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A meddlesome pussy.

From Pussy and Doggy Tales by Edith Nesbit.
Age Rating 4 to 6.

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I WAS separated from my mother at a very early age, and sent out into the world alone, long before I had had time to learn to say "please" and "thank you," and to shut the door after me, and little things like that. One of the things I had not learned to understand was the difference between milk in a saucer on the floor, and milk in a jug on the table. Other cats tell me there is a difference, but I can't see it. The difference is not in the taste of the milk--that is precisely the same. It is not so easy to get the milk out of a jug, and I should have thought some credit would attach to a cat who performed so clever a feat. The world, my dear, thinks otherwise. This difference of opinion has, through life, been a fruitful source of sorrow to me. I cannot tell you how much I have suffered for it. The first occasion I remember was a beautiful day in June, when the sun shone, and all the world looked fair. I was destined to remember that day.

The fishmonger (talk of statues to heroes! I would raise one to that noble man!)--the fishmonger, I say, brought his usual little present to _me_. I let the cook take it and prepare it for my eating. I am always generous enough to permit the family to be served first--and then I have my dinner quietly at the back door. Well, he had brought the salmon, and I followed the cook in, to see that it wasn't put where those dogs could get it; and then, the dining-room door being opened, I walked in. The breakfast things were lying littered about, and on the tea-tray was a jug. Of course, I walked across the table, and looked into the jug; there was milk in it. It was a sensible, wide-mouthed jug, and I should have been quite able to make a comfortable breakfast, if some clumsy, careless servant hadn't rushed into the room, crying "Shoo! scat!" This startled me, of course. I am very sensitive. I started, the jug went over, and the milk ran on to the cloth, and down on the new carpet. You will hardly believe it, but that servant, to conceal her own carelessness, beat me with a feather brush, and threw me out of the back door; and cook, who was always a heartless person, though stout, gave me no dinner. Ah! if my fishmonger had only known that I never tasted his beautiful present, after all!

But though I admired him so much, I could not talk to him. I never, from a kitten, could speak any foreign language fluently. So he never knew. My next misadventure was on an afternoon when the family expected company, and the best china was set out. Why "best"? Why should a saucer, all blue and gold and red, with a crown on the back, be better than a white one with mauve blobs on it? I never could see. Milk tastes equally well from both. I went into the drawing-room before the guests arrived--just to be sure that everything was as I could wish--and, seeing the tea set out, I got on the table, as usual, to see whether there was anything in the saucers. There was not, but in the best milk-jug there was--CREAM! The neck of the best milk-jug was narrow. I could not get my head in, so I turned it over with my paw. It fell with a crash, and I paused a moment--these little shocks always upset me. All was still--I began to lap. Oh! that cream! I shall never forget it!

Then came a rush, and the fatal cry of "Shoo! scat!"--always presaging disaster. I saw the door open, and, by an instinct I cannot explain, I leaped from the table. In my hurry, my foot caught in the handle of the silver tray. We fell together--neither the tray nor I was hurt--but the best china!!! I picked myself up, and looked about me. The family had come in. I read in their faces that their servant's unlucky interruption-of my meal had destroyed what was dearer to them than life--than _my_ life, at any rate. I fled. I went out homeless and hopeless into the golden afternoon. I live now with a Saint--a maiden lady, who takes condensed milk in her own tea, and buys me two-pennyworth of cream night and morning. And cat's meat, too! And the glorious fishmonger still leaves his offerings at my door.


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