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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesNovel Notes - Chapter 6
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Novel Notes - Chapter 6 Post by :Ronald Category :Long Stories Author :Jerome K Jerome Date :May 2012 Read :2356

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Novel Notes - Chapter 6


"Cats," remarked Jephson to me, one afternoon, as we sat in the punt discussing the plot of our novel, "cats are animals for whom I entertain a very great respect. Cats and Nonconformists seem to me the only things in this world possessed of a practicable working conscience. Watch a cat doing something mean and wrong--if ever one gives you the chance; notice how anxious she is that nobody should see her doing it; and how prompt, if detected, to pretend that she was not doing it--that she was not even thinking of doing it--that, as a matter of fact, she was just about to do something else, quite different. You might almost think they had a soul.

"Only this morning I was watching that tortoise-shell of yours on the houseboat. She was creeping along the roof, behind the flower-boxes, stalking a young thrush that had perched upon a coil of rope. Murder gleamed from her eye, assassination lurked in every twitching muscle of her body. As she crouched to spring, Fate, for once favouring the weak, directed her attention to myself, and she became, for the first time, aware of my presence. It acted upon her as a heavenly vision upon a Biblical criminal. In an instant she was a changed being. The wicked beast, going about seeking whom it might devour, had vanished. In its place sat a long-tailed, furry angel, gazing up into the sky with an expression that was one-third innocence and two-thirds admiration of the beauties of nature. What was she doing there, did I want to know? Why, could I not see, playing with a bit of earth. Surely I was not so evil- minded as to imagine she wanted to kill that dear little bird--God bless it.

"Then note an old Tom, slinking home in the early morning, after a night spent on a roof of bad repute. Can you picture to yourself a living creature less eager to attract attention? 'Dear me,' you can all but hear it saying to itself, 'I'd no idea it was so late; how time does go when one is enjoying oneself. I do hope I shan't meet any one I know--very awkward, it's being so light.'

"In the distance it sees a policeman, and stops suddenly within the shelter of a shadow. 'Now what's he doing there,' it says, 'and close to our door too? I can't go in while he's hanging about. He's sure to see and recognise me; and he's just the sort of man to talk to the servants.'

"It hides itself behind a post and waits, peeping cautiously round the corner from time to time. The policeman, however, seems to have taken up his residence at that particular spot, and the cat becomes worried and excited.

"'What's the matter with the fool?' it mutters indignantly; 'is he dead? Why don't he move on, he's always telling other people to. Stupid ass.'

"Just then a far-off cry of 'milk' is heard, and the cat starts up in an agony of alarm. 'Great Scott, hark at that! Why, everybody will be down before I get in. Well, I can't help it. I must chance it.'

"He glances round at himself, and hesitates. 'I wouldn't mind if I didn't look so dirty and untidy,' he muses; 'people are so prone to think evil in this world.'

"'Ah, well,' he adds, giving himself a shake, 'there's nothing else for it, I must put my trust in Providence, it's pulled me through before: here goes.'

"He assumes an aspect of chastened sorrow, and trots along with a demure and saddened step. It is evident he wishes to convey the idea that he has been out all night on work connected with the Vigilance Association, and is now returning home sick at heart because of the sights that he has seen.

"He squirms in, unnoticed, through a window, and has just time to give himself a hurried lick down before he hears the cook's step on the stairs. When she enters the kitchen he is curled up on the hearthrug, fast asleep. The opening of the shutters awakes him. He rises and comes forward, yawning and stretching himself.

"'Dear me, is it morning, then?' he says drowsily. 'Heigh-ho! I've had such a lovely sleep, cook; and such a beautiful dream about poor mother.'

"Cats! do you call them? Why, they are Christians in everything except the number of legs."

"They certainly are," I responded, "wonderfully cunning little animals, and it is not by their moral and religious instincts alone that they are so closely linked to man; the marvellous ability they display in taking care of 'number one' is worthy of the human race itself. Some friends of mine had a cat, a big black Tom: they have got half of him still. They had reared him from a kitten, and, in their homely, undemonstrative way, they liked him. There was nothing, however, approaching passion on either side.

"One day a Chinchilla came to live in the neighbourhood, under the charge of an elderly spinster, and the two cats met at a garden wall party.

"'What sort of diggings have you got?' asked the Chinchilla.

"'Oh, pretty fair.'

"'Nice people?'

"'Yes, nice enough--as people go.'

"'Pretty willing? Look after you well, and all that sort of thing?'

"'Yes--oh yes. I've no fault to find with them.'

"'What's the victuals like?'

"'Oh, the usual thing, you know, bones and scraps, and a bit of dog-biscuit now and then for a change.'

"'Bones and dog-biscuits! Do you mean to say you eat bones?'

"'Yes, when I can get 'em. Why, what's wrong about them?'

"'Shade of Egyptian Isis, bones and dog-biscuits! Don't you ever get any spring chickens, or a sardine, or a lamb cutlet?'

"'Chickens! Sardines! What are you talking about? What are sardines?'

"'What are sardines! Oh, my dear child (the Chinchilla was a lady cat, and always called gentlemen friends a little older than herself 'dear child'), these people of yours are treating you just shamefully. Come, sit down and tell me all about it. What do they give you to sleep on?'

"'The floor.'

"'I thought so; and skim milk and water to drink, I suppose?'

"'It _is a bit thin.'

"'I can quite imagine it. You must leave these people, my dear, at once.'

"'But where am I to go to?'


"'But who'll take me in?'

"'Anybody, if you go the right way to work. How many times do you think I've changed my people? Seven!--and bettered myself on each occasion. Why, do you know where I was born? In a pig-sty. There were three of us, mother and I and my little brother. Mother would leave us every evening, returning generally just as it was getting light. One morning she did not come back. We waited and waited, but the day passed on and she did not return, and we grew hungrier and hungrier, and at last we lay down, side by side, and cried ourselves to sleep.

"'In the evening, peeping through a hole in the door, we saw her coming across the field. She was crawling very slowly, with her body close down against the ground. We called to her, and she answered with a low "crroo"; but she did not hasten her pace.

"'She crept in and rolled over on her side, and we ran to her, for we were almost starving. We lay long upon her breasts, and she licked us over and over.

"'I dropped asleep upon her, and in the night I awoke, feeling cold. I crept closer to her, but that only made me colder still, and she was wet and clammy with a dark moisture that was oozing from her side. I did not know what it was at that time, but I have learnt since.

"'That was when I could hardly have been four weeks old, and from that day to this I've looked after myself: you've got to do that in this world, my dear. For a while, I and my brother lived on in that sty and kept ourselves. It was a grim struggle at first, two babies fighting for life; but we pulled through. At the end of about three months, wandering farther from home than usual, I came upon a cottage, standing in the fields. It looked warm and cosy through the open door, and I went in: I have always been blessed with plenty of nerve. Some children were playing round the fire, and they welcomed me and made much of me. It was a new sensation to me, and I stayed there. I thought the place a palace at the time.

"'I might have gone on thinking so if it had not been that, passing through the village one day, I happened to catch sight of a room behind a shop. There was a carpet on the floor, and a rug before the fire. I had never known till then that there were such luxuries in the world. I determined to make that shop my home, and I did so.'

"'How did you manage it?' asked the black cat, who was growing interested.

"'By the simple process of walking in and sitting down. My dear child, cheek's the "Open sesame" to every door. The cat that works hard dies of starvation, the cat that has brains is kicked downstairs for a fool, and the cat that has virtue is drowned for a scamp; but the cat that has cheek sleeps on a velvet cushion and dines on cream and horseflesh. I marched straight in and rubbed myself against the old man's legs. He and his wife were quite taken with what they called my "trustfulness," and adopted me with enthusiasm. Strolling about the fields of an evening I often used to hear the children of the cottage calling my name. It was weeks before they gave up seeking for me. One of them, the youngest, would sob herself to sleep of a night, thinking that I was dead: they were affectionate children.

"'I boarded with my shopkeeping friends for nearly a year, and from them I went to some new people who had lately come to the neighbourhood, and who possessed a really excellent cook. I think I could have been very satisfied with these people, but, unfortunately, they came down in the world, and had to give up the big house and the cook, and take a cottage, and I did not care to go back to that sort of life.

"'Accordingly I looked about for a fresh opening. There was a curious old fellow who lived not far off. People said he was rich, but nobody liked him. He was shaped differently from other men. I turned the matter over in my mind for a day or two, and then determined to give him a trial. Being a lonely sort of man, he might make a fuss over me, and if not I could go.

"'My surmise proved correct. I have never been more petted than I was by "Toady," as the village boys had dubbed him. My present guardian is foolish enough over me, goodness knows, but she has other ties, while "Toady" had nothing else to love, not even himself. He could hardly believe his eyes at first when I jumped up on his knees and rubbed myself against his ugly face. "Why, Kitty," he said, "do you know you're the first living thing that has ever come to me of its own accord." There were tears in his funny little red eyes as he said that.

"'I remained two years with "Toady," and was very happy indeed. Then he fell ill, and strange people came to the house, and I was neglected. "Toady" liked me to come up and lie upon the bed, where he could stroke me with his long, thin hand, and at first I used to do this. But a sick man is not the best of company, as you can imagine, and the atmosphere of a sick room not too healthy, so, all things considered, I felt it was time for me to make a fresh move.

"'I had some difficulty in getting away. "Toady" was always asking for me, and they tried to keep me with him: he seemed to lie easier when I was there. I succeeded at length, however, and, once outside the door, I put sufficient distance between myself and the house to ensure my not being captured, for I knew "Toady" so long as he lived would never cease hoping to get me back.

"'Where to go, I did not know. Two or three homes were offered me, but none of them quite suited me. At one place, where I put up for a day, just to see how I liked it, there was a dog; and at another, which would otherwise have done admirably, they kept a baby. Whatever you do, never stop at a house where they keep a baby. If a child pulls your tail or ties a paper bag round your head, you can give it one for itself and nobody blames you. "Well, serve you right," they say to the yelling brat, "you shouldn't tease the poor thing." But if you resent a baby's holding you by the throat and trying to gouge out your eye with a wooden ladle, you are called a spiteful beast, and "shoo'd" all round the garden. If people keep babies, they don't keep me; that's my rule.

"'After sampling some three or four families, I finally fixed upon a banker. Offers more advantageous from a worldly point of view were open to me. I could have gone to a public-house, where the victuals were simply unlimited, and where the back door was left open all night. But about the banker's (he was also a churchwarden, and his wife never smiled at anything less than a joke by the bishop) there was an atmosphere of solid respectability that I felt would be comforting to my nature. My dear child, you will come across cynics who will sneer at respectability: don't you listen to them. Respectability is its own reward--and a very real and practical reward. It may not bring you dainty dishes and soft beds, but it brings you something better and more lasting. It brings you the consciousness that you are living the right life, that you are doing the right thing, that, so far as earthly ingenuity can fix it, you are going to the right place, and that other folks ain't. Don't you ever let any one set you against respectability. It's the most satisfying thing I know of in this world--and about the cheapest.

"'I was nearly three years with this family, and was sorry when I had to go. I should never have left if I could have helped it, but one day something happened at the bank which necessitated the banker's taking a sudden journey to Spain, and, after that, the house became a somewhat unpleasant place to live in. Noisy, disagreeable people were continually knocking at the door and making rows in the passage; and at night folks threw bricks at the windows.

"'I was in a delicate state of health at the time, and my nerves could not stand it. I said good-bye to the town, and making my way back into the country, put up with a county family.

"'They were great swells, but I should have preferred them had they been more homely. I am of an affectionate disposition, and I like every one about me to love me. They were good enough to me in their distant way, but they did not take much notice of me, and I soon got tired of lavishing attentions on people that neither valued nor responded to them.

"'From these people I went to a retired potato merchant. It was a social descent, but a rise so far as comfort and appreciation were concerned. They appeared to be an exceedingly nice family, and to be extremely fond of me. I say they "appeared" to be these things, because the sequel proved that they were neither. Six months after I had come to them they went away and left me. They never asked me to accompany them. They made no arrangements for me to stay behind. They evidently did not care what became of me. Such egotistical indifference to the claims of friendship I had never before met with. It shook my faith--never too robust--in human nature. I determined that, in future, no one should have the opportunity of disappointing my trust in them. I selected my present mistress on the recommendation of a gentleman friend of mine who had formerly lived with her. He said she was an excellent caterer. The only reason he had left her was that she expected him to be in at ten each night, and that hour didn't fit in with his other arrangements. It made no difference to me--as a matter of fact, I do not care for these midnight _reunions that are so popular amongst us. There are always too many cats for one properly to enjoy oneself, and sooner or later a rowdy element is sure to creep in. I offered myself to her, and she accepted me gratefully. But I have never liked her, and never shall. She is a silly old woman, and bores me. She is, however, devoted to me, and, unless something extra attractive turns up, I shall stick to her.

"'That, my dear, is the story of my life, so far as it has gone. I tell it you to show you how easy it is to be "taken in." Fix on your house, and mew piteously at the back door. When it is opened run in and rub yourself against the first leg you come across. Rub hard, and look up confidingly. Nothing gets round human beings, I have noticed, quicker than confidence. They don't get much of it, and it pleases them. Always be confiding. At the same time be prepared for emergencies. If you are still doubtful as to your reception, try and get yourself slightly wet. Why people should prefer a wet cat to a dry one I have never been able to understand; but that a wet cat is practically sure of being taken in and gushed over, while a dry cat is liable to have the garden hose turned upon it, is an undoubted fact. Also, if you can possibly manage it, and it is offered you, eat a bit of dry bread. The Human Race is always stirred to its deepest depths by the sight of a cat eating a bit of dry bread.'

"My friend's black Tom profited by the Chinchilla's wisdom. A catless couple had lately come to live next door. He determined to adopt them on trial. Accordingly, on the first rainy day, he went out soon after lunch and sat for four hours in an open field. In the evening, soaked to the skin, and feeling pretty hungry, he went mewing to their door. One of the maids opened it, he rushed under her skirts and rubbed himself against her legs. She screamed, and down came the master and the mistress to know what was the matter.

"'It's a stray cat, mum,' said the girl.

"'Turn it out,' said the master.

"'Oh no, don't,' said the mistress.

"'Oh, poor thing, it's wet,' said the housemaid.

"'Perhaps it's hungry,' said the cook.

"'Try it with a bit of dry bread,' sneered the master, who wrote for the newspapers, and thought he knew everything.

"A stale crust was proffered. The cat ate it greedily, and afterwards rubbed himself gratefully against the man's light trousers.

"This made the man ashamed of himself, likewise of his trousers. 'Oh, well, let it stop if it wants to,' he said.

"So the cat was made comfortable, and stayed on.

"Meanwhile its own family were seeking for it high and low. They had not cared over much for it while they had had it; now it was gone, they were inconsolable. In the light of its absence, it appeared to them the one thing that had made the place home. The shadows of suspicion gathered round the case. The cat's disappearance, at first regarded as a mystery, began to assume the shape of a crime. The wife openly accused the husband of never having liked the animal, and more than hinted that he and the gardener between them could give a tolerably truthful account of its last moments; an insinuation that the husband repudiated with a warmth that only added credence to the original surmise.

"The bull-terrier was had up and searchingly examined. Fortunately for him, he had not had a single fight for two whole days. Had any recent traces of blood been detected upon him, it would have gone hard with him.

"The person who suffered most, however, was the youngest boy. Three weeks before, he had dressed the cat in doll's clothes and taken it round the garden in the perambulator. He himself had forgotten the incident, but Justice, though tardy, was on his track. The misdeed was suddenly remembered at the very moment when unavailing regret for the loss of the favourite was at its deepest, so that to box his ears and send him, then and there, straight off to bed was felt to be a positive relief.

"At the end of a fortnight, the cat, finding he had not, after all, bettered himself, came back. The family were so surprised that at first they could not be sure whether he was flesh and blood, or a spirit come to comfort them. After watching him eat half a pound of raw steak, they decided he was material, and caught him up and hugged him to their bosoms. For a week they over-fed him and made much of him. Then, the excitement cooling, he found himself dropping back into his old position, and didn't like it, and went next door again.

"The next door people had also missed him, and they likewise greeted his return with extravagant ebullitions of joy. This gave the cat an idea. He saw that his game was to play the two families off one against the other; which he did. He spent an alternate fortnight with each, and lived like a fighting cock. His return was always greeted with enthusiasm, and every means were adopted to induce him to stay. His little whims were carefully studied, his favourite dishes kept in constant readiness.

"The destination of his goings leaked out at length, and then the two families quarrelled about him over the fence. My friend accused the newspaper man of having lured him away. The newspaper man retorted that the poor creature had come to his door wet and starving, and added that he would be ashamed to keep an animal merely to ill-treat it. They have a quarrel about him twice a week on the average. It will probably come to blows one of these days."

Jephson appeared much surprised by this story. He remained thoughtful and silent. I asked him if he would like to hear any more, and as he offered no active opposition I went on. (Maybe he was asleep; that idea did not occur to me at the time.)

I told him of my grandmother's cat, who, after living a blameless life for upwards of eleven years, and bringing up a family of something like sixty-six, not counting those that died in infancy and the water-butt, took to drink in her old age, and was run over while in a state of intoxication (oh, the justice of it! ) by a brewer's dray. I have read in temperance tracts that no dumb animal will touch a drop of alcoholic liquor. My advice is, if you wish to keep them respectable, don't give them a chance to get at it. I knew a pony--But never mind him; we are talking about my grandmother's cat.

A leaky beer-tap was the cause of her downfall. A saucer used to be placed underneath it to catch the drippings. One day the cat, coming in thirsty, and finding nothing else to drink, lapped up a little, liked it, and lapped a little more, went away for half an hour, and came back and finished the saucerful. Then sat down beside it, and waited for it to fill again.

From that day till the hour she died, I don't believe that cat was ever once quite sober. Her days she passed in a drunken stupor before the kitchen fire. Her nights she spent in the beer cellar.

My grandmother, shocked and grieved beyond expression, gave up her barrel and adopted bottles. The cat, thus condemned to enforced abstinence, meandered about the house for a day and a half in a disconsolate, quarrelsome mood. Then she disappeared, returning at eleven o'clock as tight as a drum.

Where she went, and how she managed to procure the drink, we never discovered; but the same programme was repeated every day. Some time during the morning she would contrive to elude our vigilance and escape; and late every evening she would come reeling home across the fields in a condition that I will not sully my pen by attempting to describe.

It was on Saturday night that she met the sad end to which I have before alluded. She must have been very drunk, for the man told us that, in consequence of the darkness, and the fact that his horses were tired, he was proceeding at little more than a snail's pace.

I think my grandmother was rather relieved than otherwise. She had been very fond of the cat at one time, but its recent conduct had alienated her affection. We children buried it in the garden under the mulberry tree, but the old lady insisted that there should be no tombstone, not even a mound raised. So it lies there, unhonoured, in a drunkard's grave.

I also told him of another cat our family had once possessed. She was the most motherly thing I have ever known. She was never happy without a family. Indeed, I cannot remember her when she hadn't a family in one stage or another. She was not very particular what sort of a family it was. If she could not have kittens, then she would content herself with puppies or rats. Anything that she could wash and feed seemed to satisfy her. I believe she would have brought up chickens if we had entrusted them to her.

All her brains must have run to motherliness, for she hadn't much sense. She could never tell the difference between her own children and other people's. She thought everything young was a kitten. We once mixed up a spaniel puppy that had lost its own mother among her progeny. I shall never forget her astonishment when it first barked. She boxed both its ears, and then sat looking down at it with an expression of indignant sorrow that was really touching.

"You're going to be a credit to your mother," she seemed to be saying "you're a nice comfort to any one's old age, you are, making a row like that. And look at your ears flopping all over your face. I don't know where you pick up such ways."

He was a good little dog. He did try to mew, and he did try to wash his face with his paw, and to keep his tail still, but his success was not commensurate with his will. I do not know which was the sadder to reflect upon, his efforts to become a creditable kitten, or his foster- mother's despair of ever making him one.

Later on we gave her a baby squirrel to rear. She was nursing a family of her own at the time, but she adopted him with enthusiasm, under the impression that he was another kitten, though she could not quite make out how she had come to overlook him. He soon became her prime favourite. She liked his colour, and took a mother's pride in his tail. What troubled her was that it would cock up over his head. She would hold it down with one paw, and lick it by the half-hour together, trying to make it set properly. But the moment she let it go up it would cock again. I have heard her cry with vexation because of this.

One day a neighbouring cat came to see her, and the squirrel was clearly the subject of their talk.

"It's a good colour," said the friend, looking critically at the supposed kitten, who was sitting up on his haunches combing his whiskers, and saying the only truthfully pleasant thing about him that she could think of.

"He's a lovely colour," exclaimed our cat proudly.

"I don't like his legs much," remarked the friend.

"No," responded his mother thoughtfully, "you're right there. His legs are his weak point. I can't say I think much of his legs myself."

"Maybe they'll fill out later on," suggested the friend, kindly.

"Oh, I hope so," replied the mother, regaining her momentarily dashed cheerfulness. "Oh yes, they'll come all right in time. And then look at his tail. Now, honestly, did you ever see a kitten with a finer tail?"

"Yes, it's a good tail," assented the other; "but why do you do it up over his head?"

"I don't," answered our cat. "It goes that way. I can't make it out. I suppose it will come straight as he gets older."

"It will be awkward if it don't," said the friend.

"Oh, but I'm sure it will," replied our cat. "I must lick it more. It's a tail that wants a good deal of licking, you can see that."

And for hours that afternoon, after the other cat had gone, she sat trimming it; and, at the end, when she lifted her paw off it, and it flew back again like a steel spring over the squirrel's head, she sat and gazed at it with feelings that only those among my readers who have been mothers themselves will be able to comprehend.

"What have I done," she seemed to say--"what have I done that this trouble should come upon me?"

Jephson roused himself on my completion of this anecdote and sat up.

"You and your friends appear to have been the possessors of some very remarkable cats," he observed.

"Yes," I answered, "our family has been singularly fortunate in its cats."

"Singularly so," agreed Jephson; "I have never met but one man from whom I have heard more wonderful cat talk than, at one time or another, I have from you."

"Oh," I said, not, perhaps without a touch of jealousy in my voice, "and who was he?"

"He was a seafaring man," replied Jephson. "I met him on a Hampstead tram, and we discussed the subject of animal sagacity.

"'Yes, sir,' he said, 'monkeys is cute. I've come across monkeys as could give points to one or two lubbers I've sailed under; and elephants is pretty spry, if you can believe all that's told of 'em. I've heard some tall tales about elephants. And, of course, dogs has their heads screwed on all right: I don't say as they ain't. But what I do say is: that for straightfor'ard, level-headed reasoning, give me cats. You see, sir, a dog, he thinks a powerful deal of a man--never was such a cute thing as a man, in a dog's opinion; and he takes good care that everybody knows it. Naturally enough, we says a dog is the most intellectual animal there is. Now a cat, she's got her own opinion about human beings. She don't say much, but you can tell enough to make you anxious not to hear the whole of it. The consequence is, we says a cat's got no intelligence. That's where we let our prejudice steer our judgment wrong. In a matter of plain common sense, there ain't a cat living as couldn't take the lee side of a dog and fly round him. Now, have you ever noticed a dog at the end of a chain, trying to kill a cat as is sitting washing her face three-quarters of an inch out of his reach? Of course you have. Well, who's got the sense out of those two? The cat knows that it ain't in the nature of steel chains to stretch. The dog, who ought, you'd think, to know a durned sight more about 'em than she does, is sure they will if you only bark loud enough.

"'Then again, have you ever been made mad by cats screeching in the night, and jumped out of bed and opened the window and yelled at them? Did they ever budge an inch for that, though you shrieked loud enough to skeer the dead, and waved your arms about like a man in a play? Not they. They've turned and looked at you, that's all. "Yell away, old man," they've said, "we like to hear you: the more the merrier." Then what have you done? Why, you've snatched up a hair-brush, or a boot, or a candlestick, and made as if you'd throw it at them. They've seen your attitude, they've seen the thing in your hand, but they ain't moved a point. They knew as you weren't going to chuck valuable property out of window with the chance of getting it lost or spoiled. They've got sense themselves, and they give you credit for having some. If you don't believe that's the reason, you try showing them a lump of coal, or half a brick, next time--something as they know you _will throw. Before you're ready to heave it, there won't be a cat within aim.

"'Then as to judgment and knowledge of the world, why dogs are babies to 'em. Have you ever tried telling a yarn before a cat, sir?'

"I replied that cats had often been present during anecdotal recitals of mine, but that, hitherto, I had paid no particular attention to their demeanour.

"'Ah, well, you take an opportunity of doing so one day, sir,' answered the old fellow; 'it's worth the experiment. If you're telling a story before a cat, and she don't get uneasy during any part of the narrative, you can reckon you've got hold of a thing as it will be safe for you to tell to the Lord Chief Justice of England.

"'I've got a messmate,' he continued; 'William Cooley is his name. We call him Truthful Billy. He's as good a seaman as ever trod quarter-deck; but when he gets spinning yarns he ain't the sort of man as I could advise you to rely upon. Well, Billy, he's got a dog, and I've seen him sit and tell yarns before that dog that would make a cat squirm out of its skin, and that dog's taken 'em in and believed 'em. One night, up at his old woman's, Bill told us a yarn by the side of which salt junk two voyages old would pass for spring chicken. I watched the dog, to see how he would take it. He listened to it from beginning to end with cocked ears, and never so much as blinked. Every now and then he would look round with an expression of astonishment or delight that seemed to say: "Wonderful, isn't it!" "Dear me, just think of it!" "Did you ever!" "Well, if that don't beat everything!" He was a chuckle-headed dog; you could have told him anything.

"'It irritated me that Bill should have such an animal about him to encourage him, and when he had finished I said to him, "I wish you'd tell that yarn round at my quarters one evening."

"'Why?' said Bill.

"'Oh, it's just a fancy of mine,' I says. I didn't tell him I was wanting my old cat to hear it.

"'Oh, all right,' says Bill, 'you remind me.' He loved yarning, Billy did.

"'Next night but one he slings himself up in my cabin, and I does so. Nothing loth, off he starts. There was about half-a-dozen of us stretched round, and the cat was sitting before the fire fussing itself up. Before Bill had got fairly under weigh, she stops washing and looks up at me, puzzled like, as much as to say, "What have we got here, a missionary?" I signalled to her to keep quiet, and Bill went on with his yarn. When he got to the part about the sharks, she turned deliberately round and looked at him. I tell you there was an expression of disgust on that cat's face as might have made a travelling Cheap Jack feel ashamed of himself. It was that human, I give you my word, sir, I forgot for the moment as the poor animal couldn't speak. I could see the words that were on its lips: "Why don't you tell us you swallowed the anchor?" and I sat on tenter-hooks, fearing each instant that she would say them aloud. It was a relief to me when she turned her back on Bill.

"'For a few minutes she sat very still, and seemed to be wrestling with herself like. I never saw a cat more set on controlling its feelings, or that seemed to suffer more in silence. It made my heart ache to watch it.

"'At last Bill came to the point where he and the captain between 'em hold the shark's mouth open while the cabin-boy dives in head foremost, and fetches up, undigested, the gold watch and chain as the bo'sun was a- wearing when he fell overboard; and at that the old cat giv'd a screech, and rolled over on her side with her legs in the air.

"'I thought at first the poor thing was dead, but she rallied after a bit, and it seemed as though she had braced herself up to hear the thing out.

"'But a little further on, Bill got too much for her again, and this time she owned herself beat. She rose up and looked round at us: "You'll excuse me, gentlemen," she said--leastways that is what she said if looks go for anything--"maybe you're used to this sort of rubbish, and it don't get on your nerves. With me it's different. I guess I've heard as much of this fool's talk as my constitution will stand, and if it's all the same to you I'll get outside before I'm sick."

"'With that she walked up to the door, and I opened it for her, and she went out.

"'You can't fool a cat with talk same as you can a dog.'"

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Novel Notes - Chapter 7 Novel Notes - Chapter 7

Novel Notes - Chapter 7
CHAPTER VIIDoes man ever reform? Balzac says he doesn't. So far as my experience goes, it agrees with that of Balzac--a fact the admirers of that author are at liberty to make what use of they please. When I was young and accustomed to take my views of life from people who were older than myself, and who knew better, so they said, I used to believe that he did. Examples of "reformed characters" were frequently pointed out to me--indeed, our village, situate a few miles from a small seaport town, seemed to be peculiarly rich in such.

Novel Notes - Chapter 5 Novel Notes - Chapter 5

Novel Notes - Chapter 5
CHAPTER VBrown and MacShaughnassy came down together on the Saturday afternoon; and, as soon as they had dried themselves, and had had some tea, we settled down to work. Jephson had written that he would not be able to be with us until late in the evening, and Brown proposed that we should occupy ourselves until his arrival with plots. "Let each of us," said he, "sketch out a plot. Afterwards we can compare them, and select the best." This we proceeded to do. The plots themselves I forget, but I remember that at the subsequent judging each man