The Cat That Walked by Himself

by Rudyard Kipling

kipling

The author was born in Bombay, India on December 30, 1865. He is regarded as one of the greatest English poets, novelists, and short-story writers. Kipling is renowned for his rhymed verse written in the slang used by the ordinary British soldier of the time. Awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1907. Died on January 18, 1936 in London, England.

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Hear and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, O, my Best Beloved, when the tame animals were wild. The Dog was wild, and the Horse was wild, and the Cow was wild, and the Sheep was wild, and the Pig was wild—as wild as wild could be—and they walked in the wet wild woods by their wild lones. But the wildest of all wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.

Of course the Man was wild too. He was dreadfully wild. He didn’t even begin to be tame till he met the Woman, and she told him that she did not like living in his wild ways. She picked out a nice dry cave, instead of a heap of wet leaves, to lie down in, and she lit a nice fire of wood at the back of the cave, and she hung a dried Wild Horse skin, tail down, across the opening of the cave, and she said, “Wipe your feet, dear, when you come in, and now we’ll keep house.”

That night, Best Beloved, they ate Wild Sheep roasted on the hot stones, and flavored with wild garlic and wild pepper, and Wild Duck stuffed with wild rice and wild fenugreek and wild coriander, and marrowbones of Wild Oxen, and wild cherries and wild grenadillas. Then the Man went to sleep in the front of the fire ever so happy, but the Woman sat up, combing her hair. She took the bone of the shoulder of mutton—the big flat blade bone—and she looked at the wonderful marks on it, and she threw more wood on the fire, and she made a magic. She made the first Singing Magic in the world.

Out in the wet wild woods all the wild animals gathered together where they could see the light of the fire a long way off, and they wondered what it meant.

Then Wild Horse stamped with his wild foot and said, “O, my friends and O, my enemies, why have the Man and the Woman made that great light in that great cave, and what harm will it do us?”

Wild Dog lifted up his wild nose and smelled the smell of roast mutton, and said: “I will go up and see and look and stay, for I think it is good. Cat, come with me.”

“Nenni,” said the Cat. “I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. I will not come.”

“Then we will never be friends again,” said Wild Dog, and he trotted off to the cave.

But when he had gone a little way the Cat said to himself, “All places are alike to me. Why should I not go and see and look and come away.” So he slipped after Wild Dog softly, very softly, and hid himself where he could hear everything.

When Wild Dog reached the mouth of the Cave he lifted up the dried Horse skin with his nose a little bit and sniffed the beautiful smell of the roast mutton, and the Woman heard him, and laughed and said, “Here comes the first wild thing out of the wild woods. What do you want?”

Wild Dog said, “O, my enemy and wife of my enemy, what is this that smells so good in the wild woods?”

Then the Woman picked up a roasted mutton bone and threw it to Wild Dog and said, “Wild thing out of the wild woods, taste and try.” Wild Dog gnawed the bone and it was more delicious than anything he had ever tasted, and he said, “O, my enemy and wife of my enemy, give me another.”

“Ah!” said the Cat listening. “this is a very wise Woman, but she is not so wise as I am.”

Wild Dog crawled into the cave and laid his head on the Woman’s lap and said, “O, my friend and wife of my friend, I will help your Man to hunt through the day, and at night I will guard your cave.”

“Ah!” said the Cat listening. “that is a very foolish Dog.” And he went back through the wet wild woods waving his tail and walking by his wild lone. But he never told anybody.

When the Man woke up he said, “What is Wild Dog doing here?” And the Woman said, “His name is not Wild Dog anymore, but the First Friend because he will be our friend for always and always and always. Take him with you when you go hunting.”

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