Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Stuffed Cat

Elizabeth Starling, Noble Deeds of Woman; Or, Examples of Female Courage and Virtue (Boston: Hall and Whiting, 1881), pp. 210-11.

The following story, which was published in one of the periodical journals some time since, is too interesting to be omitted.

"An old chiffonnier (or rag-picker) died in Paris, in a state of the most abject poverty.

"His only relation was a niece, who lived as servant with a green-grocer. This girl always assisted her uncle as far as her slender means would permit. When she learnt of his death, which took place suddenly, she was upon the point of marriage with a journeyman baker, to whom she had been long attached. The nuptial day was fixed, but Suzette had not yet bought her wedding clothes. She hastened to tell her lover that their marriage must be deferred, as she wanted the price of her bridal finery to lay her uncle decently in the grave. Her mistress ridiculed the idea, and exhorted her to leave the old man to be buried by charity. Suzette refused. The consequence was a quarrel, in which the young woman lost at once her place and her lover, who sided with her mistress. She hastened to the miserable garret where her uncle had expired, and by the sacrifice not only of her wedding attire, but of nearly all the rest of her slender wardrobe, she had the old man decently interred. Her pious task fulfilled, she sat alone in her uncle's room, weeping bitterly, when the master of her faithless lover, a young, good-looking man, entered. 'So, my good Suzette, I find you nave lost your place!' cried he; 'I am come to offer you one for life — will you marry me?' 'I, sir ? — you are joking.' 'No, faith, I want a wife, and I am sure I can't find a better.' 'But everybody will laugh at you for marrying a poor girl like me.' 'O! if that is your only objection, we shall soon get over it: come, come along; my mother is prepared to receive you.' Suzette hesitated no longer; but she wished to take with her a memorial of her deceased uncle: it was a cat that he had had for many years. The old man was so fond of the animal that he was determined even her death should not separate them for he had had her stuffed and placed upon the tester of his bed. As Suzette took puss down, she uttered an exclamation of surprise at finding her so heavy. The lover hastened to open the animal, when out fell a shower of gold. There were a thousand louis concealed in the body of the cat; and this sum, which the old miser had starved himself to amass, became the just reward of the worthy girl and her disinterested lover."

[See also The Book of Three Hundred Anecdotes. Historical, Literary, and Humorous. A New Selection (London: Burns & Oates, n.d.), pp. 127-8.]