A Prisoner in Fairyland
Wrap thy form in a mantle gray,
Blind with thine hair the eyes of Day;
Kiss her until she be wearied out,
Then wander o'er city, and sea, and land,
Touching all with thine opiate wand-
Come, long sought!
To Night, SHELLEY.
Now, cats are curious creatures, and not without reason, perhaps, are they
adored by some, yet regarded with suspicious aversion by others. They know so
much they never dare to tell, while affecting that they know nothing and are
innocent. For it is beyond question that several hours later, when the village and
the Citadelle were lost in slumber, Mere Riquette stirred stealthily where she lay
upon the hearth, opened her big green eyes, and--began to wash.
But this toilette was pretence in case any one was watching. Really, she looked
about her all the time. Her sleep also had been that sham sleep of cats behind
which various plots and plans mature--a questionable business altogether. The
washing, as soon as she made certain no one saw her, gave place to another
manoeuvre. She stretched as though her bones were of the very best elastic.
Gathering herself together, she arched her round body till it resembled a toy
balloon straining to rise against the pull of four thin ropes that held it tightly to the
ground. Then, unable to float off through the air, as she had expected, she slowly
again subsided. The balloon deflated. She licked her chops, twitched her
whiskers, curled her tail neatly round her two front paws--and grinned
complacently. She waited before that extinguished fire of peat as though she had
never harboured a single evil purpose in all her days. 'A saucer of milk,' she gave
the world to understand, c is the only thing I care about.' Her smile of innocence
and her attitude of meek simplicity proclaimed this to the universe at large.
'That's me,' she told the darkness, 'and I don't care a bit who knows it.' She
looked so sleek and modest that a mouse need not have feared her. But she did
not add, 'That's what I mean the world to think,' for this belonged to the secret life
cats never talk about. Those among humans might divine it who could, and
welcome. They would be admitted. But the rest of the world were regarded with
mere tolerant disdain. They bored.
Then, satisfied that she was unobserved, Mere Riquette abandoned all further
pretence, and stalked silently about the room. The starlight just made visible her
gliding shadow, as first she visited the made-up sofa-bed where the exhausted
mother snored mildly beneath the book- shelves, and then, after a moment's
keen inspection, turned back and went at a quicker pace into the bedroom where
the children slept. There the night-light made her movements easily visible. The
cat was excited. Something bigger than any mouse was coming into her life just