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From Pussy and Doggy Tales by Edith Nesbit.
Start of Story
Age Rating 4 to 6.
"MOTHER," said the yellow kitten, "is it true that we cats have nine
"Quite, my dear," the brindled cat replied. She was a very handsome cat,
and in very comfortable circumstances. She sat on a warm Turkey carpet,
and wore a blue satin ribbon round her neck. "I am in the ninth life
myself," she said.
"Have you lived all your lives here?"
"Oh dear, no!"
"Were you here," the white kitten asked, in a sleepy voice, "when the
Turkey carpet was born? Rover says it is only a few months old."
"No," said the mother, "I was not. Indeed, it was partly the softness of
that carpet that made me come and live here."
"Where did you live before?" the black kitten said.
A dreamy look came into the brindled cat's eyes.
"In many strange places," she answered slowly; adding more briskly, "and
if you will be good kittens, I will tell you all about them. Goldie!
come down from that stool, and sit down like a good kitten. Sweep! leave
off sharpening your claws on the furniture; _that_ always ends in
trouble and punishment. Snowball! you're asleep again! Oh, well; if
you'd rather sleep than hear a story----"
Snowball shook herself awake, and the others sat down close to their
mother with their tails arranged neatly beside them, and waited for the
"I was born," said the brindled cat, "in a barn."
"What is a barn?" asked the black kitten.
"A barn is like a house, but there is only one room, and no carpets,
"I should like that," said the yellow kitten, who often played among the
straw in the big box which brought groceries from the Stores.
"I liked it well enough when I was your age," said the mother
indulgently, "but a barn is not at all a genteel place to be born in. My
mother had had a little unpleasantness with the family she lived with,
and, of course, she was too proud to stay on after that. And so she
left them, and went to live in the barn. It wasn't at all the sort of
life she had been accustomed to."
"What was the unpleasantness?" Sweep asked.
"Well, it was about some cream which the woman of the house wanted for
her tea. She should have said so. Of course, my mother would not have
taken it if she had had any idea that any one else wanted it. She was
always most unselfish."
"What is tea?"
"A kind of brown milk--very nasty indeed, and very bad for you. Well, I
lived with my brothers and sisters very happily for some months, for I
was too young to know how vulgar it was to live in a barn and play with
"What is vulgar, mother?"
"Dear, dear; how you do ask questions," said the brindled cat, beginning
to look worried. "Vulgar is being like everybody else."
"But does everybody else live in a barn?"
"No; nobody does who is respectable. Vulgar really means--not like
"Oh!" said the black kitten and the yellow, trying to look as if they
understood. But the white one did not say anything, because it had gone
to sleep again.
"Well," the mother went on, "after a while they took me to live in the
farm-house. And I should have liked it well enough, only they had a low
habit of locking up the dairy and the pantry. Well, it would be tiresome
to go into the whole story; however, I soon finished my life at the
farm-house and went to live in the stable. It was very pleasant there.
Horses are excellent company. That was my third life. My fourth was at
the miller's. He came one day to buy some corn; he saw me, and admired
me--as, indeed, every one has always done. He and the farmer were
disputing about the price of the corn, and at last the miller said--
"'Look here; you shall have your price if you'll throw me that cat into
The kittens all shuddered. "What is a bargain? Is it like a pond? And
were you thrown in?"
"I was thrown in, I believe. But a bargain is not like a pond; though I
heard the two men talk of 'wetting' the bargain. But I suppose they did
not do it, for I arrived at the mill quite dry. That was a very pleasant
life--full of mice!"
"Who was full of mice?" asked the white kitten, waking up for a moment.
"I was," said the mother sharply; "and I should have stayed in the mill
for ever, but the miller had another cat sent him by his sister.
"However, he gave me away to a man who worked a barge up and down the
river. I suppose he thought he should like to see me again sometimes as
the barge passed by.