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- Who Spoke Next - 7/7 -
fancy for cats. He resolved, at the Christmas season, to gratify this taste of hers, as well as his own love of all sorts of vagaries.
Christmas fell on Monday. On that morning, the young lady received an elegant package which contained, wrapped up in seven papers, carefully sealed, a picture of a great black cat, with fiery eyes, long whiskers, and a flaming red tongue, The young lady was a good deal astonished, you may believe.
The next morning, she found in her breakfast cup the prettiest little sugar cat you can imagine. She asked all the family who had played her the trick, but no one knew.
On Wednesday morning, when the house-maid opened the window to sweep the drawing room, as she always did at seven o'clock, a small, soft bundle came flying in at the window, and fell in the middle of the floor. The bundle was directed to Miss Mary, and contained a large rag cat, with a painted face, and with little bunches gathered up for nose and ears.
Inquiries were in vain. No one had seen the daring hand that tossed the rag pussy into the window. The lady's suspicions did not fall upon the Italian, because he had made her think that he was out of town.
Early on Thursday morning, came a great double knock and ring at the house door. So loud and long was the noise that the servant, a little, scary old man, thought the house was coming down. With trembling hand, he opened the door, when a black man, six feet high, delivered a huge box. The two men together had to take it in, it was so clumsy, though the weight was not much. In answer to the old man's inquiries as to who sent it, &c., the black only pointed to his mouth and ears, significantly, to intimate that he was deaf and dumb. On the top of the box was marked in red chalk "Miss Mary--."
As soon as she came down, she was led to the box. It was opened with some difficulty. Inside was a quantity of cotton wool, and scattered about in the wool were little packages of soft paper, and inside of each was a little china cat. When all were taken out, the young lady found herself the possessor of a white china cat with gold ears and gold collar, and five little china kittens of various colors.
It did no good asking questions, and the poor young lady resigned herself to her fate.
The part of the house in which Miss Mary slept was a sort of wing. The only room there with a chimney was hers. The roof communicated with a shed, so that it was not difficult for a good climber to get at the chimney.
On Friday morning, Miss Mary was awakened by a rattling in the chimney corner where, to her amazement, was a "Noah's ark" dangling by a string. She took hold of it, and drew it out of the chimney.
"This must be meant for one of the little children," thought she. But no; the ark bore her name. On opening it, she discovered that it was a collection made from many arks, a cat having been culled from each. So there were cats of many sizes, and all painted as red as they could be. They made a long procession of red cats.
On Saturday morning, the young lady awoke very early, but found nothing in her chimney corner. Although the weather was very cold, she went out, as was her custom, to walk in the garden before breakfast. There was a high wall on the side of the garden next the street. She walked down by the side of this wall towards a little arbor at the bottom of the garden. Just as she reached the arbor, she was startled by a squeak from the top of the wall, and something fell just at her feet. Taking the thing up, she perceived that it was a toy cat with a mewing arrangement underneath. It had been carefully wrapped up, but the paper was broken in the attempt to make it mew at the top of the wall. The lady burst into an uncontrollable fit of laughter; but, in answer to her laugh, came a dismal mewing from the other side of the wall; and, as she walked towards the house, at every few steps, a yowling toy cat jumped over, and fell at her feet.
The next day was Sunday, and the lady said, "I shall be left in peace to-day, I think all the different kinds of cats must be exhausted."
On going to her writing table, after breakfast, she found a little package lying on some note paper. It was very heavy, and was directed to her in a hand she did not recognize. It proved to be a most beautiful Paris bronze cat paper weight. The cat had her paw on a bird, and looked so life-like that it was almost painful to see her.
"I am now in a state," said Miss Mary, "to arrange a cat museum."
So she took all the cats, and placed them, in the order of their appearance, in a recess on one side of the room. There were picture cat, rag cat, China cats, ark cats, yowling cats, bronze cat.
The next morning was New Year's Day. The young lady passed it in quiet. No cats invaded her repose. She began to think the eruption of cats was beginning to subside. Vain hope! Her tormentor was busy enough.
On Sunday evening, he arrived at our house in the country. He came to spend the night.
"My dear E.," said he to me, "you must lend me a cat. I have sent Miss Mary--every kind of cat except a live one, and now I must send that too. I am going to make you dress up your favorite blue kitten."
At first, I refused; but, on his promise that the kitten should be treated with the greatest care and consideration, I agreed. I made her a gown of yellow satin coming down over her legs. The tail went through the gown and helped to keep it on. That tail was the gaudiest part of all, being wound with gold lace, and bearing at the tip a gay, flourishing bow. I made for pussy beautiful pettiloons of dark-red glazed cambric, and shod her with black morocco boots. Her cap was made of paste-board, tall and peaked, trimmed with gay ribbons, and surmounted by a cock's feather. A coral necklace with a locket was put about her neck; and then poor pussy was complete, and shone in her whole brilliancy Her patience was a shining example. Not a mew nor a growl at all the often-repeated fittings and tryings on. She purred kindly all the time.
Her carriage was a bandbox, big enough to avoid crushing the cap and tail, with a hole cut in the cover for ventilation; and Miss Pussy set off for town.
"A whole day gone, and no cat!" exclaimed Miss Mary--, as the family rose from tea. "The joke is over now, whatever it was."
No sooner were the words spoken than a rousing knock and ring startled the silence, and a bandbox appeared covered with brilliant red letters spelling, "This side up with care," and several other phrases with the same meaning. "Open carefully" stood prominent among them. The direction was, of course, to Miss Mary. With careful hand, she raised the lid, when the cat, tired of long confinement, bewildered by the sudden light, and scared by the roars of laughter that greeted her, leapt from the box, and sped around the room like lightning. The dress held on well, while she galloped about like a gayly caparisoned circus pony. At last, she took a leap and fell into the midst of her predecessors. Rag cats, China cats, Noah's cats, yowling cats were upset and dashed to pieces.
At this moment, the author of all the nonsense poked his head into the door. "My dear Miss Mary, I trust I have, at last, satisfied your taste for cats. I hope you like your New Year's gifts."
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