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Full text of "Letters from a cat : published by her mistress for the benefit of all cats and the amusement of little children"

Ex Libris 

JERNARD M. MEEKS 













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CHILDREN'S BOOK <j 

COLLECTION 



LIBRARY OF THE 
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (C 
LOS ANGELES > 










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LETTERS FROM A CAT. 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

PUBLISHED BY HER MISTRESS 

JFor tlje asenefit of all Cats 

AND 

THE AMUSEMENT OF LITTLE CHILDREN. 



BY H. H., 

AUTHOR OF "NELLY'S SILVER MINE.' 



WITH SEVENTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS BY ADD IE LED YARD. 



BOSTON: 

ROBERTS BROTHERS. 
1879. 



Copyright, 1879, 
BY ROBERTS BROTHERS. 





INTRODUCTION. 



DEAR CHILDREN : 

DO not feel wholly 
sure that my Pussy 
wrote these letters 
herself. They al 
ways came inside 
the letters written 
to me by my mamma, or other friends, and 
I never caught Pussy writing at any time 
when I was at home ; but the printing 




INTRODUCTION. 



was pretty bad, and they were signed by 
Pussy's name ; and my mamma always 
looked very mysterious when I asked about 
them, as if there were some very great 
secret about it all ; so that until I grew 
to be a big girl, I never doubted but that 
Pussy printed them all alone by herself, 
after dark. 

They were written when I was a very 
little girl, and was away from home with 
my father on a journey. We made this 
journey in our own carriage, and it was 
one of the pleasantest things that ever 
happened to me. My clothes and my 
father's were packed in a little leather 
valise which was hung by straps under- 



INTRODUCTION. 



neath the carriage, and went swinging, 
swinging, back and forth, as the wheels 
went round. My father and I used to 
walk up all the steep hills, because old 
Charley, our horse, was not very strong ; 
and I kept my eyes on that valise all 
the while I was walking behind the car 
riage ; it seemed to me the most unsafe 
way to carry a valise, and I wished very 
much that my best dress had been put in 
a bundle that I could carry in my lap. 
This was the only drawback on the pleas 
ure of my journey, my fear that the 
valise would fall off when we did not know 
it, and be left in the road, and then I should 
not have anything nice to wear when I 



INTRODUCTION. 



reached my aunt's house. But the valise 
went through all safe, and I had the sat 
isfaction of wearing my best dress every 
afternoon while I stayed ; and I was foolish 
enough to think a great deal of this. 

On the fourth day after our arrival came 
a letter from my mamma, giving me a 
great many directions how to behave, and 
enclosing this first letter from Pussy. I 
carried both letters in my apron pocket 
all the time. They were the first letters 
I ever had received, and I was very proud 
of them. I showed them to everybody, 
and everybody laughed hard at Pussy's, 
and asked me if I believed that Pussy 
printed it herself. I thought perhaps my 



INTRODUCTION. 



mamma held her paw, with the pen in it, 
as she had sometimes held my hand for 
me, and guided my pen to write a few 
words. I asked papa to please to ask 
mamma, in his letter, if that were the way 
Pussy did it ; but when his next letter 
from mamma came, he read me this sen 
tence out of it : " Tell Helen I did not 
hold Pussy's paw to write that letter." 
So then I felt sure Pussy did it herself; 
and as I told you, I had grown up to be 
quite a big girl before I began to doubt 
it. You see I thought my Pussy such a 
wonderful Pussy that nothing was too re 
markable for her to do. I knew very well 
that cats generally did not know how to 



io INTRODUCTION. 

read or write ; but I thought there had 
never been such a cat in the world as this 
Pussy of mine. It is a great many years 
since she died ; but I can see her before 
me to-day as plainly as if it were only 
yesterday that I had really seen her alive. 
She was a little kitten when I first had 
her ; but she grew fast, and was very soon 
bigger than I wanted her to be. I wanted 
her to stay little. Her fur was a beautiful 
dark gray color, and there were black 

stripes on her sides, like the stripes on a 



tiger. Her eyes were very big, and her 
ears unusually long and pointed. This 
made her look like a fox ; and she was so 
bright and mischievous that some people 



INTRODUCTION. II 

thought she must be part fox. She used 
to do one thing that I never heard of any 
other cat's doing : she used to play hide- 
and-seek. Did you ever hear of a cat's 
playing hide-and-seek? And the most 
wonderful part of it was, that she took it 
up of her own accord. As soon as she 
heard me shut the gate in the yard at noon, 
when school Xvas done, she would run up 
the stairs as hard as she could go, and 
take her place at the top, where she could 
just peep through the banisters. When 
I opened the door, she would give a funny 
little mew, something like the mew cats 
make when they call their kittens. Then 
as soon as I stepped on the first stair to 



1 2 INTR OD UCTION. 

come up to her, she would race away at 
the top of her speed, and hide under a 
bed ; and when I reached the room, there 
would be no Pussy to be seen. If I called 
her, she would come out from under the 
bed ; but if I left the room, and went down 
stairs without speaking, in less than a min 
ute she would fly back to her post at the 
head of the stairs, and call again with the 
peculiar mew. As soon as I appeared, 
off she would run, and hide under the bed 
as before. Sometimes she would do this 
three or four times ; and it was a favorite 
amusement of my mother's to exhibit this 
trick of hers to strangers. It was odd, 
though ; sl\e never would do it twice, when 



INTR OD UCTION. 1 3 

she observed that other people were watch 
ing. When I called her, and she came out 
from under the bed, if there were strangers 
looking on, she would walk straight to me 
in the demurest manner, as if it were a 
pure* accident that she happened to be 
under that bed ; and no matter what I did 
or said, her frolic was over for that day. 
She used to follow me, just like a little 
dog, wherever I went. She followed me 

to school every day, and we had great diffi- 

* 

culty on Sundays to keep her from follow 
ing us to church. Once she followed me, 
when it made a good many people laugh, 
in spite of themselves, on an occasion 
when it was very improper for them to 



1 4 INTR OD UCTION. 

laugh, and they were all feeling very sad. 
It was at the funeral of one of the profes 
sors in the college. 

The professors' families all sat together ; 
and when the time came for them to walk 
out of the house and get into the carriages 
to go to the graveyard, they were called, 
one after the other, by name. When it 
came to our turn, my father and mother 
went first, arm-in-arm ; then my sister and 
I ; and then, who should rise, very gravely, 
but my Pussy, who had slipped into the 
room after me, and had not been noticed 
in the crowd. With a slow and deliberate 
gait she walked along, directly behind my 
sister and me, as if she were the remaining 



INTRODUCTION. 15 

member of the family, as indeed she was. 
People began to smile, and as we passed 
through the front door, and went down the 
steps, some of the men and boys standing 
there laughed out. I do not wonder ; for 
it must have been a very comical sight. 
In a second more, somebody sprang for 
ward and snatched Pussy up. Such a 
scream as she gave ! and scratched his face 
with her claws, so that he was glad to put 
her down. As soon as I heard her voice, 
I turned round, and called her in a low 
tone. She ran quickly to me, and I picked 
her up and carried her in my arms the rest 
of the way. But I saw even my own papa 
and mamma laughing a little, for just a 



1 6 INTRODUCTION. 

minute. That was the only funeral Pussy 
ever attended. 

Pussy lived several years after the 
events which are related in these 
letters. 

It was a long time before her fur grew 
out again after that terrible fall into the 
soft-soap barrel. However, it did grow 
out at last, and looked as well as ever. 
Nobody would have known that any thing 
had been the matter with her, except that 
her eyes were always weak. The edges of 
them never got quite well ; and poor Pussy 
used to sit and wash them by the hour ; 
^sometimes mewing and looking up in my 
face, with each stroke of her paw on her 



INTR OD UCTION. 1 7 

eyes, as much as to say, " Don't you see 
how sore my eyes are? Why don't you 
do something for me ? " 

She was never good for any thing as a 
mouser after that accident, nor for very 
much to play with. I recollect hearing 
my mother say one day to somebody, 
" Pussy was spoiled by her experience in 
the cradle. She would like to be rocked 
the rest of her days, I do believe ; and it 
is too funny to see her turn up her nose 
at tough beef. It was a pity she ever 
got a taste of tenderloin ! " 

At last, what with good feeding and 
very little exercise, she grew so fat that 
she was clumsy, and so lazy that she did 



1 8 INTRODUCTION. 

not want to do any thing but lie curled up 
on a soft cushion. 

She had outgrown my little chair, which 
had a green moreen cushion in it, on 
which she had slept for many a year, and 
of which I myself had very little use, she 
was in it so much of the time. But now 
that this was too tight for her, she took 
possession of the most comfortable places 
she could find, all over the house. Now it 
was a sofa, now it was an arm-chair, now it 
was the foot of somebody's bed. But wher 
ever it happened to be, it was sure to be 
the precise place where she was in the way, 
and the poor thing was tipped headlong 
out of chairs, shoved hastily off sofas, and 



INTRODUCTION. 19 

driven off beds so continually, that at last 
she came to understand that when she saw 
any person approaching the chair, sofa, or 
bed on which she happened to be lying, 
the part of wisdom for her was to move 
away. And it was very droll to see the 
injured and reproachful expression with 
which she would slowly get up, stretch all 
her legs, and walk away, looking for her 
next sleeping-place. Everybody in the 
house, except me, hated the sight' of her; 
and I had many a pitched battle with the 
servants in her behalf. Even my mother, 
who was the kindest human being I ever 
knew, got out of patience at last, and said 
to me one day: 



20 INTRODUCTION. 

" Helen, your Pussy has grown so old 
and so fat, she is no comfort to herself, 
and a great torment to everybody else. 
I think it would be a mercy to kill 
her." 

" Kill my Pussy ! " I exclaimed, and 
burst out crying, so loud and so hard 
that I think my mother was frightened ; 
for she said quickly : 

" Never mind, dear ; it shall not be 
done, unless it is necessary. You would 
not want Pussy to live, if she were very 

uncomfortable all the time." 



" She isn't uncomfortable," I cried ; 
"she is only sleepy. If people would 
let her alone, she would sleep all day. 



INTR OD UCTION. 2 1 

It would be awful to kill her. You might 
as well kill me!" 

After that, I kept a very close eye on 
Pussy ; and I carried her up to bed with 
me every night for a long time. 

But Pussy's days were numbered. 
One morning, before I was up, my mamma 
came into my room, and sat down on the 
edge of my bed. 

" Helen," she said, " I have something 
to tell you which will make you feel very 
badly ; but I hope you will be a good 
little girl, and not make mamma unhappy 
about it. You know your papa and 
mamma always do what they think is 
the very best thing." 



22 INTRODUCTION. 

" What is it, mamma ? " I asked, feel 
ing very much frightened, but never think 
ing of Pussy. 

" You will never see your Pussy any 
more," she replied. " She is dead." 

" Oh, where is she ? " I cried. " What 
killed her ? Won't she come to life 
again ? " 

" No," said my mother ; " she is 
drowned." 

Then I knew what had happened. 

'tWho did it?" was all I said. 

" Cousin Josiah," she replied ; " and 
he took great care that Pussy did not 
suffer at all. She sank to the bottom 
instantly." 



INTRODUCTION. 23 

" Where did he drown her ? " I asked. 

" Down by the mill, in Mill Valley, 
where the water is very deep," answered 
my mother ; " we told him to take her 
there." / . ' . - ; ' . ' - . 

At these words I cried bitterly. 

" That 's the very place I used to go 
with her to play," I exclaimed. " I '11 never 
go near that bridge as long as I live, and 
I '11 never speak a word to Cousin Josiah 
either never ! " 

My mother tried to comfort me, but 
it was of no use ; my heart was nearly 
broken. 

When I went to breakfast, there sat 
my cousin Josiah, looking as unconcerned 



24 INTRODUCTION. 

as possible, reading a newspaper. He was 
a student in the college, and boarded at our 
house. At the sight of him all my indigna 
tion and grief broke forth afresh. I began 
to cry again ; and running up to him, I 
doubled up my fist and shook it in his face. 

" I said I 'd never speak to you as long 
as I lived," I cried ; " but I will. You 're 
just a murderer, a real murderer ; that 's 
what you are! and when you go to be a 
missionary, I hope the cannibals '11 eat 
you ! I hope they '11 eat you alive raw, 
you mean old murderer!" 

" Helen Maria ! " said my father's voice 
behind me, sternly. "Helen Maria! leave 
the room this moment ! " ' 



INTRODUCTION. 25 

I went away sullenly, muttering, " I 
don't care, he is a murderer; and I hope 
he '11 be drowned, if he isn't eaten ! The 
Bible says the same measure ye mete shall 
be meted to you again. He ought to be 
drowned." 

For this sullen muttering I had to go 
without my breakfast ; and after break 
fast was over, I was made to beg Cousin 
Josiah's pardon ; but I did not beg it 
in my heart not a bit only with my 
lips, just repeating the words I was told 
to say ; and from that time I never spoke 
one word to him, nor looked at him, if I 
could help it. 

My kind mother offered to get another 



26 INTRODUCTION. 

kitten for me, but I did not want one. 
After a while, my sister Ann had a present 
of a pretty little gray kitten ; but I never 
played with it, nor took any notice of it 
at all. I was as true to my Pussy as she 
was to me ; and from that day to this, I 
have never had another Pussy 1 





LETTERS FROM A CAT. 



I. 

MY DEAR HELEN: 

That is what your mother calls 
you, I know, for I jumped up on 
her writing-table just now, and 
looked, while she was out of the 
room ; and I am sure I have as 
much right to call you so as she 
has, for if you were my own little 
kitty, and looked just like me, I 
could not love you any more than 



28 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

I do. How many good naps I 
have had in your lap ! and how 
many nice bits of meat you have 
saved for me out of your own din 
ner! Oh, I'll never let a rat, or a 
mouse, touch any thing of yours so 
long as I live. 

I felt very unhappy after you 
drove off yesterday, and did not 
know what to do with myself. I 
went into the barn, and thought I 
would take a nap on the hay, for 
I do think going to sleep is one of 
the very best things for people who 
are unhappy ; but it seemed so 
lonely without old Charlie stamping 
in his stall that I could not bear it, 




" I felt very unhappy after you drove off yesterday." 
PAGE 28. 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 29 

so I went into the garden, and lay 
down under the damask rose-bush, 
and caught flies. There is a kind 
of fly round that bush which I like 
better than any other I ever ate. 
You ought to see that there is a 
very great difference between my 
catching flies and your doing it I 
have noticed that you never eat 
them, and I have wondered that 
when you were always so kind to 
me you could be so cruel as to kill 
poor flies for nothing : I have often 
wished that I could speak to you 
about it : now that your dear mother 
has taught me to print, I shall be 
able to say a great many things to 



30 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

you which I have often been un 
happy about because I could not 
make you understand. I am en 
tirely discouraged about learning to 
speak the English language, and I 
do not think anybody takes much 
trouble to learn ours; so we cats 
are confined entirely to the society 
of each other, which prevents our 
knowing so much as we might ; and 
it is very lonely too, in a place where 
there are so few cats kept as in 
Amherst. If it were not for Mrs. 
Hitchcock's cat, and Judge Dickin 
son's, I should really forget how to 
use my tongue. When you are at 
home I do not mind it, for although 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 31 

I cannot talk to you, I understand 
every word that you say to me, and 
we have such good plays together 
with the red ball. That is put away 
now in the bottom drawer of the 
little workstand in the sitting-room. 
When your mother put it in, she 
turned round to me, and said, " Poor 
pussy, no more good plays for you 
till Helen comes home ! " and I 
thought I should certainly cry. But 
I think it is very foolish to cry over 
what cannot be helped, so I pretend 
ed to have got something into my 
left eye, and rubbed it with my paw. 
It is very seldom that I cry over 
any thing, unless it is "spilt milk." 



32 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

I must confess, I have often cried 
when that has happened : and it 
always is happening to cats' milk. 
They put it into old broken things 
that tip over at the least knock, and 
then they set them just where they 
are sure to be most in the way. 
Many's the time Josiah has knocked 
over that blue saucer of mine, in the 
shed, and when you have thought 
that I had had a nice breakfast of 
milk, I had nothing in the world 
but flies, which are not good for 
much more than just a little sort 
of relish. I am so glad of a 
chance to tell you about this, 
because I know when you come 




I hope you found the horse-chestnuts which I put in the carriage for you. I had 
a dreadful time climbing up over the dasher with them." PAGE 33. 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 33 

home you will get a better dish 
for me. 

I hope you found the horse- 
chestnuts which I put in the bot 
tom of, the carriage for you. I 
could not think of any thing else to 
put in, which would remind you of 
me : but I am afraid you will never 
think that it was I who put them 
there, and it will be too bad if you 
don't, for I had a dreadful time 
climbing up over the dasher with 
them, and both my jaws are quite 
lame from stretching them so, to 
carry the biggest ones I could find. 

There are three beautiful dan 
delions out on the terrace, but I 



34 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

don't suppose they will keep till 
you come home. A man has been 
doing something to your garden, but 
though I watched him very closely 
all the time, I could not make out 

what he was about. I am afraid it 



is something you will not like ; but 
if I find out more about it, I will 
tell you in my next letter. Good 
by. 

Your affectionate PUSSY. 





II. 

MY DEAR HELEN: 

I do wish that you and your 
father would turn around directly, 
wherever you are, when you get this 
letter, and come home as fast as you 
can. If you do not come soon there 
will be no home left for you to 
come into. I am so frightened and 
excited, that my paws tremble, and I 
have upset the ink twice, and spilled 
so much that there is only a little 
left in the bottom of the cup, and 



36 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

it is as thick as hasty pudding; so 
you must excuse the looks of this 
letter, and I will tell you as quickly 
as I can about the dreadful state of 
things here. Not more than an 
hour after I finished my letter to 
you, yesterday, I heard a great noise 
in the parlor, and ran in to see what 
was the matter. There was Mary 
with her worst blue handkerchief 
tied over her head, her washing-day 
gown on, and a big hammer in her 
hand. As soon as she saw me, she 
said, " There 's that cat ! Always 
in my way/' and threw a cricket at 
me, and then shut the parlor door 
with a great slam. So I ran out 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 37 

and listened under the front win 
dows, for I felt sure she was in 
some bad business she did not want 
to have known. Such a noise I 
never heard : all the thing's were 
being moved ; and in a few minutes, 
what do you think out came the 
whole carpet right on my head! I 
was nearly stifled with dust, and felt 
as if every bone in my body must 
be broken ; but I managed to creep 
out from under it, and heard Mary 
say, "If there isn't that torment of 
a cat again ! I wish to goodness 
Helen had taken her along ! " 
Then I felt surer than ever that 
some mischief was on foot ; and I 



38 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

ran out into the garden, and climbed 
up the old apple-tree at the foot of 
the steps, and crawled - out on a 
branch, from which I could look 
directly into the parlor windows. 
Oh ! my dear Helen, you can fancy 
how I felt, to see all the chairs and 
tables and bookshelves in a pile in 
the middle of the floor, the books 
all packed in big baskets, and Mary 
taking out window after window as 
fast as she could. I forgot to tell 
you that your mother went away 
last night. I think she has gone to 
Hadley to make a visit, and it looks 
to me very much as if Mary meant 
to run away with every thing which 




I climbed up the old apple-tree, and crawled out on a branch from which I could 
look directly into the parlor windows." PAGE 38. 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 39 

could be moved, before she comes 
back. After awhile that ugly Irish 
woman, who lives in Mr. Slater's 
house, came into the back gate: you 
know the one I mean,- -the one that 
threw cold water on me last spring, 
When I saw her coming I felt 
sure that she and Mary meant 
to kill me, while you were all away ; 
so I jumped down out of the tree, 
and split my best claw in my hurry, 
and ran off into Baker's Grove, and 
stayed there all the rest of the day, 
in dreadful misery from cold and 
hunger. There was some snow in 
the hollows, and I wet my feet, which 
always makes me feel wretchedly ; 



40 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

and I could not find any thing to 
eat except a thin dried-up old mole. 
They are never good in the spring. 
Really, nobody does know what 
hard lives we cats lead, even the 
luckiest of us! After dark, I went 
home; but Mary had fastened up 
every door, even the little one into 
the back shed. So I had to jump 
into the cellar window, which is a 
thing I never like to do since I got 
that bad sprain in my shoulder from 
coming down on the edge of a milk- 
pan. I crept up to the head of the 
kitchen stairs, as still as a mouse, if 
I 'm any judge, and listened there 
for a long time, to try and make 




I crept up to the head of the kitchen stairs, as still as a mouse, if 
I 'm any judge, and listened." PAGE 40. 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 41 

out, from Mary's talk with the Irish 
woman, what they were planning to 
do. But I never could understand 
Irish, and although I listened till I 
had cramps in all my legs, from 
being so long in one position, I was 
no wiser. Even the things Mary 
said I could not understand, and I 
usually understand her very easily. 
I passed a very uncomfortable night* 
in the carrot bin. As soon as I 
heard Mary coming down the cellar 
stairs, this morning, I hid in the 
arch, and while she was skimming 
the milk, I slipped upstairs, and ran 
into the sitting-room. Every thing 
there is in the same confusion ; the 



42 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

carpet is gone; and the windows too, 
and I think some of the chairs have 
been carried away. All the china 
is in great baskets on the pantry 
floor; and your father and mother's 
clothes are all taken out of the nur 
sery closet, and laid on chairs. It 
is very dreadful to have to stand by 
and see all this, and not be able to 
do any thing. I don't think I ever 
fully realized before the disadvan 
tage of being only a cat I have 
just been across the street, and 
talked it all over with the Judge's 
cat, but she is very old and stupid, 
and so taken up with her six kittens 
(who are the ugliest I ever saw), 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 43 

that she does not take the least in 
terest in her neighbors' affairs. Mrs. 
Hitchcock walked by the house this 
morning, and I ran out to her, and 
took her dress in my teeth and 
pulled it, and did all I could to 
make her come in, but she said, 
" No, no, pussy, I 'm not coming 
in to-day; your mistress is not at 
home/' I declare I could have 
cried. I sat down in the middle 
of the path, and never stirred for 
half an hour. 

I heard your friend, Hannah 
Dorrance, say yesterday, that she 
was going to write to you to-day, 
so I shall run up the hill now and 



44 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

carry my letter to her. I think she 
will be astonished when she sees me, 
for I am very sure that no other 
cat in town knows how to write. 
Do come home as soon as possible. 
Your affectionate PUSSY. 

P. S. Two men have just 
driven up to the front gate in a 
great cart, and they are putting all 
the carpets into it. Oh dear, oh 
dear, if I only knew what to do ! 
And I just heard Mary say to 
them, " Be as quick as you can, for I 
want to get through with this busi 
ness before the folks come back/ 




III. 

MY DEAR HELEN : 

I am too stiff and sore from a 
terrible fall I have had, to write 
more than one line ; but I must let 
you know that my fright was very 
silly, and I am very much mortified 
about it. The house and the things 
are all safe; your mother has come 
home ; and I will write, and tell 
you all, just as soon as I can use 
my pen without great pain. 



46 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

Some new people have come 
to live in the Nelson house; very 
nice people, I think, for they keep 
their milk in yellow crockery pans. 
They have brought with them a 
splendid black cat whose name is 
Caesar, and everybody is talking 
about him. He has the handsom 
est whiskers I ever saw. I do hope 
I shall be well enough to see him 
before long, but I wouldn't have 
him see me now for any thing. 

Your affectionate PUSSY. 




IV. 

MY DEAR HELEN: 

There is one thing that cats 
don't like any better than men and 
women do, and that is to make fools 
of themselves. But a precious fool 
I made of myself when I wrote you 
that long letter about Mary's mov 
ing out all the furniture, and taking 
the house down. It is very mortify 
ing to have to tell you how it all 
turned out, but I know you love Hie 



48 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

enough to be sorry that I should 
have had such a terrible fright for 
nothing. 

It went on from bad to worse 
for three more days after I wrote 
you. Your mother did not come 
home; and the awful Irishwoman 
was here all the time. I did not 
dare to go near the house, and I do 
assure you I nearly starved : I used 
to lie under the rose-bushes, and 
watch as well as I could what was 
going on : now and then I caught 
a rat in the barn, but that sort of 
hearty food never has agreed with 
me since I came to live with you, 
and became accustomed to a lighter 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 49 

diet By the third day I felt too 
weak and sick to stir : so I lay still 
all day on the straw in Charlie's 
stall ; and I really thought, between 
the hunger and the anxiety, that I 
should die. About noon I heard 
Mary say in the shed, " I do believe 
that everlasting cat has taken herself 
off: it's a good riddance anyhow, 
but I should like to know what has 
become of the plaguy thing ! " 

I trembled all over, for if she 
had come into the barn I know one 
kick from her heavy foot would 
have killed me, and I was quite too 
weak to run away. Towards night 
I heard your dear mother's voice 



50 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

calling, " Poor pussy, why, poor 
pussy, where are you ? " 

I .assure you, my dear Helen, 
people are very much mistaken who 
say, as I have often overheard them, 
that cats have no feeling. If they 
could only know how I felt at that 
moment, they would change their 
minds. I was almost too glad to 
make a sound. It seemed to me 
that my feet Were fastened to the 
floor, and that I never could get to 
her. She took me up in her arms, 
and carried me through the kitchen 
into the / sitting-room. Mary was 
frying cakes in the kitchen, and as 
your mother passed by the stove 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 51 

she said in her sweet voice, " You 
see I've found poor pussy, Mary/' 
" Humph," said Mary, " I never 
thought but that she'd be found 
fast enough when she wanted to 
be ! ' I knew that this was a lie, 
because I had heard what she said 
in the shed. I do wish I knew 
what makes her hate me so : I 
only wish she -knew how I hate 
her. I really think I shall gnaw 
her stockings and shoes some night. 
It would not be any more than fair; 
and she would never suspect me, 
there are so many mice in her room, 
for I never touch one that I think 
belongs in her closet. 



52 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

The sitting-room was all in 
most beautiful order, - - a smooth 
white something, like the side of a 
basket, over the whole floor, a beau 
tiful paper curtain, pink and white, 
over the fire-place, and white muslin 
curtains at the windows. I stood 
perfectly still in the middle of the 
room for some time. I was too sur 
prised to stir. Oh, how I wished 
that I could speak, and tell your 
dear mother all that had happened, 
and how the room had looked three 
days before. Presently she said, 
"Poor pussy, I know you are al 
most starved, aren't you ? ' and I 
said " Yes/' as plainly as I could 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 53 

mew it. Then she brought me a 
big soup-plate full of thick cream, 
and some of the most delicious cold 
hash I ever tasted; and after I had 
eaten it all, she took me in her lap, 
and said, " Poor pussy, we miss 
little Helen, don't we?" and she 
held me in her lap till bed-time. 
Then she let me sleep on the foot 
of her bed: it was one of the hap 
piest nights of my life. In the 
middle of the night I was up for 
a while, and caught the smallest 
mouse I ever saw out of the nest. 
Such little ones are very tender. 

In the morning I had my 
breakfast with her in the dining- 



54 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

room, which looks just as nice as 
the sitting-room. After breakfast 
Mrs. Hitchcock came in, and your 
mother said : " Only think, how for 
tunate I am ; Mary did all the 
house-cleaning while I was away. 
Every room is in perfect order; 
all the w r oollen clothes are put 
away for the summer. Poor pussy, 
here, was frightened out of the 
house, and I suppose we should 
all have been if we had been at 
home/' 

Can you imagine how ashamed 
I felt? I ran under the table and 
did not come out again until after 
Mrs. Hitchcock had gone. But now 




; Can you imagine how ashamed I felt? I ran under the table and did not come 
out again until after Mrs. Hitchcock had gone." PAGE 54. 




" I knew that there was no time to be lost if I meant to catch that robin, so I 
ran with all my might and tried to jump through." PAGE 55. 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 55 

comes the saddest part of my story. 
Soon after this, as I was looking 
out of the window, I saw the fat 
test, most tempting robin on the 
ground under the cherry-tree: the 
windows did not look as if they 
had any glass in them, and I took 
it for granted that it had all been 
taken out and put away upstairs, 
with the andirons and the carpets, 
for next winter. I knew that there 
was no time to be lost if I meant 
to catch that robin, so I ran with 
all my might and tried to jump 
through. Oh, my dear Helen, I do 
not believe you ever had such a 
bump : I fell back nearly into the 



56 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

middle of the room ; and it seemed 
to me that I turned completely 
over at least six times. The blood 
streamed out of my nose, and I cut 
my right ear very badly against one 
of the castors of the table. I could 
not see nor hear any thing for some 
minutes. When I came to myself, 
I found your dear mother holding 
me, and wiping my face with her 
own nice handkerchief wet in cold 
water. My right fore-paw w r as badly 
bruised, and that troubles me very 
much about washing my face, and 
about writing. But the worst of all 
is the condition of my nose. Every 
body laughs who sees me, and I do 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 57 

not blame them ; it is twice as large 
as it used to be, and I begin to be 
seriously afraid it will never return 
to its old shape. This will be a 
dreadful affliction : for who does not 
know that the nose is the chief 
beauty of a cat's face ? I have got 
very tired of hearing the story of 
my fall told to all the people who 
come in. They laugh as if they 
would kill themselves at it, espe 
cially when I do not manage to get 
under the table before they look to 
see how my nose is. 

Except for this I should have 
written to you before, and would 
write more now, but my paw aches 



58 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

badly, and one of my eyes is nearly 
closed from the swelling of my 
nose : so I must say good-by. 

Your affectionate PUSSY. 

P. S. I told you about Caesar, 
did I not, in my last letter ? Of 
course I do not venture out of the 
house in my present plight, so I 
have not seen him except from the 
window. 





V. 



MY DEAR HELEN: 

I am sure you must have won 
dered why I have not written to 
you for the last two weeks, but 
when you hear what I have been 
through, you will only wonder that 
I am alive to write to you at all. I 
was very glad to hear your mother 
say, yesterday, that she had not writ 
ten to you about what had happened 
to me, because it would make you 



60 -LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

so unhappy. But now that it is all 
over, and I am in a fair way to be 
soon as well as ever, I think you 
will like to hear the whole story. 

In my last letter I told you 
about the new black cat, Caesar, 
who had come to live in the Nelson 
house, and how anxious I was to 
know him. As soon as my nose 
was fit to be seen, Judge Dickin 
son's cat, who is a good, hospitable 
old soul, in spite of her stupidity, 
invited me to tea, and asked him 
too. All the other cats were asked 
to come later in the evening, and we 
had a grand frolic, hunting rats 
in the Judge's great barn. Caesar 




" When there suddenly came down on us a whole pailful of water. 
PAGE 61. 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 61 



is certainly the handsomest and most 
gentlemanly cat I ever saw. He 
paid me great attention : in fact, so 
much, that one of those miserable 
half-starved cats from Mill Valley 
grew so jealous that she flew at me 
and bit my ear till it bled, which 
broke up the party. But Caesar 
went home with me, so I did not 
care ; then we sat and talked a long 
time under the nursery window. I 
was so much occupied in what he 
was saying, that I did not hear 
Mary open the window overhead, 
and was therefore terribly frightened 
when there suddenly came down on 
us a whole pailful of water. I was 



62 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

so startled that I lost all presence of 
mind ; and without bidding him 
good-night, I jumped directly into 
the cellar window by which we were 
sitting. Oh, my dear Helen, I can 
never give you any idea of what fol 
lowed. Instead of coming down as 
I expected to on the cabbages, which 
were just under that window the 
last time I was in the cellar, I found 
myself sinking, sinking, into some 
horrible soft, slimy, sticky substance, 
which in an instant more would 
have closed over my head, and suffo 
cated me ; but, fortunately, as I sank, 
I felt something hard at one side, 
and making a great effort, I caught 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 63 

on it with my claws. It proved to 
be the side of a barrel, and I suc 
ceeded in getting one paw over the 
edge of it There I hung, growing 
weaker and weaker every minute, 
with this frightful stuff running into 
my eyes and ears, and choking me 
with its bad smell. I mewed as 
loud as I could, which was not very 
loud, for whenever I opened my 
mouth the stuff trickled into it 
off my whiskers; but I called 
to Caesar, who stood in great 
distress at the window, and ex 
plained to him, as well as I could, 
what had happened to me, and 
begged him to call as loudly as pos- 



64 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

sible; for if somebody did not come 
very soon, and take me out, I should 
certainly die. He insisted, at first, 
on jumping down to help me him 
self ; but I told him that would be 
the most foolish thing he could do ; 
if he did, we should certainly both 
be drowned. So he began to mew 
at the top of his voice, and between 
his mewing and mine, there was 
noise enough for a few minutes ; 
then windows began to open, and I 
heard your grandfather swearing 
and throwing out a stick of wood 
at Caesar; fortunately he was so 
near the house that it did not hit 
him. At last your grandfather 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 65 

came downstairs, and opened the 
back door ; and Caesar was so fright 
ened that he ran away, for which I 
have never thought so well of him 
since, though we are still very good 
friends. When I heard him run 
ning off, and calling - back to me, 
from a distance, that he was so sorry 
he could not help me, my courage 
began to fail, and in a moment more, 
I should have let go of the edge of 
the barrel, and sunk to the bottom ; 
but luckily your grandfather noticed 
that there was something very strange 
about my mewing, and opened the 
door at the head of the cellar 
stairs, saying, "I do believe the cat 



66 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

is in some trouble down here/' 
Then I made a great effort and 
mewed still more piteously. How 
I wished I could call out and say, 
" Yes, indeed, I am; drowning to 
death, in I 'm sure I don't know 
what, but something a great deal 
worse than water !" However, he 
understood me as it was, and came 
down with a lamp. As soon as he 
saw me, he set the lamp down on 
the cellar bottom, and laughed so 
that he could hardly move. I 
thought this was the most cruel 
thing I ever heard of. If I had 
not been, as it were, at death's door, 
I should have laughed at him, too, 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 67 

for even with my eyes full of that 
dreadful stuff, I could see that he 
looked very funny in his red night 
cap, and without his teeth. He 
called out to Mary, and your mother, 
who stood at the head of the .stairs, 
" Come down, come down ; here's 
the cat 'in the soft-soap barrel !" and 
then he laughed again, and they 
both came down the stairs laughing, 
even your dear kind mother, who I 
never could have believed would 
laugh at any one in such trouble. 
They did not seem to know what 
to do at first ; nobody wanted to 
touch me; and- I began to be 
afraid I should drown while they 



68 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

stood looking, at me, for I knew 
much better than they could how 
weak I was from holding on to 
the edge of the barrel so long. 
At last your grandfather swore that 
oath of his,- -you know the one I 
mean, the one he always swears 
when he is very sorry for anybody, 
and lifted me out by the nape of 
my neck, holding me as far off from 
him as he could, for the soft soap 
ran off my legs and tail in streams. 
He carried me up into the kitchen, 
and put me down in the middle of 
the floor, and then they all stood 
round me, and laughed again, so 
loud that they waked up the cook, 




" He lifted me out by the nape of my neck, holding me as far off 
from him as he could." PAGE 68. 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 69 

who came running out of her bed 
room with her tin candlestick and a 
chair in her hand, thinking that rob 
bers were breaking in. At last your 
dear mother said, " Poor pussy, it is 
too bad to laugh at you, when you 
are in such pain" (I had been think 
ing so for some time). " Mary, 
bring the small washtub. The only 
thing we can do is to wash her/' 

When I heard this, I almost 
wished they had left me to drown 
in the soft soap ; for if there is any 
thing of which I have a mortal 
dread, it is water. However, I was 
too weak to resist ; and they plunged 
me in all over, into the tub full of ice- 



70 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

cold water, and Mary began to rub 
me with her great rough hands, which, 
I assure you, are very different from 
yours and your mother's. Then 
they all laughed again to see the 
white lather it made ; in two min 
utes the whole tub was as white as 
the water under the mill-wheel that 
you and I have so often been together 
to see. You can imagine how my 
eyes smarted. I burnt my paws 
once in getting a piece of beefsteak 
out of the coals where it had fallen 
off the gridiron, but the pain of that 
was . nothing to this/ You will 
hardly bejieve me when I tell you 
that they had to empty the tub and 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 71 

fill it again ten times before the soap 
was all washed out of my fur. By 
that time I was so cold and ex 
hausted, that I could not move, and 
they began to think I should die. 
But your mother rolled me up in 
one of your old flannel petticoats, 
and made a nice bed for me behind 
the stove. By this time even Mary 
began to seem sorry for me, though 
she was very cross at first, and hurt 
me much more than she need to 
in washing me ; now she said, 
" You 're nothing but a poor beast 
of a cat, to be sure; but it's mesilf 
that would be sorry to have the little 
mistress come back, and find ye 



72 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

kilt/' So you see your love for 
me did me service, even when you 
were so far away. I doubt very 
much whether they would have ever 
taken the trouble to nurse me 
through this sickness, except for your 
sake. But I must leave the rest for 
my next letter. I am not strong 
enough yet to write more than two 
hours at a time. 

Your affectionate PUSSY. 





VI. 

MY DEAR HELEN: 

I will begin where I left off in 
my last letter. 

As you may imagine, I did not 
get any sleep that night, not even 
so much as a cat's nap, as people say, 
though how cat's naps differ from 
men's and women's naps, I don't 
know. I shivered all night, and it 
hurt me terribly whenever I moved. 
Early in the morning your grand- 



74 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

father came downstairs, and when 
he saw how I looked, he swore 
again, that same oath : we all know 
very well what it means when he 
swears in that way: it means that 
he is going to do all he can for you, 
and is so sorry, that he is afraid of 
seeming too sorry. Don't you re 
member when you had that big 
double tooth pulled out, and he gave 
you five dollars, how he swore then ? 
Well, he took me up in his arms, 
and carried me into the dining-room ; 
it was quite cool ; there was a nice 
wood fire, on the hearth, and Mary 
was setting the table for breakfast. 
He said to her in a very gruff voice, 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 75 

" Here you, Mary, you go up into 
the garret and bring down the 
cradle/' 

Sick as I was, I could not help 
laughing at the sight of her face. 
It was enough to make any cat 
laugh. 

" You don't ever mean to say, sir, 
as you're going to put that cat into 

the cradle." 



" You do as I tell you," said he, 
in that most awful tone of his, which 
always makes you so afraid. I felt 
afraid myself, though all the time 
he was stroking my head, and saying, 
" Poor pussy, there, poor pussy, lie 
still." In a few minutes Mary 



76 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

came down with the cradle, and set 
it down by the fire with such a bang 
that I wondered it did not break. 
You know she always bangs things 
when she is cross, but I never could 
see what good it does. Then your 
grandfather made up a nice bed in 
the cradle, out of Charlie's winter 
blanket and an old pillow, and laid 
me down in it, all rolled up as I was 
in your petticoat. When your 
mother came into the room she 
laughed almost as hard as she did 
when she saw me in the soft-soap 
barrel, and said, " Why, father, you 
are rather old to play cat's cradle ! " 
The old gentleman laughed at this, 




" Then your grandfather made up a nice bed in the cradle, and laid 
me down in it." PAGE 76. 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 77 

till the tears ran down his red cheeks. 
"Well," he said, "I tell you one 
thing; the game will last me till 
that poor cat gets well again/' Then 
he went upstairs, and brought down 
a bottle of something very soft and 
slippery, like lard, and put it on my 
eyes, and it made them feel much 
better. After that he gave me some 
milk into which he had put some 
of his very best brandy : that was 
pretty hard to get down, but I 
understood enough of what they 
had said, to be sure that if I did 
not take something of the kind I 
should never get well. After break 
fast I tried to walk, but my right 



78 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

paw was entirely useless. At first 
they thought it was broken, but 
finally decided that it was only 
sprained, and must be bandaged. 
The bandages were wet with some 
thing which smelled so badly it 
made me feel very sick, for the first 
day or two. Cats' noses are much 
more sensitive to smells than people's 
are; but I grew used to it, and it 
did my poor lame paw so much 
good that I would have borne it if 
it had smelled twice as badly. For 
three days I had to lie all the time 
in the cradle : if your grandfather 
caught me out of it, he would swear 
at me, and put me back again. 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 79 

Every morning he put the soft white 
stuff on my eyes, and changed the 
bandages on my leg. And, oh, my 
dear Helen, such good things as I 
had to eat! I had almost the same 
things for my dinner that the rest 
of them did : it must be a splendid 
thing to be a man or a woman ! I 
do not think I shall ever again be 
contented to eat in the shed, and 
have only the old pieces which no 
body wants. 

Two things troubled me very 
much while I was confined to the 
cradle : one was that everybody who 
came in to see your mother laughed 
as if they never could stop, at the 



8o LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

first sight of me ; and the other was 
that I heard poor Caesar mewing 
all around the house, and calling me 
with all his might ; and I knew he 
thought I was dead. I tried hard 
to make your kind mother notice 
his crying, for I knew she would be 
willing to let him come in and see 
me, but I could not make her under 
stand. I suppose she thought it 
was only some common strolling cat 
who was hungry. I have always 
noticed that people do not observe 
any difference between one cat's 
voice and another's; now they really 
are just as different as human voices. 
Caesar has one of the finest, deepest- 










I 
8 

o 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 81 

toned voices I ever heard. One 
day, after I got well enough to be in 
the kitchen, he slipped in, between 
the legs of the butcher's boy who 
was bringing in some meat; but 
before I had time to say one word 
to him, Mary flew at him with the 
broom, and drove him out. How 
ever, he saw that I was alive, and 
that was something. I am afraid 
it will be some days yet before 1 
can see him again, for they do not 
let me go out at all, and the band 
ages are not taken off my leg. 
The cradle is carried upstairs, and 
I sleep on Charlie's blanket behind 
the stove. I heard your mother 



82 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

say to-day that she really believed 
the cat had the rheumatism. I do 
not know what that is, but I think 
I have got it : it hurts me all over 
when I walk, and I feel as if I 
looked like Bill Jacobs's old cat, 
who, they say, is older than the old 
est man in town ; but of course that 
must be a slander. 

The thing I am most concerned 
about is my fur; it is coming off in 
spots: there is a bare spot on the 
back of my neck, on the place by 
which they lifted me up out of the 
soap barrel, half as large as your 
hand ; and whenever I wash my 
self, I get my mouth full of hairs, 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 83 

which is very disagreeable. I heard 
your grandfather say to-day, that he 
believed he would try Mrs. Some 
body's Hair Restorer on the cat, at 
which everybody laughed so that 
I ran out of the room as fast as I 
could go, and then they laughed 
still harder. I will write you again 
in a day or two, and tell you how 
I am getting on. I hope you will 
come home soon. 

Your affectionate PUSSY. 




VII. 

MY DEAR HELEN: 

I am so glad to know that you 
are coming home next week, that 
I cannot think of any thing else. 
There is only one drawback to my 
pleasure, and that is, I am so 
ashamed to have you see me in such 
a plight. I told you, in my last 
letter, that my fur was beginning to 
come off. Your grandfather has 
tried several things of his, which are 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 85 

said to be good for hair; but 
they have not had the least effect. 
For my part I don't see why they 
should ; fur and hair are two very 
different things, and . I thought at 
the outset there was no use in put 
ting on my skin what was intended 
for the skin of human heads, and 
even on them don't seem to work 
any great wonders, if I can judge 
from your grandfather's head, which 
you know is as bald and pink and 
shiny as a baby's. However, he 
has been so good to me, that I let 
him do any thing he likes, and every 
day he rubs in some new kind of 
stuff, which smells a little worse 



86 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

than the last one. It is utterly im 
possible for me to get within half a 
mile of a rat or a mouse. I might 
as well fire off a gun to let them 
know I am coming, as to go about 
scented up so that they can smell 
me a great deal farther off than they 
can see me. If it were not for this 
dreadful state of my fur, I should 
be perfectly happy, for I feel much 
better than I ever did before in my 
whole life, and am twice as fat as 
when you went away. I try to be 
resigned to whatever may be in store 
for me, but it is very hard to look 
forward to being a fright all the rest 
of one's days. I don't suppose such 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 87 

a thing was ever seen in the world 
as a cat without any fur. This 
morning your grandfather sat look 
ing at -me for a long time and strok 
ing his chin : at last he said, " Do 
you suppose it would do any good 
to shave the cat all over ? " At this 
I could not resist the impulse to 
scream, and your mother said, " I 
do believe the creature knows when 
ever we speak about her." Of 
course I do ! Why in the world 
shouldn't I ! People never seem to 
observe that cats have ears. I often 
think how much more careful they 
would be if they did. I have 
laughed many a time to see them 



88 LETTERS FROM A CAT. 

send children out of the room, and 
leave me behind, when I knew per 
fectly well that the children would 
neither notice nor understand half 
so much as I would. There are 
some houses in which I lived, 
before I came to live with you, 
about which I could tell strange 
stories if I chose. 

Caesar pretends that he likes the 
looks of little spots of pink skin, 
here and there, in fur ; but I know 
he only does it to save my feelings, 
for it isn't in human nature- - 1 mean 
in cat's nature- -that any one should. 
You see I spend so much more 
time in the society of men and wo- 



LETTERS FROM A CAT. 89 

men than of cats, that I find myself 
constantly using expressions which 
sound queerly in a cat's mouth. 
But you know me well enough to be 
sure that every thing I say is per 
fectly natural. And now, my dear 
Helen, I hope I have prepared you 
to see me looking perfectly hideous. 
I only trust that your love for me 
will not be entirely killed by my 
unfortunate appearance. If you do 
seem to love me less, I shall be 
wretched, but I shall still be, always, 
Your affectionate PUSSY.