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The Cat Show by Mrs. W. J. Hays

 

THE CAT SHOW.

A THANKSGIVING EPISODE.

By MRS. W. J. HAYS,

Author of "The Princess Idleways."

"Yes, next month comes that old, everlasting Thanksgiving-day. I wonder why we have to spend more than half of it at the dinner table!"

"Suppose we don't? Let us strike out on a new lead."

"What can we do? Grandmother's pumpkin pies must be eaten, and grandfather's great turkey must be carved."

"Well, Charlie, I like originality."

"What is that, Sue?—anything in the candy shop?"

"You dreadful boy! You are just too—"

"Sweet for anything," put in Charlie.

Sue jumped up and tried to box his ears; but she chased him out into the hall, and tripped over the mats, and away he went up the stairs, and stood laughing at her as she gathered up her worsted-work.

"If I were a gentleman," said Sue, in her haughtiest manner, "I would assist my friends when misfortune overtook them."

"Hear! hear!" cried Charlie.

"I had the nicest little plan to propose," she went on.

"What was it, Sue?" said Charlie, whose curiosity was aroused.

"Not a word more to one so ungallant, so very rude."

"Ah, Sue dear," coaxed Charlie, coming down and putting his arm around her, "you are the nicest little sister in the world, if you did want to box my ears. Now tell us the plan, that's a darling."

"Well, it isn't much, after all; it is only that I want to make Thanksgiving a little more of a reality, and I thought—now, Charlie, don't laugh at me—that if we could do something for somebody, which would make him thankful, wouldn't it be nicer."

"And who did you think of?"

"I thought of old black Betsey and her husband, they both are so old and so poor. Suppose we give them a dinner?"

"All by ourselves? Where would we get the money?"

"We will have an exhibition of cats. I will borrow Aunt May's old tabby, and John's big Tom, and Lulie Bell's five white kittens, and we have our own, and you can get others, and we will rig up a room in the barn, and put placards up, and I will tie bright ribbons on all their necks, and we'll charge ten cents for grown people and five cents for children, and—oh, I don't know what else."

"Splendid!"

The idea suited Charlie, and no time must be lost. Every day was valuable. Mother was consulted, and had no objections. Father gave permission to use the harness-room. The cats were borrowed: big cats and little cats, sleepy old pussies and lively young kits, gray cats, white cats, and "cherry-colored cats," as the placard read. "For one day only," was also on the placard. Charlie was door-keeper, and a busy time had Sue in keeping peace among the pussies. They screamed and scratched, and kept up a perfect Pinafore chorus, until the child wished she was deaf, or could give them all opium; but the day wore on, and all the children of their acquaintance enjoyed the sport, and not a few of the elders looked in upon them. By evening Charlie was rejoicing in the possession of a full money-box, but his face grew long as he counted the pennies. In reply to Sue's eager query of "How much?"

"Only two dollars and a half," was his dejected reply.

"Well, we can buy lots of things with that," said Sue, whose knowledge of marketing was limited.

"I am afraid it will take all for the turkey."

"Then we'll get chickens," said Sue.

"And how about cranberry jelly?"

"Mother will give us apples from her barrel."

"And celery, and sweet-potatoes, and all the other goodies?"

"We must make it all do. I will go to Mr. Scott, the grocer, and tell him we want everything at the very lowest price."

"Well, I leave it all to you," said Charlie, with masculine disdain of details, and scorn for so small a sum.

"That is right. You'll see how I will manage," said Sue, confidently.

And manage she did.

Thanksgiving was a cold, bleak day, and old black Betsey had no idea of leaving her fireside for church.

"I can give my tanks jist as well one place as anodder," said she, in reply to a sweet coaxing voice which was urging her to go out.

"Now please just go to oblige me, Aunt Betsey," said Sue; "Charlie and I want you and Uncle Jake to go to church for a very particular reason. You can not refuse me, I am sure."

The old woman grumbled and scolded and shuffled about in a discontented way, but the pleading little Sue stood firm, and gave an exulting shout as she finally closed the door upon both of them.

"Hurrah!" exclaimed Charlie, and then they both went to work.

The poor little cabin had to be swept and dusted, and all the cracked crockery well wiped, but Sue had tied on a great big apron, and Charlie pinned on a huge towel, and declared himself head waiter. Then the market-basket, carefully concealed in the wood-shed, had to be unpacked, and Sue's mother had given a bright red table-cover, and all sorts of nice little things to fill up corners; and when at last everything was set out, and green boughs hung over the doors, and the ready-cooked turkey was fizzing over again in the oven, and the dinner was ready, Sue and Charlie hid themselves behind a door and waited for Aunt Betsey and Uncle Jake. Slowly the old people came grumbling home as they had grumbled out. They were old and stiff and poor, and what was there to be thankful for? For the rheumatism? Yes, if God willed it, said Aunt Betsey, who, however, was far from cheerful.

 "WHAT DOSE CHILLEN BIN ABOUT?"

They pushed open the door, and the savory smell of cooking saluted them.

"Hi, Uncle Jake, what you tink o' dis? what's de meanin' of all dis yer?" said Aunt Betsey.

Uncle Jake's mouth opened wide, as if the better to inhale the rich odors.

"Who's bin hiyar? What dose chillen bin about? Good gracious me! if dis ain't a dinner fit fur a king."

Uncle Jake's grin burst into a laugh.

"Oh my! dey meant we should hab a Tanksgivin' in yearnest;" and the two old souls shook their sides with laughter.

"De good Lord bress dose chillen, an' give 'em as tankful hearts as we hab dis day!" said Aunt Betsey.

Sue and Charlie had meant to give a glorious war-whoop and shout, but their voices would not come, and when they looked at each other the tears came welling up from their tender little hearts.

"Come, Sue," said Charlie, "let us get away without their seeing us. Who ever thought a cat show would make two people so glad!"

They went home to their own dinner with a new idea of Thanksgiving-day; it seemed a better and a fresher feast; and after the day was done and the stars came out twinkling their thanks, and the children, tired with play and glad to rest, laid down their sleepy heads on their pillows, their angels whispered softly dreams of peace and joy.