SUCH a life as that kitten led me! I thought I never should have got her home at all, and yet I could not leave her to be starved or teased by urchins and dogs.
But I must tell you all about it from the beginning.
Passing through the village* this morning, I heard a kitten mewing most dismally. I looked all around, but could not see her anywhere, so I went on. In a little while I came back the same way, and still these miserable mews were to be heard. So I spied about more carefully, and at last I saw a poor little kitten on the top of a very high garden wall. It was a very pretty little tabby, with a white nose and four little white paws and a little white waistcoat. I can’t imagine how it ever got up there; anyhow it could not get down again, and this was why it was mewing so dolefully. Neither do I know why the kitten expected me to come and get her down, but she evidently did. There was no doubt about that, if you had seen how she looked at me and sretched her little white paws down to me over the edge of the wall. She was quite out of my reach, but I stood close under and held up my hands, and called “Kitty, Kitty,” thinking she would jump down into them.
But instead of doing that, she seemed to think it was too far to jump, though she nearly fell over by stretching her little paws down and holding on by her claws. And then she mewed more pitifully than ever, just as if she were saying, “Oh dear, oh dear, I daren’t jump! I’m afraid you wouldn’t catch me, and I should tumble down. Oh dear, oh dear, I wish I dared jump! whatever shall I do?” “Come, Kitty, come then!” said I. “Mew, mew!” said she. “Come now, jump, Kitty, and I’ll be sure to catch you,” said I. “Mew, mew, mew!” said she.
Well, I really couldn’t stay there all day so I said, “Well then, if you won’t trust me to catch you, I must go away,” and off I walked. Whereupon Kitty sent such a mew after me that you could have heard her all down the street. I could not stand that, so I turned back once more. Whom should I see coming up but a tall strong boy. “Why, Davie, you are the very person I want! Climb up by the gate, that’s a good fellow, and get that unfortunate kitten down.” So Davie climbed up, and the little kitten had the sense to walk off the wall on to his shoulder without any more ado, and in a minute was safe on the ground.
I put her inside the garden gate and set off home. But before I had gone three steps I nearly tumbled over her! She had run after me, and was purring under my feet. I told her to go back, but she only purred louder, and rubbed round my feet. No, she did not mean to be sent back. She was too much obliged to me for listening to her cry. I could not possibly scold her, so I picked her up and took her to the house which I supposed was her home. But no, it was not their kitten; perhaps it belonged next door. So I tried next door, but she was not owned there, nor at the next house. It was getting late, and I could not go back to any more houses. So I put her down, hoping she would find her own way and let me go mine. But she trotted after me, and it was not the least use talking to her. So I went faster; then she went faster too. Then I went quick round a corner, out of her sight. How that little cat did use her voice, to be sure! Such a mew she set up! And she did not only mew, she scampered, so that I saw it was no good trying to outrun her.
By this time we had come so far that I thought there was nothing for it but to let her follow me home and give her some milk, for she looked thin and hungry. Just then a little boy came by, who looked at her a moment and quickly stooped down and caught her up. “Does she belong to you?” I asked. “No, miss,” he said, and seemed rather ashamed of himself. “Then you put her down directly,” I said. And Kitty, who did not seem at all happy at being laid hold of so roughly, trotted on by my side.
But the path was very rough with sharp fresh stones, and Kittly’s little feet looked much too soft for such work, so I took her up and carried her. At first she was quite delighted, and purred away, rubbing her little white nose into my sleeve. And we got on a great deal faster too, because she was not always hindering me by getting just under my feet, or lagging behind and then mewing for me to stop for her. And I am sure no kitten could have wished to be more comfortable, nursed in my arms on a soft scalskin muff! But very soon she got restless and wanted to jump down. “Now you had better be still, Kitty,” I said, “you don’t know when you are well off.” But she would jump down, and I am sure it must have hurt her little soft paws to jump right down on those sharp stones, though she did not own to it! However she did hinder so that I told her she must be carried if we were to get home at all, and took her up again. No, she liked her own way best, and would not lie still, though I know she found the stones very uncomfortable, and had to keep mewing not to be left behind. But I thought it was time I had my way with her, so I covered her with my hand so that she could not wriggle away.
But how she did wriggle! It was no use telling her what nice milk she should have when I had carried her home, she did not understand anything about that. But I knew she was very hungry, and determined not to let her go and most likely be starved to death in the cold lanes if I did. Still she wriggled so that once more I let her jump down. By this time a disagreeable looking dog appeared, and, whether she liked it or not, I was not going to let her run the risk of being snapped at and perhaps bitten, so once more I picked her up. But in her fright at the dog she ran through some mud, and if I had not been very anxious to save her I would not have had her dirty little paws in my arms. But as I was very anxious to save her I wiped the mud off and wrapped her little feet in my handkerchief, and told her, once for all, I was not going to let her out of my arms any more till we were safe home.
Now you would have thought I should have no more trouble with her, stupid little thing! But the next thing was that we passed some sheep. What sort of dreadful monsters she took them to be I can’t tell you, but she was more frightened at them than at the dog. She was so frightened that it was all I could do to hold her; she pushed and wriggled, and I could feel her little heart beating with terror. That was the most foolish thing of all, for if they had been such dangerous beasts as she seemed to suppose she would have been perfectly safe in my arms, and certainly she would not have been safe down on the ground, for what can a poor little kitten do to defend itself against animals twenty times bigger?
At last she gave in, and lay still all the rest of the way, and then I know she found it much nicer than being so fidgety, for she did nothing but purr till we reached the door. And she purred all the time she lapped up her milk, and except going to sleep I don’t think she has done anything else but purr all day. And she is purring in my lap now, while I am writing this. . .
[This kitten story was written in the spring of 1879. . . showing F.R.H.’s love for animals. The kittten story can never be finished, for the dear hand will never write any more. Let us think that if our dear F.R.H. was so glad to rescue and comfort little Kitty we too should be kind to all God’s creatures. And why should not children always be purring and praising? Then how happy nurseries would be! Then, as little Kitty loved the dear hand that brought her home and petted her, cannot you try to be more loving to dear mother’s gentle hand, and even think how much trouble nursey’s hands have with you.
Above all let us love the wonderful hand of Jesus, that so tenderly reaches us when lost and in soul danger; the hand that will hold yours all the way to His bright home; the hand that was pierced and bleeding to save you.
Oh how good is Jesus!
May He hold my hand,
And at last receive me
To the better land.
–Frances Ridley Havergal from BEN BRIGHTBOOTS