of it; and therefore did trot on in advance into the salon
with his little cat mind full of the notion that Madame Jolicoeur
immediately would follow him--to seat herself, duly night-capped, book
in hand, in signal for their game of surprises to begin.

Unconscious of the presence of the Shah de Perse, tortured by the gay
tones of the approaching voices, clutching his book vengefully as though
it were a throat, his bald head beaded with the sweat of agony and the
pallor of it intensified by his poignant emotion, Monsieur Peloux sat
rigid in Madame Jolicoeur's chair!

       *       *       *       *       *

"It is declared," said Monsieur Brisson, addressing himself to Madame
Jouval, for whom he was in the act of preparing what was spoken of
between them as "the tonic," a courteous euphuism, "that that villain
Notary, aided by a bandit hired to his assistance, was engaged in
administering poison to the cat; and that the brave animal, freeing
itself from the bandit's holdings, tore to destruction the whole of his
bald head--and then triumphantly escaped to its home!"

"A sight to see is that head of his!" replied Madame Jouval. "So swathed
is it in bandages, that the turban of the Grand Turk is less!" Madame
Jouval spoke in tones of satisfaction that were of reason--already she
had held conferences with Madame Jolicoeur in regard to the trousseau.

"And all," continued Monsieur Brisson, with rancour, "because of his
jealousies of the cat's place in Madame Jolicoeur's affections--the
affections which he so hopelessly hoped, forgetful of his own
repulsiveness, to win for himself!"

"Ah, she has done well, that dear lady," said Madame Jouval warmly. "As
between the Notary--repulsive, as Monsieur justly terms him--and the
charming Major, her instincts rightly have directed her. To her worthy
cat, who aided in her choosing, she has reason to be grateful. Now her
cruelly wounded heart will find solace. That she should wed again, and
happily, was Heaven's will."

"It was the will of the baggage herself!" declared Monsieur Brisson with
bitterness. "Hardly had she put on her travesty of a mourning than she
began her oglings of whole armies of men!"

Aside from having confected with her own hands the mourning to which
Monsieur Brisson referred so disparagingly, Madame Jouval was not one to
hear calmly the ascription of the term baggage--the word has not lost in
its native French, as it has lost in its naturalized English, its
original epithetical intensity--to a patroness from whom she was in the
very article of receiving an order for an exceptionally rich trousseau.
Naturally, she bristled. "Monsieur must admit at least," she said
sharply, "that her oglings did not come in his direction;" and with an
irritatingly smooth sweetness added: "As to the dealings of Monsieur
Peloux with the cat, Monsieur doubtless speaks with an assured
knowledge. Remembering, as we all do, the affair of the unhappy old
woman, it is easy to perceive that to Monsieur, above all others, any
one in need of poisonings would come!"

The thrust was so keen that for the moment Monsieur Brisson met it only
with a savage glare. Then the bottle that he handed to Madame Jouval
inspired him with an answer. "Madame is in error," he said with
politeness. "For poisons it is possible to go variously elsewhere--as,
for example, to Madame's tongue." Had he stopped with that retort
courteous, but also searching, he would have done well. He did ill by
adding to it the retort brutal: "But that old women of necessity come to
me for their hair-dyes is another matter. That much I grant to Madame
with all good will."

Admirably restraining herself, Madame Jouval replied in tones of
sympathy: "Monsieur receives my commiserations in his misfortunes."
Losing a large part of her restraint, she continued, her eyes
glittering: "Yet Monsieur's temperament clearly is over-sanguine. It is
not less than a miracle of absurdity that he imagined: that he, weighted
down with his infamous murderings of scores of innocent old women, had
even a chance the most meagre of realizing his ridiculous aspirations of
Madame Jolicoeur's hand!" Snatching up her bottle and making for the
door, without any restraint whatever she added: "Monsieur and his
aspirations are a tragedy of stupidity--and equally are abounding in all
the materials for a farce at the Palais de Cristal!"

Monsieur Brisson was cut off from opportunity to reply to this outburst
by Madame Jouval's abrupt departure. His loss of opportunity had its
advantages. An adequate reply to her discharge of such a volley of home
truths would have been difficult to frame.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the Vic bakery, between Madame Vic and Monsieur Fromagin, a
discussion was in hand akin to that carried on between Monsieur Brisson
and Madame Jouval--but marked with a somewhat nearer approach to
accuracy in detail. Being sequent to the settlement of Monsieur
Fromagin's monthly bill--always a matter of nettling dispute--it
naturally tended to develop its own asperities.

"They say," observed Monsieur Fromagin, "that the cat--it was among his
many tricks--had the habitude to jump on Madame Jolicoeur's head when,
for that purpose, she covered it with a night-cap. The use of the cat's
claws on such a covering, and, also, her hair being very abundant--"

"_Very_ abundant!" interjected Madame Vic; and added: "She, she is of a
richness to buy wigs by the scores!"

"It was his custom, I say," continued Monsieur Fromagin with insistence,
"to steady himself after his leap by using lightly his claws. His
illusion in regard to the bald head of the Notary, it would seem, led to
the catastrophe. Using his claws at first lightly, according to his
habit, he went on to use them with a truly savage energy--when he found
himself as on ice on that slippery eminence and verging to a fall."

"They say that his scalp was peeled away in strips and strings!" said
Madame Vic. "And all the while that woman and that reprobate of a Major
standing by in shrieks and roars of laughter--never raising a hand to
save him from the beast's ferocities! The poor man has my sympathies.
He, at least, in all his doings--I do not for a moment believe the story
that he caused the cat to be stolen--observed rigidly the convenances:
so recklessly shattered by Madame Jolicoeur in her most compromising
dinner with the Major alone!"

"But Madame forgets that their dinner was in celebration of their
betrothal--following Madame Jolicoeur's glad yielding, in just
gratitude, when the Major heroically had rescued her deserving cat from
the midst of its enemies and triumphantly had restored it to her arms."

"It is the man's part," responded Madame Vic, "to make the best of such
matters. In the eyes of all right-minded women her conduct has been of a
shamelessness from first to last: tossing and balancing the two of them
for months upon months; luring them, and countless others with them, to
her feet; declaring always that for her disgusting cat's sake she will
have none of them; and ending by pretending brazenly that for her cat's
sake she bestows herself--second-hand remnant that she is--on the
handsomest man for his age, concerning his character it is well to be
silent; that she could find for herself in all Marseille! On such
actions, on such a woman, Monsieur, the saints in heaven look down with
an agonized scorn!"

"Only those of the saints, Madame," said Monsieur Fromagin, warmly
taking up the cudgels for his best customer, "as in the matter of second
marriages, prior to their arrival in heaven, have had regrettable
experiences. Equally, I venture to assert, a like qualification applies
to a like attitude on earth. That Madame has her prejudices, incident to
her misfortunes, is known."

"That Monsieur has his brutalities, incident to his regrettable bad
breeding, also is known. His present offensiveness, however, passes all
limits. I request him to remove himself from my sight." Madame Vic spoke
with dignity.

Speaking with less dignity, but with conviction--as Monsieur Fromagin
left the bakery--she added: "Monsieur, effectively, is a camel! I bestow
upon him my disdain!"

                                                       THOMAS A. JANVIER.



A FRIENDLY RAT


Most of our animals, also many creeping things, such as our "wilde
wormes in woods," common toads, natter-jacks, newts, and lizards, and
stranger still, many insects, have been tamed and kept as pets.

Badgers, otters, foxes, hares, and voles are easily dealt with; but that
any person should desire to fondle so prickly a creature as a hedgehog,
or so diabolical a mammalian as the bloodthirsty flat-headed little
weasel, seems very odd. Spiders, too, are uncomfortable pets; you can't
caress them as you could a dormouse; the most you can do is to provide
your spider with a clear glass bottle to live in, and teach him to come
out in response to a musical sound, drawn from a banjo or fiddle, to
take a fly from your fingers and go back again to its bottle.

An acquaintance of the writer is partial to adders as pets, and he
handles them as freely as the schoolboy does his innocuous ring-snake;
Mr. Benjamin Kidd once gave us a delightful account of his pet
humble-bees, who used to fly about his room, and come at call to be fed,
and who manifested an almost painful interest in his coat buttons,
examining them every day as if anxious to find out their true
significance. Then there was my old friend, Miss Hopely, the writer on
reptiles, who died recently, aged 99 years, who tamed newts, but whose
favourite pet was a slow-worm. She was never tired of expatiating on
its lovable qualities. One finds Viscount Grey's pet squirrels more
engaging, for these are wild squirrels in a wood in Northumberland, who
quickly find out when he is at home and make their way to the house,
scale the walls, and invade the library; then, jumping upon his
writing-table, are rewarded with nuts, which they take from his hand.
Another Northumbrian friend of the writer keeps, or kept, a pet
cormorant, and finds him no less greedy in the domestic than in the wild
state. After catching and swallowing fish all the morning in a
neighbouring river, he wings his way home at meal-times, screaming to be
fed, and ready to devour all the meat and pudding he can get.

The list of strange creatures might be extended indefinitely, even
fishes included; but who has ever heard of a tame pet rat? Not the small
white, pink-eyed variety, artificially bred, which one may buy at any
dealer's, but a common brown rat, _Mus decumanus_, one of the commonest
wild animals in England and certainly the most disliked. Yet this wonder
has been witnessed recently in the village of Lelant, in West Cornwall.
Here is the strange story, which is rather sad and at the same time a
little funny.

This was not a case of "wild nature won by kindness"; the rat simply
thrust itself and its friendship on the woman of the cottage: and she,
being childless and much alone in her kitchen and living-room, was not
displeased at its visits: on the contrary, she fed it; in return the rat
grew more and more friendly and familiar towards her, and the more
familiar it grew, the more she liked the rat. The trouble was, she
possessed a cat, a nice gentle animal not often at home, but it was
dreadful to think of what might happen at any moment should pussy walk
in when her visitor was with her. Then, one day, pussy did walk in when
the rat was present, purring loudly, her tail held stiffly up, showing
that she was in her usual sweet temper. On catching sight of the rat,
she appeared to know intuitively that it was there as a privileged
guest, while the rat on its part seemed to know, also by intuition, that
it had nothing to fear. At all events these two quickly became friends
and were evidently pleased to be together, as they now spent most of the
time in the room, and would drink milk from the same saucer, and sleep
bunched up together, and were extremely intimate.

By and by the rat began to busy herself making a nest in a corner of the
kitchen under a cupboard, and it became evident that there would soon be
an increase in the rat population. She now spent her time running about
and gathering little straws, feathers, string, and anything of the kind
she could pick up, also stealing or begging for strips of cotton, or
bits of wool and thread from the work-basket. Now it happened that her
friend was one of those cats with huge tufts of soft hair on the two
sides of her face; a cat of that type, which is not uncommon, has a
quaint resemblance to a Mid-Victorian gentleman with a pair of
magnificent side-whiskers of a silky softness covering both cheeks and
flowing down like a double beard. The rat suddenly discovered that this
hair was just what she wanted to add a cushion-like lining to her nest,
so that her naked pink little ratlings should be born into the softest
of all possible worlds. At once she started plucking out the hairs, and
the cat, taking it for a new kind of game, but a little too rough to
please her, tried for a while to keep her head out of reach and to throw
the rat off. But she wouldn't be thrown off, and as she persisted in
flying back and jumping at the cat's face and plucking the hairs, the
cat quite lost her temper and administered a blow with her claws
unsheathed.

The rat fled to her refuge to lick her wounds, and was no doubt as much
astonished at the sudden change in her friend's disposition as the cat
had been at the rat's new way of showing her playfulness. The result was
that when, after attending her scratches, she started upon her task of
gathering soft materials, she left the cat severely alone. They were no
longer friends; they simply ignored one another's presence in the room.
The little ones, numbering about a dozen, presently came to light and
were quietly removed by the woman's husband, who didn't mind his missis
keeping a rat, but drew the line at one.

The rat quickly recovered from her loss and was the same nice
affectionate little thing she had always been to her mistress; then a
fresh wonder came to light--cat and rat were fast friends once more!
This happy state of things lasted a few weeks; but, as we know, the rat
was married, though her lord and master never appeared on the scene,
indeed, he was not wanted; and very soon it became plain to see that
more little rats were coming. The rat is an exceedingly prolific
creature; she can give a month's start to a rabbit and beat her at the
end by about 40 points.

Then came the building of the nest in the same old corner, and when it
got to the last stage and the rat was busily running about in search of
soft materials for the lining, she once more made the discovery that
those beautiful tufts of hair on her friend's face were just what she
wanted, and once more she set vigorously to work pulling the hairs out.
Again, as on the former occasion, the cat tried to keep her friend off,
hitting her right and left with her soft pads, and spitting a little,
just to show that she didn't like it. But the rat was determined to have
the hairs, and the more she was thrown off the more bent was she on
getting them, until the breaking-point was reached and puss, in a sudden
rage, let fly, dealing blow after blow with lightning rapidity and with
all the claws out. The rat, shrieking with pain and terror, rushed out
of the room and was never seen again, to the lasting grief of her
mistress. But its memory will long remain like a fragrance in the
cottage--perhaps the only cottage in all this land where kindly feelings
for the rat are cherished.

                                                           W. H. HUDSON.



MONTY'S FRIEND


The discovery of gold at Thompson's Flat, near the northern boundary of
Montana, had been promptly followed by the expected rush of bold and
needy adventurers. But disappointment awaited them. Undoubtedly there
was gold a few feet below the surface, but it was not found in
quantities sufficient to compensate for the labour, privation, and
danger, which the miners were compelled to undergo.

It is true that the first discoverer of gold, who had given his name to
the Flat, had found a "pocket," which had made him a rich man; but his
luck remained unique, and as Big Simpson sarcastically remarked, "A man
might as well try to find a pocket in a woman's dress as to search for a
second pocket in Thompson's Flat." For eight months of the year the
ground was frozen deep and hard, and during the brief summer the heat
was intense. There were hostile Indians in the vicinity of the camp, and
although little danger was to be apprehended from them while the camp
swarmed with armed miners, there was every probability that they would
sooner or later attack the handful of men who had remained, after the
great majority of the miners had abandoned their claims and gone in
search of more promising fields.

In the early part of the summer following Thompson's discovery of gold
there were but thirty men left in the camp, with only a single combined
grocery and saloon to minister to their wants. Partly because of
obstinacy, and partly because of a want of energy to repeat the
experiment of searching for gold in some other unprofitable place, these
thirty men remained, and daily prosecuted their nearly hopeless search
for fortune. Their evenings were spent in the saloon, but there was a
conspicuous absence of anything like jollity. The men were too poor to
gamble with any zest, and the whiskey of the saloon keeper was bad and
dear.

The one gleam of good fortune which had come to the camp was the fact
that the Indians had disappeared, having, as it was believed, gone
hundreds of miles south to attack another tribe. Gradually the miners
relaxed the precautions which had at first been maintained against an
attack, and although every man went armed to his work, sentinels were no
longer posted either by day or night, and the Gatling gun that had been
bought by public subscription in the prosperous days of the camp
remained in the storeroom of the saloon without ammunition, and with its
mechanism rusty and immovable.

Only one miner had arrived at Thompson's Flat that summer. He was a
middle-aged man who said that his name was Montgomery Carleton--a name
which instantly awoke the resentment of the camp, and was speedily
converted into "Monte Carlo" by the resentful miners, who intimated very
plainly that no man could carry a fifteen-inch name in that camp and
live. Monte Carlo, or Monty, as he was usually called, had the further
distinction of being the ugliest man in the entire north-west. He had,
at some unspecified time, been kicked in the face by a mule, with the
result that his features were converted into a hideous mask. He seemed
to be of a social disposition, and would have joined freely in the
conversation which went on at the saloon, but his advances were coldly
received.

Instead of pitying the man's misfortune, and avoiding all allusion to
it, the miners bluntly informed him that he was too ugly to associate
with gentlemen, and that a modest and retiring attitude was what public
sentiment required of him. Monty took the rebuff quietly, and thereafter
rarely spoke unless he was spoken to. He continued to frequent the
saloon, sitting in the darkest corner, where he smoked his pipe, drank
his solitary whisky, and answered with pathetic pleasure any remark that
might be flung at him, even when it partook of the nature of a coarse
jest at his expense.

One gloomy evening Monty entered the saloon half an hour later than
usual. It had been raining all day, and the spirits of the camp had gone
down with the barometer. The men were more than ever conscious of their
bad luck, and having only themselves to blame for persistently remaining
at Thompson's Flat, were ready to cast the guilt of their folly on the
nearest available scapegoat. Monty was accustomed to entering the room
unnoticed, but on the present occasion he saw that instead of
contemptuously ignoring his presence, the other occupants of the saloon
were unmistakably scowling at him. Scarcely had he made his timid way to
his accustomed seat when Big Simpson said in a loud voice:

"Gentlemen, have you noticed that our luck has been more particularly
low down ever since that there beauty in the corner had the cheek to
sneak in among us?"

"That's so!" exclaimed Slippery Jim. "Monty is ugly enough to spoil the
luck of a blind nigger."

"You see," continued Simpson, "thishyer beauty is like the Apostle
Jonah. While he was aboard ship there wasn't any sort of luck, and at
last the crew took and hove him overboard, and served him right. There's
a mighty lot of wisdom in the Scriptures if you only take hold of 'em in
the right way. My dad was a preacher, and I know what I'm talking
about."

"That's more than the rest of us does," retorted Slippery Jim. "We ain't
no ship's crew and Monty ain't no apostle. If you mean we ought to heave
him into the creek, why don't you say so?"

"It wouldn't do him any harm," replied Simpson. "He's a dirty beast, and
this camp hasn't no call to associate with men that's afraid of water,
except, of course, when it comes to drinking it."

"I'm as clean as any man here," said Monty, stirred for the moment to
indignation. "Mining ain't the cleanest sort of work, and I don't find
no fault with Simpson nor any other man if he happens to carry a little
of his claim around with him."

"That'll do," said Simpson severely. "We don't allow no such cuss as you
to make reflections on gentlemen. We've put up with your ugly mug
altogether too long, and I for one ain't going to do it no longer. What
do you say, gentlemen?" he continued, turning to his companions, "shall
we trifle with our luck, and lower our self-respect any longer by
tolerating the company of that there disreputable, low-down, miserable
coyote? I go for boycotting him. Let him work his own claim and sleep in
his own cabin if he wants to, but don't let him intrude himself into
this saloon or into our society anywhere else."

The proposal met with unanimous approval. The men wanted something on
which to wreak their spite against adverse fortune, and as Monty was
unpopular and friendless he was made the victim. Simpson ordered him to
withdraw from the saloon and never again to enter it at an hour when
other gentlemen were there. "What's more," he added, "you'll not venture
to speak to anybody; and if any gentleman chances to heave a remark at
you you'll answer him at your peril. We're a law-abiding camp, and we
don't want to use violence against no man; but if you don't conform to
the kind and reasonable regulations that I've just mentioned to you,
there'll be a funeral, and you'll be required to furnish the corpse. You
hear me?"

"I hear you," said Monty. "I hear a man what's got no more feelings than
a ledge of quartz rock. What harm have I ever done to any man in the
camp? I know I ain't handsome, but there's some among you that ain't
exactly Pauls and Apolloses. If you don't want me here why don't you
take me and shoot me? It would be a sight kinder and more decent than
the way you say you mean to treat me."

"Better dry up!" said Simpson, warningly. "We don't want none of your
lip. We've had enough of you, and that's all about it."

"I've no more to say," replied Monty, rising and moving to the door.
"If you've had enough of me I've had enough of you. I've been treated
worse than a dog, and I ain't going to lick no man's hand. Good evening,
gentlemen. The day may come when some of you will be ashamed of this
day's work, that is if you've heart enough to be ashamed of anything."

So saying Monty walked slowly out, closing the door ostentatiously
behind him. His departure was greeted by a burst of laughter, and the
cheerfulness of the assembled miners having been restored by the
sacrifice of Monte Carlo, a subdued gaiety once more reigned in the
saloon.

Monty returned to his desolate cabin, and after lighting his candle
threw himself into his bunk. The man was coarse and ignorant, but he was
capable of keenly feeling the insult that had been put upon him. He knew
that he was hideously ugly, but he had never dreamed that the fact would
be made a pretext for thrusting him from the society of his kind.
Strange to say he felt little anger against his persecutors. No thoughts
of revenge came to him as he lay in the silence and loneliness of his
cabin. For the time being the sense of utter isolation crowded out all
other sensations. He felt infinitely more alone when the sound of voices
reached him from the saloon than he would have felt had he been lost in
the great North forest.

Before coming to Thompson's Flat he had lived in one of the large towns
of Michigan, where decent and civilized people had not been ashamed to
associate with him. Here, in this wretched mining camp, a gang of men,
guiltless of washing, foul in language, and brutal in instinct, had
informed him that he was unfit to associate with them. There had never
been any one among the miners for whom he had felt the slightest liking;
but it had been a comfort to exchange an occasional word with a
fellow-being. Now that he was sentenced to complete isolation he felt as
a shipwrecked man feels who has been cast alone on an uninhabited
island. If the men would only retract their sentence of banishment, and
would permit him to sit in his accustomed corner of the saloon he would
not care how coarsely they might insult him--if only he could feel that
his existence was recognized.

But no! There was no hope for him. The men hated him because of his
maimed and distorted face. They despised him, possibly because he did
not permit himself to resent their conduct with his revolver, and thus
give them an excuse for killing him. He could not leave the camp and
make his way without supplies to the nearest civilized community. There
was nothing for him to do but to work his miserable claim, and bear the
immense and awful loneliness of his lot. As Monty thought over the
situation and saw the hopelessness of it, his breath came in quick gasps
until he broke into a sob, and the tears flowed down his scarred and
grimy cheeks.

A low, inquiring mew drew his attention for a moment from his woes. The
camp cat--a ragged, disreputable animal, who owned no master, and
rejected all friendly advances--stood in the door of Monty's cabin, with
an interrogative tail pointing to the zenith and a friendly arch in his
shabby back.

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.

Monty was himself again. He was no longer alone. Tom, the cat, had come
to him in the hour of his agony and had brought the solace of a love
that did not heed his ugliness. Henceforth he would never be wholly
alone, no matter how strictly the men might enforce their boycott
against him. He no longer cared what they might do or say. He felt the
warm breath of the friendly animal on his cheek. The remnant of its
right ear twitched from time to time and tickled his lip. The long
sinewy paws pressed against his neck trembled nervously, as the cat
dreamed of stalking fat sparrows, or of stealing fried fish. Its hoarse
croupy purr sounded like the sweetest music to the lonely man. "There's
you and me, and me and you, Tom!" said Monty, stroking the cat's ragged
and crumpled fur. "We'll stick together, and neither of us won't care a
cuss what them low-down fellows says or does. You and me'll be all the
world to one another. God bless you forever for coming to me this
night."

From that time onward, Monte Carlo and Tom were the most intimate of
friends. Wherever the man went the cat followed. When he was working in
the shallow trench, where the sparse gold dust was found, Tom sat or
slept on the edge of the trench, and occasionally reminded Monty of the
presence of a friend, by the soft crooning sound which a mother cat
makes to her newborn kittens. The two shared their noon meal together;
and it was said by those who professed to have watched them that the cat
always had the first choice of food, while the man contented himself
with what his comrade rejected. In the evening Monty and Tom sat
together at the door of the cabin, and conversed in low tones of any
subject that happened to interest them for the time being. Monty set
forth his political and social views, and the cat, listening with
attention, mewed assent, or more rarely expressed an opposite opinion by
the short, sharp mew, or an unmistakable oath.

Once or twice a week Monty was compelled to visit the saloon for
groceries and other necessities. He always made these visits when the
men of the camp were working in their claims; and he was invariably
accompanied by Tom, who trotted by his side, and sprang on his shoulder
while he made his purchases. The saloon keeper declared that when once
by accident he gave Monty the wrong change, Tom loudly called his
friend's attention to the error and insisted that it should be
rectified. "That there cat," said the saloon keeper to his assembled
guests on the following evening, "ain't no ordinary cat, for it stands
to reason that if he was he wouldn't chum with Monty. A cat that takes
up with such a pal, and that talks pretty near as well as you or me, or
any other Christian is, according to what I learned at Sunday School,
possessed with the devil. You mark my word, Monty sold his soul to that
pretended cat, and presently he'll be shown a pocket chuck full of
nuggets, and will go home with his ill-gotten gains while we stay here
and starve."

The feeling that there was something uncanny in the relations that
existed between Monte Carlo and the cat gradually spread through the
camp. While no man condescended to speak to the boycotted Monty, a close
watch was kept upon him. Slippery Jim asserted that he had heard Monty
and Tom discuss the characters of nearly every man in the camp, while he
was concealed one evening in the tall grass near Monty's cabin.

"First," said Jim, "Monty asked kind o' careless like, 'What may be your
opinion of that there Big Simpson?' The cat, he just swears sort of
contemptuous, and then Monty says, 'Jest so! That's what I've always
said about him; and I calculated that a cat of your intelligence would
say the same thing.' By and by Monty says, 'What's that you're saying
about Red-haired Dick? You think he'd steal mice from a blind cat, and
then lay it on the dog? Well! my son! I don't say he wouldn't. He's
about as mean as they make 'em, and if I was you I wouldn't trust him
with a last year's bone!' Then they kept on jawing to each other about
this and that, and exchanging views about politics and religion, till
after a while Tom lets out a yowl that sounded as if it was meant for a
big laugh. Monty, he laughed too; and then he says, 'I never thought you
would have noticed it, but that's exactly what Slippery Jim does every
time he gets a chance.'

"I don't know," continued Jim, "what they were referring to, but I do
know that Monty and the cat talk together just as easy as you and me
could talk, and I say that if it's come to this, that we're going to
allow an idiot of a man and a devil of a cat to take away the characters
of respectable gentlemen, we'd better knuckle down and beg Monty to take
charge of this camp and to treat us like so many Injun squaws."

Other miners followed Slippery Jim's example, in watching and listening
to his conversations with the cat, and the indignation against the
animal and his companion grew deep and bitter. It was decided that the
scandal of an ostentatious friendship between a boycotted man and a cat
that was unquestionably possessed by the devil must be ended. The
suggestion that the cat should be shot would undoubtedly have been
carried out, had it not been that Boston, who was a spiritualist,
asserted that the animal could be hit only by a silver bullet. The camp
would gladly have expended a silver bullet in so good a cause, but there
was not a particle of silver in the camp, except what was contained in
two or three silver watches.

After several earnest discussions of the subject it was resolved that
the cat should be hung on a stout witch-hazel bush, growing within a few
yards of Simpson's cabin. It was recognized that hanging was an
eminently proper method of treatment in the case of a cat of such
malevolent character; and as for Monty himself, more than one man openly
said that if he made any trouble about the disposal of the cat, he would
instantly be strung up to a convenient pine tree which stood close to
the witch-hazel bush.

The next morning a committee of six, led by Big Simpson, cautiously
approached the trench in which Monty was working. There was nearly an
eighth of a mile between Monty's claim and those of the other miners.
The latter had taken possession of that part of Thompson's Flat which
seemed to hold out the best promise for gold, and Monty, partly because
of his unprepossessing appearance, had been compelled to content himself
with what was considered to be the least valuable claim in the camp.

The committee made its way through the long coarse grass, which had
sprung up under the fierce heat of summer, and was already as parched
and dry as tinder. They had intended to seize the cat before Monty had
become aware of their presence; and they were somewhat disconcerted when
Monty, with the cat clasped tightly in his arms, came running towards
them. "There's Injuns just over there in the woods," he cried. "Tom
sighted them first, and after he'd called me I looked and see three
devils sneaking along towards your end of the camp. You boys, rush and
get your Winchesters, and I'll be with you in a couple of minutes."

The men did not stop to question the accuracy of Monty's story. They
forgot their designs against the cat, and no longer thought of their
promise to shoot the boycotted man if he ventured to address them. They
ran to their cabins, and seizing their rifles, rallied at the saloon,
which was the only building capable of affording shelter. It was built
of stout logs, and its one door was immensely thick and strong. By
firing through the windows the garrison could keep at bay, at least for
a time, the cautious Indian warriors, who would not charge through the
open, so long as they could harass the miners from the shelter of the
wood.

After Monty had placed his cat in his bunk he took his rifle, and
carefully closing the door of his cabin, joined his late enemies in the
saloon. Several of them nodded genially to him as he entered, and
Simpson, who was arranging the plan of defence, told him to take a
position by one of the rear windows. The men understood perfectly well
that Monty's warning had saved them from a surprise in which they would
have been cruelly massacred. Perhaps they felt somewhat ashamed of their
previous treatment of the man, but they offered no word of apology.

However Monty thought little of their manner. Although he knew that in
all probability the siege would be prolonged until not a single miner
was left alive, his thoughts were not on himself or his companions.
Would the Indians overlook his cabin, or in case they found it, would
they offer violence to Tom? These were the questions that occupied his
mind as he watched through the window for the gleam of a rifle barrel in
the edge of the forest and answered every puff of smoke with an
instantaneous shot from his Winchester. The enemy kept carefully under
cover, and devoted their efforts to firing at the windows of the saloon.
Already three shots had taken effect. Two dead bodies lay on the floor,
and a wounded man sat in the corner, leaning against the wall, and
slowly bleeding to death. Suddenly a cloud of smoke shot up in the
direction of Monty's cabin. The Indians had set fire to the dry grass,
and the flames were sweeping towards the cabin in which the cat was
imprisoned.

Monty took in the situation and came to a decision with the same
swiftness and certainty with which he pulled the trigger. "You'll have
to excuse me, boys, for a few minutes," he said, rising from his
crouched attitude and throwing his rifle into the hollow of his arm.

"What's the matter with you?" growled Simpson. "Have you turned coward
all of a sudden, or are you thinking of scaring the Injuns by giving
them a sight of your countenance?"

"That there cabin of mine will be blazing inside of five minutes, and
I've left Tom in it with the door fastened," replied Monty, ignoring the
insulting suggestions of Simpson, and beginning to unbar the door.

"Here! Come back, you blamed lunatic!" roared Simpson. "Do you call
yourself a white man, and then throw your life away for a measly,
rascally cat?"

"I am going to help my friend if I kin," said Monty. "He stood by me
when thishyer camp throwed me over, and I'll stand by him now he's in
trouble."

So saying he quietly passed out and vanished from the sight of the
astonished miners.

"I told you," said Slippery Jim, "that Monty was bewitched by that there
cat. Who ever heard of a man that was a man who cared whether a cat got
burned to death or not?"

"You shut up!" exclaimed Simpson. "You haven't got sand enough to stand
by your own brother--let alone standing by a cat."

"What's the matter with you?" retorted Jim. "You was the one who
proposed boycotting Monty, and now you're talking as if he was a tin
saint on wheels."

"Monty's acted like a man in this business," replied Simpson, "and it's
my opinion that we've all treated him pretty particular mean. If we pull
through this scrimmage Monty's my friend, and don't you forget it."

Monte Carlo lost none of his habitual caution, although he was engaged
in what he knew to be a desperate and nearly hopeless enterprise. On
leaving the saloon he threw himself flat on the ground, and slowly drew
himself along until he reached the shelter of the high grass. Then
rising to his hands and knees he crept rapidly and steadily in the
direction of his cabin.

His course soon brought him between the fire of the miners and that of
the Indians, but as neither could see him he fancied he was safe for the
moment. He was drawing steadily closer to his goal, and was already
beginning to feel the thrill of success, when a sharp blow on the right
knee brought him headlong to the ground. A stray shot, fired possibly by
some nervous miner who had taken his place at the saloon window, had
struck him and smashed his leg.

He could no longer creep on his hands and knees, but with indomitable
resolution he dragged himself onward by clutching at the strong roots of
the grass. His disabled leg gave him exquisite pain as it trailed behind
him, and he knew that the wound was bleeding freely; but he still hoped
to reach his cabin before faintness or death should put a stop to his
progress. He felt sure that the shot which had struck him had not been
aimed at him by an Indian, for if it had been he would already have felt
the scalping knife. The nearer he drew to his cabin the less danger
there was that the Indians would perceive him. If he could only endure
the pain and the hemorrhage a few minutes longer he could reach and push
open the door of his cabin, and give his imprisoned friend a chance for
life. He dragged himself on with unfaltering resolution, and with his
silent lips closed tightly. Not a groan nor a curse nor a prayer escaped
him. He stuck to his task with the grim fortitude of the wolf who gnaws
his leg free from the trap. All his thoughts and all his fast-vanishing
strength were concentrated on the effort to save the creature that had
loved him.

After an eternity of anguish he reached the open space in front of the
cabin, where the thick smoke hid him completely from the sight of both
friends and foes. The flames had just caught the roof, and the heat was
so intense that for an instant it made him forget the pain of his wound,
as his choked lungs gasped for air. The wail of the frightened animal
within the cabin gave him new energy. Digging his fingers into the
ground he dragged himself across the few yards that separated him from
the door. He reached it at last, pushed it open, and with a smile on his
face lost consciousness as the cat bounded out and fled like a mad
creature into the grass.

Two hours later a troop of Mounted Police, who had illegally and
generously crossed the border in time to drive off the Indians and to
rescue the few surviving members of the camp, found, close to the
smouldering embers of Monty's cabin, a scorched and blackened corpse, by
the side of which sat a bristling black cat. The animal ceased to lick
the maimed features of the dead man, and turned fiercely on the
approaching troopers. When one of them dismounted and attempted to touch
the corpse the cat flew at him with such fury that he hurriedly
remounted his horse, amid the jeers of his comrades. The cat resumed the
effort to recall the dead man to life with its rough caresses, and the
men sat silently in their saddles watching the strange sight.

"We can't bury the man without first shooting the cat," said one of the
troopers.

"Then we'll let him lie," said the sergeant in command. "We can stop
here on our way back from the Fort, and maybe by that time the cat'll
listen to reason. I'd as soon shoot my best friend as shoot the poor
beast now."

And the troop passed on, leaving Tom alone in the wilderness with his
silent friend.

                                              WILLIAM LIVINGSTON ALDEN.



THE QUEEN'S CAT


Once there was a great and powerful King who was as good as gold and as
brave as a lion, but he had one weakness, which was a horror of cats. If
he saw one through an open window he shuddered so that his medals
jangled together and his crown fell off; if any one mentioned a cat at
the table he instantly spilled his soup all down the front of his
ermine; and if by any chance a cat happened to stroll into the audience
chamber, he immediately jumped on to his throne, gathering his robes
around him and shrieking at the top of his lungs.

Now this King was a bachelor and his people didn't like it; so being
desirous of pleasing them, he looked around among the neighbouring royal
families and hit upon a very sweet and beautiful princess, whom he asked
in marriage without any delay, for he was a man of action.

Her parents giving their hearty consent, the pair were married at her
father's palace; and after the festivities were over, the King sped home
to see to the preparation of his wife's apartments. In due time she
arrived, bringing with her a cat. When he saw her mounting the steps
with the animal under her arm, the King, who was at the door to meet
her, uttering a horrid yell, fell in a swoon and had to be revived with
spirits of ammonia. The courtiers hastened to inform the Queen of her
husband's failing, and when he came to, he found her in tears.

"I cannot exist without a cat!" she wept.

"And I, my love," replied the King, "cannot exist with one!"

"You must learn to bear it!" said she.

"You must learn to live without it!" said he.

"But life would not be worth living without a cat!" she wailed.

"Well, well, my love, we will see what we can do," sighed the King.

"Suppose," he went on, "you kept it in the round tower over there. Then
you could go to see it."

"Shut up my cat that has been used to running around in the open air?"
cried the Queen. "Never!"

"Suppose," suggested the King again, "we made an enclosure for it of
wire netting."

"My dear," cried the Queen, "a good strong cat like mine could climb out
in a minute."

"Well," said the King once more, "suppose we give it the palace roof,
and I will keep out of the way."

"That is a good scheme," said his wife, drying her eyes.

And they immediately fitted up the roof with a cushioned shelter, and a
bed of catnip, and a bench where the Queen might sit. There the cat was
left; and the Queen went up three times a day to feed it, and twice as
many times to visit it, and for almost two days that seemed the solution
of the problem. Then the cat discovered that by making a spring to the
limb of an overhanging oak tree, it could climb down the trunk and go
where it liked. This it did, making its appearance in the throne-room,
where the King was giving audience to an important ambassador. Much to
the amazement of the latter, the monarch leapt up screaming, and was
moreover so upset, that the affairs of state had all to be postponed
till the following day. The tree was, of course, cut down; and the next
day the cat found crawling down the gutter to be just as easy, and
jumped in the window while the court was at breakfast. The King
scrambled on to the breakfast table, skilfully overturning the cream and
the coffee with one foot, while planting the other in the poached eggs,
and wreaking untold havoc among the teacups. Again the affairs of state
were postponed while the gutter was ripped off the roof, to the fury of
the head gardener, who had just planted his spring seeds in the beds
around the palace walls. Of course the next rain washed them all away.

This sort of thing continued. The wistaria vine which had covered the
front of the palace for centuries, was ruthlessly torn down, the
trellises along the wings soon followed; and finally an ancient grape
arbour had perforce to be removed as it proved a sure means of descent
for that invincible cat. Even then, he cleverly utilized the balconies
as a ladder to the ground; but by this time the poor King's nerves were
quite shattered and the doctor was called in. All he could prescribe was
a total abstinence from cat; and the Queen, tearfully finding a home for
her pet, composed herself to live without one. The King, well cared for,
soon revived and was himself again, placidly conducting the affairs of
state, and happy in the society of his beloved wife. Not so the latter.

Before long it was noticed that the Queen grew wan, was often heard to
sniff, and seen to wipe her eyes, would not eat, could not sleep,--in
short, the doctor was again called in.

"Dear, dear," he said disconsolately, combing his long beard with his
thin fingers. "This is a difficult situation indeed. There must not be a
cat on the premises, or the King will assuredly have nervous
prostration. Yet the Queen must have a cat or she will pine quite away
with nostalgia."

"I think I had best return to my family," sobbed the poor Queen,
dejectedly. "I bring you nothing but trouble, my own."

"That is impossible, my dearest love," said the King decidedly--"Here my
people have so long desired me to marry, and now that I am at last
settled in the matrimonial way, we must not disappoint them. They enjoy
a Queen so much. It gives them something pretty to think about. Besides,
my love, I am attached to you, myself, and could not possibly manage
without you. No, my dear, there may be a way out of our difficulties,
but that certainly is not it." Having delivered which speech the King
lapsed again into gloom, and the doctor who was an old friend of the
King's went away sadly.

He returned, however, the following day with a smile tangled somewhere
in his long beard. He found the King sitting mournfully by the Queen's
bedside.

"Would your majesty," began the doctor, turning to the Queen, "object
to a cat that did not look like a cat?"

"Oh, no," cried she, earnestly, "just so it's a _cat_!"

"Would your majesty," said the doctor again, turning to the King,
"object to a cat that did not look like a cat?"

"Oh, no," cried he, "just so it doesn't _look_ like a cat!"

"Well," said the doctor, beaming, "I have a cat that is a cat and that
doesn't look any more like a cat than a skillet, and I should be only
too honoured to present it to the Queen if she would be so gracious as
to accept it."

Both the King and the Queen were overjoyed and thanked the doctor with
tears in their eyes. So the cat--for it was a cat though you never would
have known it--arrived and was duly presented to the Queen, who welcomed
it with open arms and felt better immediately.

It was a thin, wiry, long-legged creature, with no tail at all, and
large ears like sails, a face like a lean isosceles triangle with the
nose as a very sharp apex, eyes small and yellow like flat buttons,
brown fur short and coarse, and large floppy feet. It had a voice like a
steam siren and its name was Rosamund.

The King and Queen were both devoted to it; she because it was a cat, he
because it seemed anything but a cat. No one indeed could convince the
King that it was not a beautiful animal, and he had made for it a
handsome collar of gold and amber--"to match," he said, sentimentally,
"its lovely eyes." In sooth so ugly a beast never had such a pampered
and luxurious existence, certainly never so royal a one. Appreciating
its wonderful good fortune, it never showed any inclination to depart;
and the King, the Queen, and Rosamund lived happily ever after.

                                                          PEGGY BACON.



CALVIN


Calvin is dead. His life, long to him, but short for the rest of us, was
not marked by startling adventures, but his character was so uncommon
and his qualities were so worthy of imitation, that I have been asked by
those who personally knew him to set down my recollections of his
career.

His origin and ancestry were shrouded in mystery; even his age was a
matter of pure conjecture. Although he was of the Maltese race, I have
reason to suppose that he was American by birth as he certainly was in
sympathy. Calvin was given to me eight years ago by Mrs. Stowe, but she
knew nothing of his age or origin. He walked into her house one day out
of the great unknown and became at once at home, as if he had been
always a friend of the family. He appeared to have artistic and literary
tastes, and it was as if he had inquired at the door if that was the
residence of the author of _Uncle Tom's Cabin_, and, upon being assured
that it was, had decided to dwell there. This is, of course, fanciful,
for his antecedents were wholly unknown, but in his time he could hardly
have been in any household where he would not have heard _Uncle Tom's
Cabin_ talked about. When he came to Mrs. Stowe, he was as large as he
ever was, and apparently as old as he ever became. Yet there was in him
no appearance of age; he was in the happy maturity of all his powers,
and you would rather have said in that maturity he had found the secret
of perpetual youth. And it was as difficult to believe that he would
ever be aged as it was to imagine that he had ever been in immature
youth. There was in him a mysterious perpetuity.

After some years, when Mrs. Stowe made her winter home in Florida,
Calvin came to live with us. From the first moment, he fell into the
ways of the house and assumed a recognized position in the family,--I
say recognized, because after he became known he was always inquired for
by visitors, and in the letters to the other members of the family he
always received a message. Although the least obtrusive of beings, his
individuality always made itself felt.

His personal appearance had much to do with this, for he was of royal
mould, and had an air of high breeding. He was large, but he had nothing
of the fat grossness of the celebrated Angora family; though powerful,
he was exquisitely proportioned, and as graceful in every movement as a
young leopard. When he stood up to open a door--he opened all the doors
with old-fashioned latches--he was portentously tall, and when stretched
on the rug before the fire he seemed too long for this world--as indeed
he was. His coat was the finest and softest I have ever seen, a shade of
quiet Maltese; and from his throat downward, underneath, to the white
tips of his feet, he wore the whitest and most delicate ermine; and no
person was ever more fastidiously neat. In his finely formed head you
saw something of his aristocratic character; the ears were small and
cleanly cut, there was a tinge of pink in the nostrils, his face was
handsome, and the expression of his countenance exceedingly
intelligent--I should call it even a sweet expression if the term were
not inconsistent with his look of alertness and sagacity.

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.

The intelligence of Calvin was something phenomenal, in his rank of
life. He established a method of communicating his wants, and even some
of his sentiments; and he could help himself in many things. There was a
furnace register in a retired room, where he used to go when he wished
to be alone, that he always opened when he desired more heat; but never
shut it, any more than he shut the door after himself. He could do
almost everything but speak; and you would declare sometimes that you
could see a pathetic longing to do that in his intelligent face. I have
no desire to overdraw his qualities, but if there was one thing in him
more noticeable than another, it was his fondness for nature. He could
content himself for hours at a low window, looking into the ravine and
at the great trees, noting the smallest stir there; he delighted, above
all things, to accompany me walking about the garden, hearing the birds,
getting the smell of the fresh earth, and rejoicing in the sunshine. He
followed me and gambolled like a dog, rolling over on the turf and
exhibiting his delight in a hundred ways. If I worked, he sat and
watched me, or looked off over the bank, and kept his ear open to the
twitter in the cherry-trees. When it stormed, he was sure to sit at the
window, keenly watching the rain or the snow, glancing up and down at
its falling; and a winter tempest always delighted him. I think he was
genuinely fond of birds, but, so far as I know, he usually confined
himself to one a day; he never killed, as some sportsmen do, for the
sake of killing, but only as civilized people do,--from necessity. He
was intimate with the flying-squirrels who dwell in the
chestnut-trees,--too intimate, for almost every day in the summer he
would bring in one, until he nearly discouraged them. He was, indeed, a
superb hunter, and would have been a devastating one, if his bump of
destructiveness had not been offset by a bump of moderation. There was
very little of the brutality of the lower animals about him; I don't
think he enjoyed rats for themselves, but he knew his business, and for
the first few months of his residence with us he waged an awful campaign
against the horde, and after that his simple presence was sufficient to
deter them from coming on the premises. Mice amused him, but he usually
considered them too small game to be taken seriously; I have seen him
play for an hour with a mouse, and then let him go with a royal
condescension. In this whole matter of "getting a living," Calvin was a
great contrast to the rapacity of the age in which he lived.

I hesitate a little to speak of his capacity for friendship and the
affectionateness of his nature, for I know from his own reserve that he
would not care to have it much talked about. We understood each other
perfectly, but we never made any fuss about it; when I spoke his name
and snapped my fingers, he came to me; when I returned home at night, he
was pretty sure to be waiting for me near the gate, and would rise and
saunter along the walk, as if his being there were purely
accidental,--so shy was he commonly of showing feeling; and when I
opened the door he never rushed in, like a cat, but loitered, and
lounged, as if he had had no intention of going in, but would condescend
to. And yet, the fact was, he knew dinner was ready, and he was bound
to be there. He kept the run of dinner-time. It happened sometimes,
during our absence in the summer, that dinner would be early, and Calvin
walking about the grounds, missed it and came in late. But he never made
a mistake the second day. There was one thing he never did,--he never
rushed through an open doorway. He never forgot his dignity. If he had
asked to have the door opened, and was eager to go out, he always went
deliberately; I can see him now, standing on the sill, looking about at
the sky as if he was thinking whether it were worth while to take an
umbrella, until he was near having his tail shut in.

His friendship was rather constant than demonstrative. When we returned
from an absence of nearly two years, Calvin welcomed us with evident
pleasure, but showed his satisfaction rather by tranquil happiness than
by fuming about. He had the faculty of making us glad to get home. It
was his constancy that was so attractive. He liked companionship, but he
wouldn't be petted, or fussed over, or sit in any one's lap a moment; he
always extricated himself from such familiarity with dignity and with no
show of temper. If there was any petting to be done, however, he chose
to do it. Often he would sit looking at me, and then, moved by a
delicate affection, come and pull at my coat and sleeve until he could
touch my face with his nose, and then go away contented. He had a habit
of coming to my study in the morning, sitting quietly by my side or on
the table for hours, watching the pen run over the paper, occasionally
swinging his tail round for a blotter, and then going to sleep among
the papers by the inkstand. Or, more rarely, he would watch the writing
from a perch on my shoulder. Writing always interested him, and, until
he understood it, he wanted to hold the pen.

He always held himself in a kind of reserve with his friend, as if he
had said, "Let us respect our personality, and not make a 'mess' of
friendship." He saw, with Emerson, the risk of degrading it to trivial
conveniency. "Why insist on rash personal relations with your friend?"
"Leave this touching and clawing." Yet I would not give an unfair notion
of his aloofness, his fine sense of the sacredness of the me and the
not-me. And, at the risk of not being believed, I will relate an
incident, which was often repeated. Calvin had the practice of passing a
portion of the night in the contemplation of its beauties, and would
come into our chamber over the roof of the conservatory through the open
window, summer and winter, and go to sleep on the foot of my bed. He
would do this always exactly in this way; he never was content to stay
in the chamber if we compelled him to go upstairs and through the door.
He had the obstinacy of General Grant. But this is by the way. In the
morning, he performed his toilet and went down to breakfast with the
rest of the family. Now, when the mistress was absent from home, and at
no other time, Calvin would come in the morning, when the bell rang, to
the head of the bed, put up his feet and look into my face, follow me
about when I rose, "assist" at the dressing, and in many purring ways
show his fondness, as if he had plainly said, "I know that she has gone
away, but I am here." Such was Calvin in rare moments.

He had his limitations. Whatever passion he had for nature, he had no
conception of art. There was sent to him once a fine and very expressive
cat's head in bronze, by Frémiet. I placed it on the floor. He regarded
it intently, approached it cautiously and crouchingly, touched it with
his nose, perceived the fraud, turned away abruptly, and never would
notice it afterward. On the whole, his life was not only a successful
one, but a happy one. He never had but one fear, so far as I know: he
had a mortal and a reasonable terror of plumbers. He would never stay in
the house when they were here. No coaxing could quiet him. Of course he
didn't share our fear about their charges, but he must have had some
dreadful experience with them in that portion of his life which is
unknown to us. A plumber was to him the devil, and I have no doubt that,
in his scheme, plumbers were foreordained to do him mischief.

In speaking of his worth, it has never occurred to me to estimate Calvin
by the worldly standard. I know that it is customary now, when any one
dies, to ask how much he was worth, and that no obituary in the
newspapers is considered complete without such an estimate. The plumbers
in our house were one day overheard to say that, "They say that _she_
says that _he_ says that he wouldn't take a hundred dollars for him." It
is unnecessary to say that I never made such a remark, and that, so far
as Calvin was concerned, there was no purchase in money.

As I look back upon it, Calvin's life seems to me a fortunate one, for
it was natural and unforced. He ate when he was hungry, slept when he
was sleepy, and enjoyed existence to the very tips of his toes and the
end of his expressive and slow-moving tail. He delighted to roam about
the garden, and stroll among the trees, and to lie on the green grass
and luxuriate in all the sweet influences of summer. You could never
accuse him of idleness, and yet he knew the secret of repose. The poet
who wrote so prettily of him that his little life was rounded with a
sleep, understated his felicity; it was rounded with a good many. His
conscience never seemed to interfere with his slumbers. In fact, he had
good habits and a contented mind. I can see him now walk in at the study
door, sit down by my chair, bring his tail artistically about his feet,
and look up at me with unspeakable happiness in his handsome face. I
often thought that he felt the dumb limitation which denied him the
power of language. But since he was denied speech, he scorned the
inarticulate mouthings of the lower animals. The vulgar mewing and
yowling of the cat species was beneath him; he sometimes uttered a sort
of articulate and well-bred ejaculation, when he wished to call
attention to something that he considered remarkable, or to some want of
his, but he never went whining about. He would sit for hours at a closed
window, when he desired to enter, without a murmur, and when it was
opened he never admitted that he had been impatient by "bolting" in.
Though speech he had not, and the unpleasant kind of utterance given to
his race he would not use, he had a mighty power of purr to express his
measureless content with congenial society. There was in him a musical
organ with stops of varied power and expression, upon which I have no
doubt he could have performed Scarlatti's celebrated cat's-fugue.

Whether Calvin died of old age, or was carried off by one of the
diseases incident to youth, it is impossible to say; for his departure
was as quiet as his advent was mysterious. I only know that he appeared
to us in this world in his perfect stature and beauty, and that after a
time, like Lohengrin, he withdrew. In his illness there was nothing more
to be regretted than in all his blameless life. I suppose there never
was an illness that had more of dignity and sweetness and resignation in
it. It came on gradually, in a kind of listlessness and want of
appetite. An alarming symptom was his preference for the warmth of a
furnace-register to the lively sparkle of the open wood-fire. Whatever
pain he suffered, he bore it in silence, and seemed only anxious not to
obtrude his malady. We tempted him with the delicacies of the season,
but it soon became impossible for him to eat, and for two weeks he ate
or drank scarcely anything. Sometimes he made an effort to take
something, but it was evident that he made the effort to please us. The
neighbours--and I am convinced that the advice of neighbours is never
good for anything--suggested catnip. He wouldn't even smell it. We had
the attendance of an amateur practitioner of medicine, whose real office
was the cure of souls, but nothing touched his case. He took what was
offered, but it was with the air of one to whom the time for pellets was
passed. He sat or lay day after day almost motionless, never once making
a display of those vulgar convulsions or contortions of pain which are
so disagreeable to society. His favourite place was on the brightest
spot of a Smyrna rug by the conservatory, where the sunlight fell and he
could hear the fountain play. If we went to him and exhibited our
interest in his condition, he always purred in recognition of our
sympathy. And when I spoke his name, he looked up with an expression
that said, "I understand it, old fellow, but it's no use." He was to all
who came to visit him a model of calmness and patience in affliction.

I was absent from home at the last, but heard by daily postal-card of
his failing condition; and never again saw him alive. One sunny morning,
he rose from his rug, went into the conservatory (he was very thin
then), walked around it deliberately, looking at all the plants he knew,
and then went to the bay-window in the dining-room, and stood a long
time looking out upon the little field, now brown and sere, and toward
the garden, where perhaps the happiest hours of his life had been spent.
It was a last look. He turned and walked away, laid himself down upon
the bright spot in the rug, and quietly died.

It is not too much to say that a little shock went through the
neighbourhood when it was known that Calvin was dead, so marked was his
individuality; and his friends, one after another, came in to see him.
There was no sentimental nonsense about his obsequies; it was felt that
any parade would have been distasteful to him. John, who acted as
undertaker, prepared a candle-box for him, and I believe assumed a
professional decorum; but there may have been the usual levity
underneath, for I heard that he remarked in the kitchen that it was the
"dryest wake he ever attended." Everybody, however, felt a fondness for
Calvin, and regarded him with a certain respect. Between him and Bertha
there existed a great friendship, and she apprehended his nature; she
used to say that sometimes she was afraid of him, he looked at her so
intelligently; she was never certain that he was what he appeared to be.

When I returned, they had laid Calvin on a table in an upper chamber by
an open window. It was February. He reposed in a candle-box, lined about
the edge with evergreen, and at his head stood a little wine-glass with
flowers. He lay with his head tucked down in his arms,--a favourite
position of his before the fire,--as if asleep in the comfort of his
soft and exquisite fur. It was the involuntary exclamation of those who
saw him, "How natural he looks!" As for myself, I said nothing. John
buried him under the twin hawthorn-trees,--one white and the other
pink,--in a spot where Calvin was fond of lying and listening to the hum
of summer insects and the twitter of birds.

Perhaps I have failed to make appear the individuality of character that
was so evident to those who knew him. At any rate, I have set down
nothing concerning him but the literal truth. He was always a mystery. I
did not know whence he came; I do not know whither he has gone. I would
not weave one spray of falsehood in the wreath I lay upon his grave.

                                                  CHARLES DUDLEY WARNER.



+----------------------------------------------------------------------+
|                                                                      |
| Transcriber's Note                                                   |
|                                                                      |
| Printer's errors have been corrected and hyphenation standardized.   |
| The author's spelling has been maintained.                           |
|                                                                      |
|                                                                      |
| Page number in Contents for Preface corrected from vii to ix.        |
|                                                                      |
| The following spelling corrections have been made:--                 |
|                                                                      |
| Page  41   'practise' to 'practice'. 'do not practice as a'          |
|                                                                      |
| Page  98   'necesssary' to 'necessary'. 'the door was not necessary'.|
|                                                                      |
| Page 122   'with' to 'which'. 'with that agility to which'.          |
|                                                                      |
| Page 125   'Accompaned' to 'Accompanied'. 'Accompanied by my lord'.  |
|                                                                      |
| Page 181   'undersood' to 'understood'. 'and so well understood'.    |
|                                                                      |                                                                     |
| Page 238   'icoseles' to 'isoceles'. 'a lean isoceles triangle'.     |
|                                                                      |
| Page 241   'obstrusive' to 'obtrusive'. 'the least obtrusive of      |
|             beings'.                                                 |
|                                                                      |
+----------------------------------------------------------------------+





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