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.
He started back, shocked and dismayed, and for a few moments remained gazing on the dreadful spectacle almost paralysed. Then came the speculation who could have done so cruel a deed? An old man murdered sleeping - a good man, beloved by his parishioners and scarcely known beyond the narrow circle of his rural home. It was his duty to investigate the mystery, so he composed his countenance as well as he was able, and going to the door of the room, called for a servant.
The man who had waited at table presently appeared, rubbing his eyes, for he, too, had been asleep.
"Tell me who has been into this room while I was in the garden."
"Nobody, your reverence; no one ever disturbs the master during his siesta."
He then asked the servant where he had been, and was told in the ante-room. He next enquired whether any person had been in or out of the house, or if he had heard any movement or voice in the room, and also how many fellow-servants the man had. He was told that he had heard no noise or voices, and that he had two fellow-servants - the cook and a little boy. His reverence demanded that they should be brought in, that he might question them.
They came, and were cross-questioned as closely as possible, but they declared that they had not been in that part of the house all day long, and that nobody could possibly get into the house without their knowledge, unless it was through the garden. The priest had been walking all the time in view of the house, and he felt convinced that the murderer could not have passed in or out on that side without his knowledge.
"Listen to me; some person has been into that room since dinner, and your master is cruelly murdered."
"Murdered!" cried the three domestics in tones of terror and amazement; "did your reverence say 'murdered'?"
"He lies where I left him, but his throat is gashed from ear to ear - he is dead. My poor old friend!"
"Dead! the poor master dead, murdered in his own house."
They wrung their hands, tore their hair, and wept aloud.
"Silence! I command you; and consider that every one of us standing here is liable to the suspicion of complicity in this foul deed; so look to it. Giuseppe was asleep."
"But I sleep very lightly, your reverence."
"Come in and see your master," said the priest solemnly.
They crept in, white with fear and stepping noiselessly. They gazed on the shocking spectacle transfixed with horror. Then a cry of "Who can have done it?" burst from all lips.
"Who, indeed?" repeated the cook.
The priest desired Giuseppe to look round the premises, and count the plate, and ascertain if there had been a robbery, or if any one was concealed about the house. The man returned without throwing any new light upon the mystery; but, in his absence, while surveying the room more carefully than he had previously done, the priest's eye met those of the Cat glowing like lurid flames, as he sat crouching in the shade near a curtain. The orbs had a fierce malignant expression, which startled him, and at once recalled to his recollection the angry and sullen demeanour of the creature during dinner.
"Could it possibly be the Cat that killed him?" demanded of the cook the awe-struck priest.
"Who knows?" replied he; "the beast was surly to others, but always seemed to love him fondly; and then the wound seems as though it were made with a weapon."
A Tale Of Terror.
"It does, certainly," rejoined the priest; "yet I mistrust that brute, and we will try to put it to the proof, at any rate."
After many suggestions, they agreed to pass cords round the neck and under the shoulders of the deceased, and carried the ends outside the room door, which was exactly opposite the couch where he lay. They then all quietly left the apartment, almost closing the door, and remained perfectly still.
One of the party was directed to keep his eye fixed on the Cat, the others after a short delay slowly pulled the cords, which had the effect of partially raising the head of the corpse.
Instantly, at this apparent sign of life, the savage Cat sprang from its corner, and, with a low yell and a single bound, fastened upon the mangled neck of its victim.
At once the sad mystery was solved, the treacherous, ungrateful, cowardly, and revengeful murderer discovered! and all that remained to be done was to summon help to destroy the wild beast, and in due time to bury the good man in peace.
Well, to such stories as these I have no particular objection, under certain circumstances. They are well enough, for instance, to fill up the odd corners of a weekly newspaper in the dull season, and are a pleasant relief to the 'enormous gooseberry'; but I have my doubts whether they should be given as facts for the instruction of youth, though I am not much surprised that the editor should have admitted them into his pages, when he speaks of them in another part of the magazine as "delightful papers." When children's minds are thus filled with absurd falsehoods, it is not to be wondered at if, when the child grows up into a man, the man should express himself somewhat in the words of this instructor of youth, who says, "I must confess, on my own part, an aversion to the feline race, which, with the best intentions, I am unable entirely to conquer. I have occasionally become rather fond of an individual Cat, but never encounter one, unexpectedly, without a feeling of repugnance; and, as I like, or feel an interest in, every other animal, I regard this peculiarity as hereditary."
I suppose, however, that there are few of my fair readers who have not a feeling somewhat akin to repugnance towards snakes, black-beetles, earwigs, spiders, rats, and even poor little, harmless mice; yet ladies have been known to keep white mice, and make pets of them after a time, when the first timidity was overcome. There was a captive once, you may remember, who tamed a spider. A man, about ten years ago, who used to go about the streets, got his living by pretending to swallow snakes. He allowed them, while holding tight on their tails, to crawl half-way down his throat and back again. He said they were nice clean animals, and good company. Little boys at school often swallow frogs. An earwig probably has fine social qualities, which only want bringing out: naturalists tell us they make the best of mothers. The black beetle has always been a maligned insect: it is a sort of nigger among insects, apparently born only to be poisoned, drowned, or smashed; but some one ought, decidedly, to take the race in hand and see of what it is capable. I have, myself, a horror of most of the creatures I have named, but happen not to have been reared with an aversion for Cats, and I have a strong belief that if I tried hard (which I am not going to do) I might get upon friendly relations with the other animals named above, which, I suppose, most of us are taught, when children, to dislike; and as our fathers and mothers have entertained the same feeling, perhaps, as my authoress says, we may "regard this peculiarity as hereditary."
Probably a good many ladies reading these lines will endorse my authoress's opinions. For the most part these will be married ladies with large families; and it will be found upon enquiry, I feel certain, that ladies who have many children will have a dislike for the feline race.