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A white persian.

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



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I WAS a handsome, discreet, middle-aged, respectable, responsible, domesticated tabby cat. I was humble. I knew my place, and kept it. My place was the place nearest the fire in winter, or close to the sunny window in summer. There was nothing to trouble me--not so much as a fly in the cream, or an error in the leaving of the cat's meat, until some thoughtless person gave my master the white Persian cat. She was very beautiful in her soft, foolish, namby-pamby, blue-eyed way. Of course, she did not understand English, and when they called "Puss, puss," she only ran under the sofa, for she thought they were teasing her. She was mistress only of two languages--Persian and cat-talk. My master did not think of this. He called her "Puss"; he called her "Pussy"; he called her "Tittums" and "Pussy then"; and a thousand endearments that had formerly been lavished on me were vainly showered on this unresponsive stranger. But when he found she was cold to all of them, my master sighed. "Poor thing!" he said; "she is deaf."



I sat by the bright fender, and washed my face, and sleeked my pretty paws, and looked on. My master gave up taking very much notice of the new cat. But I had a fear that he might learn Persian or cat-talk, and make friends with her; so I resolved that the best thing for me would be a complete change in the Persian's behaviour--such a change as should make it impossible for her ever to be friends with him again; so I said to her: "You wonder that our master looks coldly at you. Perhaps you don't know that in England a white cat is supposed to mew twenty times longer and to purr twenty times louder than a cat of any other colour?" "Oh, thank you so much for telling me," she said gratefully. "I didn't know. As it happens, I have a very good voice." And the next time she wanted her milk, she mewed in a voice you could have heard twenty miles away. Poor master was so astonished that he nearly dropped the saucer. When she had finished the milk, she jumped upon his knee, and he began to stroke her. She nearly gave herself a fit in her efforts to purr loud enough to please him. At first he was pleased, but when the purring got louder and louder, the poor man put his hands to his ears and said, "Oh dear! oh dear! this is worse than a whole hive of bees."



Still he put her down gently, and I congratulated her on having done so well. She did better. She was an affectionate person, though foolish, and in her anxiety to do what was expected of a cat of her colour in England, she practised day and night. Her purr was already the loudest I have heard from any cat, but she fancied she could improve her mewing; and she mewed in the garden, she mewed in the house, she mewed at meals, she mewed at prayers, she mewed when she was hungry to show that she wanted food, and she mewed when she had had it to show her gratitude. "Poor thing," said the master to a friend who had come to see him, "she is so deaf she can't hear the noise she makes." Of course, I understood what he said, but she hadn't yet picked up a word of English; and if the master _had_ begun to learn Persian, I don't suppose he had got much beyond the alphabet. The Persian's mew was rather feebler that day, because she had a cold. "I don't think it's so bad," said his friend. "If you really wanted to get rid of her, she is very handsome; she would take a prize anywhere." "She is yours," said the master instantly; and the strange gentleman took her away in a basket.



That evening it was I who sat on my master's knee--I who superintended the writing of his letters on the green-covered writing table--I who had all the milk that was left over from his tea. In a few days he had a letter. I read it when he laid it down; and if you don't believe cats can read, I can only say that it is just as easy to read a letter like the master's as it is to write a story like this. The letter begged my master to take back the fair Persian. "Her howls," the letter went on, "become worse and worse. The poor creature is, as you say, too deaf to be tolerated." My master wrote back instantly to say that he would rather be condemned to keep a dog than have the fair Persian within his doors again. Then by return of post came a pitiful letter, begging for help and mercy, and the friend came again to tea. I trembled lest my foreign rival should come back to live with me. But she didn't. The next morning my master took me on his knee, and, stroking me gently, said-- "Ah, Tabbykins! no more Persians for us. I have sent her to my deaf aunt. She will be delighted with her--a most handsome present--and as they are both deaf, the fair Persian's shrieks will hurt nobody. "But I will have no more prize cats," he said, pouring out some cream for me in his own saucer. "You know how to behave; I will never have any cat but you." I do, and he never has.

       



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