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.
"One morning there was discovered in the shed, not only a strange Cat, but a strange Kitten, with its eyes open, plump, and about a fortnight old. The strange Cat made no attempt to stir when the maid entered, but lay suckling her baby, and looking up with an expression that said as plainly as Cat language could, "'A persecuted Cat and her Kitten at your service; don't drive us out, that's a good creature.'
"More singular still, before the person appealed to could consider the case, our own Cat peeped into the shed, and after deliberately walking up to the refugees, and giving them a kindly touch with her nose, walked back to the servant and commenced to rub against her, purring the while, as though to manifest her goodwill towards the strangers, and to recommend a favourable consideration of their case, so they were taken in.
"As soon, however, as the novelty of the affair wore off, it began to dawn on us that we did not require a 'house-full' of Cats, though for that matter the four lived happily together. Which should we get rid of? The strange Cat's kitten was too big to drown and too little to send adrift; our own 'Topsy' and her daughter must, of course, be retained, so there was nothing left but to send away the strange she-Cat. She was rather a good-looking Cat, and that, coupled with her known cleverness, gave us good ground for supposing that she would soon find another home. It appeared, however, that we did not give her credit for being nearly so clever as she was.
"It was arranged that she should be conveyed in a basket to a certain square, about a quarter-of-a-mile distant, and there left to seek her fortune. To the best of everybody's belief, this arrangement was carried out to the letter, therefore the amazement of the entire household may be easily imagined when, on reference being made to the Cat-cupboard, to see how Topsy and her two young charges were getting on, to find no Topsy at all, - only the strange Cat and the two Kittens. How the cheat had been accomplished, it was impossible to say. That Topsy was not the Cat placed in the basket was vouched for by two witnesses - one of them had held the basket-lid open while the other pushed the animal in.
"Perhaps, in my own mind, I have little doubt how the business was so mulled, but I know that in certain quarters there exists a belief, either that by some sort of witchery the strange Cat put on so Topsical an appearance as to deceive her would-be smugglers, or that, after she was basketed, she managed to sneak out, and either by persuasion or force induced the unlucky Topsy to take her place.
"However it came about, the result is, that the strange Cat alone reigns at our house, to the jealous exclusion of all her species. No one, I believe, has any particular affection for her, but that circumstance is not observed to prey on her mind or to interfere with her appetite. She devours her rations with the air of a Cat that is conscious that she has earned them, and as though she is aware, and rather gloried than otherwise, in the knowledge that she is regarded as a cunning and manoeuvring beast, that first, by hypocritical representations, induced an honest Cat to obtain for her a situation, and afterwards ungratefully contrived to push out her benefactress and progeny, and install herself in their place."
From the Autobiography of Miss Cornelia Knight, Lady Companion to the Princess Charlotte of Wales, I take the following scrap: "An old woman, who died a few years ago, in Ireland, had a nephew, to whom she left by will all she possessed. She happened to have a favourite Cat, which never left her, and even remained by the corpse after her death. After the will was read, in the adjoining room, on opening the door the Cat sprang at the lawyer, seized him by the throat, and was with difficulty prevented from strangling him. This man died about eighteen months after this scene, and, on his death-bed, confessed that he had murdered his aunt to get possession of her money."
The oft-quoted lines by Gray should not be omitted from The Book of Cats: On The Death Of A Favourite Cat
Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes.
"'Twas on a lofty vase's side, Where China's gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow, Demurest of the tabby kind, The pensive Selima reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.
"Her conscious tail her joy declared - The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws, Her coat, that with the tortoise vies, Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes She saw and purred applause.
"Still had she gazed, but' midst the tide, Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream; Their scaly armour's Tyrian hue, Though richest purple to the view,
Betrayed a golden gleam.
"The hapless nymph, with wonder saw, A whisker first, and then a claw;
With many an ardent wish She stretched in vain to reach the prize; - What female heart can gold despise?
What Cat 's averse to fish?
"Presumptuous maid, with looks intent, Again she stretched, again she bent, Nor knew the gulf between;
(Malignant Fate sat by and smiled) - The slippery verge her feet beguiled, She tumbled headlong in.
"Eight times emerging from the flood, She mewed to every watery god
Some speedy aid to send; No dolphin came, no nereid stirred, No cruel Tom, no Susan heard, Favourite has no friend.
"From hence, ye beauties, undeceived, Know one false step is ne'er retrieved,
And be with caution bold - Not all that tempts your wandering eyes And heedless hearts is lawful prize Not all that glitters gold."
These verses are well known, but those which follow are less often met with: they are attributed to George Tuberville, and written somewhere about the beginning of the sixteenth century:THE LOUER
"Whose mistresse feared a mouse, declareth that he would become a Cat if he might haue his desire.
"If I might alter kind,