PLATO: THE STORY OF A CAT
By A. S. Downs
One day last summer a large handsome black cat walked gravely up
one side of Main street, crossed, and went half-way down the other.
He stopped at a house called The Den, went up the piazza steps, and
paused by an open window.
A lady sitting inside saw and spoke to him; but without taking any
notice, he put his paws on the sill, looked around the room as if
wondering if it would suit him, and finally gazed into her face.
After thinking a minute he went in, and from that hour took his
place as an important member of the family. Civil to all, he gives
his love only to the lady whom he first saw; and it is odd to see,
as he lies by the fire, how he listens to all conversation, but
raises his head only when she speaks, and drops it again when she
has finished, with a pleased air.
No other person in the house is so wise, for he alone never makes a
mistake. The hours he selects for his exercise are the sunniest;
the carpets he lies upon the softest, and he knows the moment he
enters the room whether his friend will let him lie in her lap, or
whether because of her best gown she will have none of him. No one
at The Den can tell how he came to be called Plato. It is a fact
that he answers to the name, and when asked if so known before he
came there, smiles wisely. "What matters it," the smile says, "how
I was called, or where I came from, since I am Plato, and am here?"
He dislikes noise, and entirely disapproves sweeping. A broom and
dustpan fill him with anxiety, and he seeks the soft cushions of
the big lounge; but when these in their turn are beaten and tossed
about, he retreats to the study-table. However, as soon as he
learned that once a week his favorite room was turned into chaos,
he sought another refuge, and refuses to get up that day until
Many were the speculations as to Plato's Christmas present. All
were satisfied with a rattan basket just large enough for him to
lie in, with a light open canopy, cushions of cardinal chintz, and
a cardinal satin bow to which was fastened a lovely card.
It was set down before Plato, and although it is probable it was
the first he had ever seen, he showed neither surprise nor
curiosity, but looked at it loftily as if such a retreat should
have been given him long ago, for could not any discerning person
see he was accustomed to luxury? He stepped in carefully and curled
himself gracefully upon the soft cushions, the glowing tints of
which were very becoming to his sable beauty.
It was soon seen that Plato was very fond of his basket, and was
unwilling to share it in the smallest degree. When little Bessie
put her doll in, "just to see if cardinal was becoming to her," he
looked so stern and walked so fiercely toward them that dolly's
heart sank within her, and Bessie said, "Please excuse us, Plato."
If balls and toys were carelessly dropped there he would push them
out without delay, and if visitors took up the basket to examine
it, he would fix his eyes upon them, thinking, "O yes, you would
pick pockets or steal the spoons if I did not watch you."
As his conduct can never be predicted, great was the curiosity when
one cold afternoon he was noticed walking up the avenue while a
miserable yellow kitten dragged herself after him. She was so thin
you could count her bones, and she had been so pulled and kicked
that there seemed to be nothing of her but length andódirt.
When Lord Plato chooses, he enters the front doors, but as he waits
no man's pleasure, unless it pleases him first, he has a way of
getting in on his own account. Upon one of the shed doors is an
old-fashioned latch, which by jumping he can reach and lift with
his paw. Having opened the door, he pushed his poor yellow
straggler in and followed himself. She laid down at once on the
floor, and Plato began washing her with his rough tongue, while the
lookers-on assisted his hospitality by bringing a saucer of milk.
While she ate Plato rested, looking as pleased as if he were her
mother at her enjoyment. The luncheon finished, the washing was
resumed, and as the waif was now able to help, she soon looked more
respectable. But Plato had not finished his work of mercy. He
looked at the door leading to the parlor, then at her; and finally
bent down tenderly to her little torn ears, as if whispering, but
she would not move. Perhaps in all her wretched life she had never
been so comfortable, and believed in letting well enough alone.
Reason and persuasion alike useless, Plato concluded to try force
and, taking her by the back of the neck, carried her through the
house and dropped her close to his dainty cherished basket.
Then he appeared a little uncertain what to do. The basket was nice
and warm; he was tired and cold; it had been a present to him; the
street wanderer was dirty still; and the rug would be a softer bed
than she had ever known. Were these his thoughts, and was it
selfishness he conquered when at last he lifted the shivering
homeless creature into his own beautiful nest?