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Nine lives.

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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 mother's eye. "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, my dear." "Snowball's always sleepy," said the yellow kitten, stretching itself. "But, mamma dear, she doesn't care for history, and yours was a very long tale." "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 better."


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