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Household Pets - from Harper's


An amusing story is told of a modern puss which sailed across the seas. A Polynesian missionary took a cat with him to the island of Raratonga, but Puss, not liking her new abode, fled to the mountains. One of the new converts, a priest who had destroyed his idol, was one night, sleeping on his mat, when his wife, who sat watching beside him, was terribly alarmed by the sight of two small fires gleaming in the doorway, and by the sound of a plaintive and mysterious voice. Her blood curdling with fear, she awoke her husband, with wifely reproaches on his folly in having burned his god, who was now come to be avenged on them.

The husband, opening his eyes, saw the same glaring lamps, heard the same dismal sound, and, in an agony of fright, began to recite the alphabet, by way of an incantation against the powers of darkness. The cat on hearing the loud voices felt as much alarm as she had caused, and fled in the darkness, leaving the worthy pair much relieved.

A short while afterward Puss took up her quarters in a retired temple, where her "mews" struck terror into the breasts of the priest and worshippers who came with offerings to the gods. They fled in all directions, shouting, "A monster from the deep! a monster from the deep!" to return with a large body of their companions in full war array, with spears, clubs, and shields, and faces blackened with charcoal. The cat, however, was too nimble for them, and escaped through the midst of their ranks, sending these brave warriors flying in every direction.

That night, however, Puss, tired of her lonely life, foolishly entered a native hut, and creeping beneath the coverlet under which the whole family were lying, fell asleep. Her purring awoke the owner of the hut, who procured the help of some other models of valor, and with their assistance murdered poor Pussy in her tranquil and confiding slumbers.

But cats, though thus at first misunderstood, were afterward welcomed in Raratonga, which was devastated with a plague of rats. The missionaries imported a cargo consisting of pigs, cocoa-nuts, and cats.

A youthful clerk who was once appointed to make out an invoice of shipments on a Mississippi steamer, was perplexed by the item of "Four boxes of tom-cats." On inquiry, the mystery was solved. "Why," said the indignant sutler, "that means four boxes of tomato catsup. Don't you understand abbreviations?"

An amusing reason is given for cats washing their faces after a meal. A cat caught a sparrow, and was about to devour it, but the sparrow said,

"No gentleman eats till he has first washed his face."

The cat, struck with this remark, set the sparrow down, and began to wash his face, on which the sparrow flew away. This vexed Pussy extremely, and he said,

"As long as I live I will eat first, and wash my face afterward."

Which all cats do even to this day.

Here is another cat and sparrow fable:

"I wonder," said a sparrow, "what the eagles are about, that they don't fly away with the cats? And now I think of it, a civil question can not give offense." So the sparrow finished her breakfast, went to the eagle, and said: "May it please your Majesty, I see you and your race fly away with the birds and the lambs, that do no harm. But there is not a creature so malignant as a cat; she prowls about our nests, eats up our young, and bites off our own heads. She feeds so daintily that she must be herself good eating. Why do you not feed upon a cat?"

"Ah!" said the eagle, "there is sense in your question. I had a worm here this morning, asking me why I did not breakfast upon sparrows. Do I see a morsel of worm's skin on your beak, my child?"

The sparrow cleaned his bill upon his bosom, and said, "I should like to see the worm that made that complaint."

"Come forward, worm," the eagle said. But when the worm appeared, the sparrow snapped him up and ate him, after which he went on with his argument against the cats.