Story type: Literature
“See what joyous faces, what shining eyes, and what glad jubilee welcome the story-teller, and what a blooming circle of glad children press around him!”–FROEBEL.
Mrs. Chinchilla was not a lovely lady, with a dress of soft gray cloth and a great chinchilla muff and boa. Not at all. Mrs. Chinchilla was a beautiful cat, with sleek fur like silver-gray satin, and a very handsome tail to match, quite long enough to brush the ground when she walked. She didn’t live in a house, but she had a very comfortable home in a fine drug-store, with one large bay-window almost to herself and her kittens. She had three pretty fat dumplings of kittens, all in soft shades of gray like their mother. She didn’t like any other color in kittens so well as a quiet ladylike gray. None of her children ever were black, or white, or yellow, but sometimes they had four snow- white socks on their gray paws. Mrs. Chinchilla didn’t mind that, for white socks were really a handsome finish to a gray kitten, though, of course, it was a deal of trouble to keep them clean.
At the time my story begins the kits were all tiny catkins, whose eyes had been open only a day or two, so Mrs. Chinchilla had to wash them every morning herself. She had the most wonderful tongue! I’ll tell you what that tongue had in it: a hair-brush, a comb, a tooth-brush, a nail-brush, a sponge, a towel, and a cake of soap! And when Mrs. Chinchilla had finished those three little catkins, they were as fresh and sweet, and shiny and clean, and kissable and huggable, as any baby just out of a bath-tub.
One morning, just after the little kits had had their scrub in the sunny bay-window, they felt, all at once, old enough to play; and so they began to scramble over each other, and run about between the great colored glass jars, and even to chase and bite the ends of their own tails. They had not known that they had any tails before that morning, and of course it was a charming surprise. Mrs. Chinchilla looked on lazily and gravely. It had been a good while since she had had time or had felt young and gay enough to chase her tail, but she was very glad to see the kittens enjoy themselves harmlessly.
Now, while this was going on, some one came up to the window and looked in. It was the Boy who lived across the street. Mrs. Chinchilla disliked nearly all boys, but she was afraid of this one. He had golden curls and a Fauntleroy collar, and the sweetest lips that ever said prayers, and clean dimpled hands that looked as if they had been made to stroke cats and make them purr. But instead of stroking them he rubbed their fur the wrong way, and hung tin kettles to their tails, and tied handkerchiefs over their heads. When Mrs. Chinchilla saw the Boy she humped her back, so that it looked like a gray mountain, and said, “Sftt!” three times. When the Boy found that she was looking at him, and lashing her tail, and yawning so as to show him her sharp white teeth, he suddenly disappeared from sight. So Mrs. Chinchilla gave the kittens their breakfast, and they cuddled themselves into a round ball, and went fast asleep. They were first rolled so tightly, and then so tied up with their tails, that you couldn’t have told whether they were three or six little catkins. When their soft purr-r-r-r, purr-r-r-r had first changed into sleepy little snores, and then died away altogether, Mrs. Chinchilla jumped down out of the window, and went for her morning airing in the back yard. At the same time the druggist passed behind a tall desk to mix some medicine, and the shop was left alone.
Just then the Boy (for he hadn’t gone away at all; he had just stooped out of sight) rushed in the door quickly, snatched one of the kittens out of the round ball, and ran away with it as fast as he could run. Pretty soon Mrs. Chinchilla came back, and of course she counted the kittens the very first thing. She always did it. To her surprise and fright she found only two instead of three. She knew she couldn’t be mistaken. There were five kittens in her last family, and two less in this family; and five kittens less two kittens is three kittens. One chinchilla catkin gone! What should she do?
She had once heard a lady say that there were too many cats in the world already, but she had no patience with people who made such wicked speeches. Her kittens had always been so beautiful that they sometimes sold for fifty cents apiece, and none of them had ever been drowned.
Mrs. Chinchilla knew in a second just where that kitten had gone. It makes a pussy-cat very quick and bright and wise to take care of and train large families of frisky kittens, with very little help from their father in bringing them up. She knew that that Boy had carried off the kitten, and she intended to have it back, and scratch the Boy with some long scratches, if she could only get the chance. Looking at her claws, she found them nice and sharp, and as the druggist opened the door for a customer Mrs. Chinchilla slipped out, with just one backward glance, as much as to say, “Gone out; will be back soon.” Then she dashed across the street, and waited on the steps of the Boy’s house. Very soon a man came with a bundle, and when the house- maid opened the door Mrs. Chinchilla walked in. She hadn’t any visiting-card with her; but then the Boy hadn’t left any card when he called for the kitten, so she didn’t care for that.
The housemaid didn’t see her when she slipped in. It was a very nice house to hold such a heartless boy, she thought. The parlor door was open, but she knew the kitten wouldn’t be there, so she ran upstairs. When she reached the upper hall she stood perfectly still, with her ears up and her whiskers trembling. Suddenly she heard a faint mew, then another, and then a laugh; that was the Boy. She pushed open a door that was ajar, and walked into the nursery. The Boy was seated in the middle of the floor, tying the kitten to a tin cart, and the poor little thing was mewing piteously. Mrs. Chinchilla dashed up to the Boy, scratched him as many long scratches as she had time for at that moment, took the frightened kitten in her kind, gentle mouth, the way all mother-cats do (because if they carried them in their forepaws they wouldn’t have enough left to walk on), and was downstairs and out on the front doorstep before the housemaid had finished paying the man for the bundle. And when she got that chinchilla catkin home in the safe, sunny bay-window, she washed it over and over and over so many times that it never forgot, so long as it lived, the day it was stolen by the Boy.
When the Boy’s mother hurried upstairs to see why he was crying so loud, she told him that he must expect to be scratched by mother-cats if he stole their kittens. “I shall take your pretty Fauntleroy collar off,” she said; “it doesn’t match your disposition.”
The Boy cried bitterly until luncheon time, but when he came to think over the matter, he knew that his mother was right, and Mrs. Chinchilla was right, too; so he treated all mother-cats and their kittens more kindly after that.
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