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The Cat That Walked By Himself

by Rudyard Kipling

Chapter    1    2    3     4     5

     Cat went far and far away and hid himself in the wet wild woods by his wild lone for a long time till the Woman forgot all about him. Only the Bat---the little upside-down Bat---that hung inside the cave knew where Cat hid, and every evening he would fly to Cat with the news.
     One evening Bat said, "There is a Baby in the Cave. He is new and pink and fat and small, and the Woman is very fond of him."
     "Ah," said the Cat, listening, "but what is the Baby fond of?"
     "He is fond of things that are soft and tickle," said the Bat. "He is fond of warm things to hold in his arms when he goes to sleep. He is fond of being played with. He is fond of all those things."
     "Ah," said the Cat, "then my time has come."
     Next night Cat walked through the wet wild woods and hid very near the cave till morning time. The Woman was very busy cooking, and the Baby cried and interrupted; so she carried him outside the cave and gave him a handful of pebbles to play with. But still the Baby cried.
     Then the Cat put out his paddy-paw and patted the Baby on the cheek, and it cooed; and the Cat rubbed against its fat knees and tickled under its fat chin with his tail. And the Baby laughed; and the Woman heard him and smiled.
     Then the Bat---the little upside-down Bat---that hung in the mouth of the cave said, "O, my hostess and wife of my host and mother of my host, a wild thing from the wild woods is most beautifully playing with your Baby."
     "A blessing on that wild thing whoever he may be," said the Woman straightening her back, "for I was a busy Woman this morning and he has done me a service."
     That very minute and second, Best Beloved, the dried horse skin curtain that was stretched tail down at the mouth of the cave fell down---So!---because it remembered the bargain, and when the Woman went to pick it up---lo and behold!---the Cat was sitting quite comfy inside the cave.
     "O, my enemy and wife of my enemy and mother of my enemy," said the Cat, "it is I, for you have spoken a word in my praise, and now I can sit within the cave for always and always and always. But still I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me."
     The woman was very angry, and shut her lips tight and took up her spinning wheel and began to spin.
     But the Baby cried because the Cat had gone away, and the Woman could not hush him for he struggled and kicked and grew black in the face.

     "O, my enemy and wife of my enemy and mother of my enemy," said the Cat, "take a strand of the thread that you are spinning and tie it to your spindle wheel and drag it on the floor and I will show you a magic that shall make your Baby laugh as loudly as he is now crying."
     "I will do so," said the Woman, "because I am at my wits' end, but I will not thank you for it."
     She tied the thread to the little spindle wheel and drew it across the floor and the Cat ran after it and patted it with his paws, and rolled head over heels, and tossed it backward over his shoulder, and chased it between his hind legs, and pretended to lose it, and pounced down upon it again till the Baby laughed as loudly as it had been crying, and scrambled after the Cat and frolicked all over the cave till he grew tired and settled down to sleep with the Cat in its arms.
     "Now," said the Cat, "I will sing the Baby a song that shall keep him asleep for an hour." And he began to purr loud and low, low and loud, till the Baby fell fast asleep. The Woman smiled as she looked down upon the two of them and said, "That was wonderfully done. Surely you are very clever, O, Cat."
     That very minute and second, Best Beloved, the smoke of the fire at the back of the Cave came down in clouds from the roof because it remembered the bargain and when it had cleared away---lo and behold!---the Cat was sitting, quite comfy, close to the fire.
     "O, my enemy and wife of my enemy and mother of my enemy," said the Cat, "it is I, for you have spoken a second word in my praise, and now I can sit by the warm fire at the back of the cave for always and always and always. But still I am the Cat who walks by himself and all places are alike to me."
     Then the Woman was very, very angry, and let down her hair and put more wood on the fire and brought out the broad blade bone of the shoulder of mutton and began to make a magic that should prevent her from saying a third word in praise of the Cat. It was not a Singing Magic, Best Beloved, it was a Still Magic; and by and by the Cave grew so still that a little wee-wee Mouse crept out of a corner and ran across the floor.
     "O, my enemy and wife of my enemy and mother of my enemy," said the Cat, "is that little Mouse part of your magic?"
     "No," said the Woman, and she dropped the blade bone and jumped upon the footstool in front of the fire and braided up her hair very quick for fear that the Mouse should run up it.
     "Ah," said the Cat, "then the Mouse will do me no harm if I eat it?"
     "No," said the Woman, braiding up her hair, "eat it quickly and I will always be grateful to you."
     Cat made one jump and caught the little Mouse, and the Woman said, "A hundred thanks to you, O, Cat. Even the First Friend is not quick enough to catch little Mice as you have done. You must be very wise."
     That very moment and second, O, Best Beloved, the milk pot that stood by the fire cracked in two pieces---So!---because it remembered the bargain, and when the Woman jumped down from the footstool---lo and behold!---the Cat was lapping up the warm white milk that lay in one of the broken pieces.
     "O, my enemy and wife of my enemy and mother of my enemy," said the Cat, "it is I, for you have spoken three words in my praise, and now I can drink the warm white milk three times a day for always and always and always. But still I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me."
     Then the Woman laughed and set him a bowl of the warm white milk and said, "O, Cat, you are as clever as a Man, but remember that the bargain was not made with the Man or the Dog, and I do not know what they will do when they come home."
     "What is that to me?" said the Cat. "If I have my place by the fire and my milk three times a day I do not care what the Man or the Dog can do."

Chapter    1    2    3     4     5

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