This section is from the book "The Book Of Cats", by Charles Henry Ross. Also available from Amazon: The Book Of Cats: A Chit-Chat Chronicle Of Feline Facts And Fancies, Legendary, Lyrical, Medical, Mirthful And Miscellaneous.
"No, certainly!" replied the lady tartly. "Do carve the haunch, Mr.-."
The footman held the plate nearer, a due portion of the savoury meat was placed upon it.
"To Mrs. H-," said the host, and turned to look again at his fair neighbour; but her uneasiness and confusion were greater than ever. Her brow was crimson - every eye was turned towards her, and she looked ready to cry.
"I will leave the room, if you will allow me, sir, for I know that there is a Cat in the room."
"But, my dear madam -"
"I am quite sure there is, sir; I feel it - I would rather go."
"John, Thomas, Joseph, can there be a Cat in the room?" demanded the embarrassed host of the servants.
"Quite impossible, sir; - have not seen such a hanimal about the place since I corned, any way."
"Well, look under the table, at any rate; the lady says she feels it; look in every corner of the room, and let us try to convince her."
"My dear, my dear!" remonstrated the annoyed bridegroom from a distant part of the table; "what trouble you are giving."
"Indeed, I would rather leave the room," said the little bride, slipping from her chair. But, meanwhile, the servants ostentatiously bustled in their unwilling search for what they believed to be a phantom fancy of the young lady's brain; when, lo! one of the footmen took hold of a half-closed window-shutter, and from the aperture behind out sprang a large cat into the midst of the astonished circle, eliciting cries and exclamations from others than the finely organised bride, who clasped her hands rigidly, and gasped with pallid lips.
Such facts as this are curious, certainly, and remain a puzzle to philosophers.
This habit of hiding itself in secret places is one of the most unpleasant characteristics of the Cat. I know many instances of it - especially of a night alarm when we were children, ending in a strange cat being found in a clothes bag.
Here, indeed, we have truth several degrees stranger than fiction; but this is not the only wonderful story the authoress has to tell. I will give you some others very slightly abridged.
"A year or two ago, a man in the south of Ireland severely chastised his cat for some misdemeanour, immediately after which the animal stole away, and was seen no more.
"A few days subsequently, as this man was starting to go from home, the Cat met and stood before him in a narrow path, with rather a wicked aspect. Its owner slashed his handkerchief at her to frighten her out of the way, but the Cat, undismayed, sprang at the hand, and held it with so ferocious a gripe, that it was impossible to make it open its jaws, and the creature's body had actually to be cut from the head, and the jaws afterwards to be severed, before the mangled hand could be extricated. The man died from the injuries."
The jaws of a Cat are comparatively strong, and worked by powerful muscles; it has thirty-four teeth, but they are for the most part very tiny teeth, like pin's points. What, I wonder, were the dimensions of this ferocious animal with the iron jaws; and how many courageous souls were engaged in its destruction. If this story is, however, rather hard to swallow, the next is not less so. Says our authoress "I also know an Irish gentleman, who being an only son without any playmates, was allowed, when he was a child, to have a whole family of Cats sleeping in the bed with him every night.
"One day he had beaten the father of the family for some offence, and when he was asleep at night, the revengeful beast seized him by the throat, and would probably have killed him had not instant help been at hand." The Cat sprang from the window, and was never more seen." (Probably went away in a flash of blue fire.)
What do you think of these very strange stories? If they surprise you, however, what will you say to this one?" Dr. C-, an Italian gentleman still living in Florence (the initial is just a little unsatisfactory), who knew at least one of the parties, related to the authoress the following singular story.
A certain country priest in Tuscany, who lived quite alone with his servants, naturally attached himself, in the want of better society, to a fine he-cat, which sat by his stove in winter, and always ate from his plate.
One day a brother priest was the good man's guest, and, in the rare enjoyment of genial conversation, the Cat was neglected; resenting this, he attempted to help himself from his master's plate, instead of waiting for the special morsels which were usually placed on the margin for his use, and was requited with a sharp rap on the head for the liberty. This excited the animal's indignation still more, and springing from the table with an angry cry, he darted to the other side of the room. The two priests thought no more of the Cat until the cloth was about to be removed; when the master of the house prepared a plateful of scraps for his forward favourite, and called him by name to come and enjoy his share of the feast. No joyful Cat obeyed the familiar call: his master observed him looking sulkily from the recess of the window, and rose, holding out the plate, and calling to him in a caressing voice. As he did not approach, however, the old gentleman put the platter aside, saying he might please himself, and sulk instead of dine, if he preferred it; and then resumed his conversation with his friend. A little later the old gentleman showed symptoms of drowsiness, so his visitor begged that he would not be on ceremony with him, but lie down and take the nap which he knew he was accustomed to indulge in after dinner, and he in the meantime would stroll in the garden for an hour. This was agreed to. The host stretched himself on a couch, and threw his handkerchief over his face to protect him from the summer flies, while the guest stepped through a French window which opened on a terrace and shrubbery.
An hour or somewhat more had passed when he returned, and found his friend still recumbent: he did not at first think of disturbing him, but after a few minutes, considering that he had slept very long, he looked more observantly towards the couch, and was struck by the perfect immobility of the figure, and with something peculiar in the position of the head over which the handkerchief lay disordered. Approaching nearer he saw that it was stained with blood, and hastily removing it, saw, to his unutterable horror, that his poor friend's throat was gashed across, and that life was already extinct.