The Crimson Fairy Book HTML version

The Colony Of Cats
Long, long ago, as far back as the time when animals spoke, there lived a community of
cats in a deserted house they had taken possession of not far from a large town. They had
everything they could possibly desire for their comfort, they were well fed and well
lodged, and if by any chance an unlucky mouse was stupid enough to venture in their
way, they caught it, not to eat it, but for the pure pleasure of catching it. The old people
of the town related how they had heard their parents speak of a time when the whole
country was so overrun with rats and mice that there was not so much as a grain of corn
nor an ear of maize to be gathered in the fields; and it might be out of gratitude to the cats
who had rid the country of these plagues that their descendants were allowed to live in
peace. No one knows where they got the money to pay for everything, nor who paid it,
for all this happened so very long ago. But one thing is certain, they were rich enough to
keep a servant; for though they lived very happily together, and did not scratch nor fight
more than human beings would have done, they were not clever enough to do the
housework themselves, and preferred at all events to have some one to cook their meat,
which they would have scorned to eat raw. Not only were they very difficult to please
about the housework, but most women quickly tired of living alone with only cats for
companions, consequently they never kept a servant long; and it had become a saying in
the town, when anyone found herself reduced to her last penny: 'I will go and live with
the cats,' and so many a poor woman actually did.
Now Lizina was not happy at home, for her mother, who was a widow, was much fonder
of her elder daughter; so that often the younger one fared very badly, and had not enough
to eat, while the elder could have everything she desired, and if Lizina dared to complain
she was certain to have a good beating.
At last the day came when she was at the end of her courage and patience, and exclaimed
to her mother and sister:
'As you hate me so much you will be glad to be rid of me, so I am going to live with the
'Be off with you!' cried her mother, seizing an old broom-handle from behind the door.
Poor Lizina did not wait to be told twice, but ran off at once and never stopped till she
reached the door of the cats' house. Their cook had left them that very morning, with her
face all scratched, the result of such a quarrel with the head of the house that he had very
nearly scratched out her eyes. Lizina therefore was warmly welcomed, and she set to
work at once to prepare the dinner, not without many misgivings as to the tastes of the
cats, and whether she would be able to satisfy them.
Going to and fro about her work, she found herself frequently hindered by a constant
succession of cats who appeared one after another in the kitchen to inspect the new
servant; she had one in front of her feet, another perched on the back of her chair while