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"Life in a barge is very exciting. There are such lots of rats, some of
them as big as you kittens. I got quite clever at catching them, though
sometimes they made a very good fight for it. I used to have plenty of
milk, and I slept with the bargee in his warm little bunk, and of nights
I sat and toasted myself in front of his fire in the small, cosy cabin.
He was very fond of me, and used to talk to me a great deal. It is so
lonely on a barge that you are glad of a little conversation. He was
very kind to me, and I was very grieved when he married a lady who
didn't like cats, and who chased me out of the barge with a barge-pole."
"What is a barge-pole?" the yellow kitten asked lazily.
"The only leg a barge has. I ran away into the woods, and there I lived
on birds and rabbits."
"What are rabbits?"
"Something like cats with long ears; very wholesome and nutritious. And
I should have liked my sixth life very much, but for the keeper. No,
don't interrupt to ask what a keeper is. He is a man who, when he meets
a cat or a rabbit, points a gun at it, and says 'Bang!' so loud that you
die of fright."
"How horrible!" said all the kittens.
"I was looking out for my seventh life, and also for the gamekeeper, and
was sitting by the river with both eyes and both ears open, when a
little girl came by--a nice little girl in a checked pinafore.
"She stopped when she saw me, and called--'Pussy! pussy!' So I went very
slowly to her, and rubbed myself against her legs. Then she picked me up
and carried me home in the checked pinafore. My seventh life was spent
in a clean little cottage with this little girl and her mother. She was
very fond of me, and I was as fond of her as a cat can be of a human
being. Of course, we are never so _unreasonably_ fond of them as they
are of us."
"Why not?" asked the yellow kitten, who was young and affectionate.
"Because they're only human beings, and we are Cats," returned the
mother, turning her large, calm green eyes on Goldie, who said, "Oh!"
and no more.
"Well, what happened then?" asked the black kitten, catching its
"Well, one day the little girl put me into a basket, and carried me out.
I was always a fine figure of a cat, and I must have been a good weight
to carry. Several times she opened the basket to kiss and stroke me. The
last time she did it we were in a room where a sick girl lay on a bed.
"'I did not know what to bring you for your birthday,' said my little
girl, 'so I've brought you my dear pussy.'
"The sick girl's eyes sparkled with delight. She took me in her arms and
stroked me. And though I do not like sick people, I felt flattered and
pleased. But I only stayed a very little time with her."
"Why?" asked all the kittens at once.
"Because----but no; that story's too sad for you children; I will tell
it you when you're older."
"But that only makes eight lives," said Sweep, who had been counting on
his claws, "and you said you had nine. Which was the ninth?"
"Why, _this_, you silly child," said the brindled pussy, sitting up, and
beginning to wash the kitten's face very hard indeed. "And as it's my
last life, I must be very careful of it. That's why I'm so particular
about what I eat and drink, and why I make a point of sleeping so many
hours a-day. But it's your _first_ life, Snowball, and I can't have you
wasting it all in sleep. Go and catch a mouse at once."
"Yes, mamma," said Snowball, and went to sleep again immediately.
"Ah!" said Mrs. Brindle, "I'll wash you next. That'll make you wake up,
"Snowball's always sleepy," said the yellow kitten, stretching itself.
"But, mamma dear, she doesn't care for history, and yours was a very
"You can't have too much of a good thing," said the mother, looking down
at her long brindled tail. "If it's a good tail, the longer it is the