A MORNING CALL
By 1905, cat shows, catteries and certain breeds were well enough known to feature in children's fiction.
In a box behind the Kitchen stove squirmed four gray kittens. Elsie, unmindiul of toasted cheeks, sat gazing tenderly down at them, trying to coax fretful, frightened Tabby into letting her hold just one.
"Oh, dear! Tabby is so mean!” she scolded. “Aunt Sallie, won’t you come and get me the kitten with the white vest on? I just think it is the cutest, darllngest little teenie, weenie thing I ever saw!"
Aunt Sallie, who was spending the day with Elsie's mamma, and who was just a “play” auntie, tiptoed in and tried her hand at coaxing. But Tabby growled crossly, her ears laid flat.
“Pooh!” laughed Aunt Sallie, “they aren’t half as nice as you think they are. I could show you some kittens, Mistress Tabby, that would make you green with, envy."
“Could you really?” asked Elsie, doubtfully. “I don’t see how they could be any cuter.”
“Well, maybe you wouldn’t think so," answered the "play" auntie, with a twinkle in her eyes, turning away from the box, “but how would you like to put on your hat and call on them? They live just a couple of streets back of here."
While Elsie was hunting her hat there was an explanation in the din¬ing-room. And when, a few minutes later; the two went hand in hand down the street, there was another one.
“You see, Elsie, I belong to the Cat Club – Yes, it is a funny club. Now, listen, because we’ll be there in a minute. Not at the club, but at the kennels — ’Royal Blue Eyed Kennels,’ they are called — you will soon find out why. Our club is a branch of one founded in Cleveland, Ohio, and some day we are going to take in young members; you can join if you want to."
"Could I?” asked excited Elsie. “But would I have to be an old maid if I did?"
The troubled look on the little up¬turned face sent the "play” auntie into shouts of laughter, but she answered patiently: “No, dearie, so don’t refuse to join. We are just going to try to make life easier for the poor waifs and strays, who are stoned and kicked and starved; to teach little boys and girls not to want to abuse them; and — but here we are. I do hope Mrs. President Is at home."
Elsie hoped so too, heaving a great sigh of relief and pleasure when the door opened, at last, and she was in-troduced to a smiling lady in a flow¬ered gown — who, when their errand was made known, took them into the back yard.
At first glance all Elsie saw was a stretch of lawn, an orange tree weighted down with ripening fruit, a slender bush from which swayed one big pink rose, and beyond this what she thought was a playhouse, with striped curtains of tan and green. Then the lady in the flowered gown called softly, coaxingly, and from “playhouse," trees and shadowy places flocked the inmates of the “Royal Blue Eyed Kennels.” Elsie gasped at sight of them: "O-o-h, Aunt Salile; a-r-e-n’t they b-e-a-u-t-l-f-u-1!”
With plumy tails waving proudly, the great, snow-white Angora cats clustered about their mistress’s feet, or, frightened at sight of strangers, sat at a safe distance, posing. At first Elsie was content to watch them, trying to decide which was prettiest. Just as she had decided that the big blue-eyed fellow was handsomest, an orange-eyed miss turned her way, its little, pink, trans¬parent ears erect, its pink nose quivering. And then Elsie lost her heart: "Could I hold that one just once, Aunt Sallie? Just once? I will be so care¬ful!"
When her fingers sank into the soft, thick far and “Lady Teazle,” who, she heard, was very haughty, commenced to purr, Elsie fairly trembled with happiness and excitement. Scarcely breathing for fear of offending the beauty, she listened to the elders talk¬ing club.
They spoke of the Cat Show they hoped to have next year. Of the show which had just been held In Cleveland, in which graceful Lady Blue Eyes’s grandmother had taken first prize. Elsie looked in awe at Lady Blue Eyes where she stretched her lovely length upon the lawn.
When she listened again, Mrs "President” was telling of one cage at the Cleveland Show whose inmates took no prizes, but before which many lingered. An old club member had en¬tered them, and attached to each was its pitiful little story —typewritten on a sheet of heavy paper. One, now fat and sleek and pretty, had been found in an empty house — left there to starve by a mistress who had claimed to love it. Another, with great, fright¬ened eyes, had been rescued from a gang of boys who had it tied to a post and were stoning it. Elsie shuddered, as she listened, and understood, then, why the Cat Clubs were being formed. She made up her mind, too, to join when the "Junior Southern California Cat Club” was a reality instead of a cherished dream.
Lady Teazle grew restless, and, jumping from her lap, rushed off after Boy Roy, who was chasing Caprice up a tree.
"Whose playhouse Is that?" whis¬pered Elsie, stretching her cramped arms Has Mrs. ‘President’ got a little girl?”
"Lots of little girls,” laughed the lady in the flowered gown, who over¬heard the whisper. “Come and see their playhouse.”
When Elsie stepped into the many-windowed room there was another sur¬prised exclamation, and she clapped her hands in delight. On the white¬washed wall were tacked bright pic¬tures and shelves of all heights and sizes, on which posed more white An¬gora cats. A stepladder and boxes held others, and in the center of a cloth-covered table sat solemn Pussy Blue Girl, whose middle name tells her color.
“Pet her, Elsie,” said Mrs. “President” "She isn’t afraid of anybody.” When the golden curl fell across the blue-gray back and Elsie put her face close to the fur-framed one, Miss Pussy Blue Girl reached out and nipped the flushed cheek softly; that was her way of expressing her love. Elsie thought it just the nicest kiss she had ever had.
On a high shelf in a corner crouched a big white fellow with frightened eyes. Just as Elsie spied him his mis¬tress reached up and, lifting him down, held him tight while she told his story: “When he was about half-grown a lady came, one morning, to buy a pet. Out of the few I had then she chose this one, and paying a deposit, went away intending to come back and get him before she left the city for her eastern home. A week later the lady was dead, but from the day of her choosing him to this Major Boy is afraid of anyone in a hat. Let a stranger enter the yard with one on and he will hide, or climb to the highest shelf to crouch there trem¬bling. I will never sell him, because, you see, he doesn't want me to.”
Before Elsie could speak there was a yowl, a hiss, and the queerest cat she had ever seen bounded onto a shelf. It was fawn-coiored with choc¬olate stockings, face and tail.
"Goodness! what an ugly old thing!” said Elsie, backing behind Mrs. “Pres¬ident,” “and how it yowls and quar¬rels. I just know it's Jealous because it’s not pretty like the others.”
“Don't you make fun of my little Li Chung,” laughed Mrs. "President.” "She Is all the way from Siam, and a sacred temple cat at that — they wor¬ship them, you know. And she really is very sweet-tempered and affection¬ate; pet her and see.”
Elsie was surprised at the silky softness of the short-haired coat, and when Miss LI Chung crawled into her arms and purred she forgave her for being ugly.
“I know why her cry is so awful,” she suggested; "It’s because she is talking Chinese.”
“Maybe,” laughed Mrs. "President, going toward the door.
How Elsie hated to go, lingering at the threshold of the kennel — for that it really was, though the lady had called it a playhouse, too! How she wished she could have Lady Teazle, or Caprice, or Royal Easter Lily, Prince Blue Eyes or Lady Blue Eyes, yes — or even Li Chung!
Aunt Sallie read the longing in the wistful face and stooping, whispered1 "When my ship comes in I’ll got you one, dear.”
All the way home they talked "cat.” Elsie learned that the Angoras with perfect blue or orange eyes are very rare and costly, because so often their hearing is imperfect. She had no¬ticed, too, that some in the kennel had one eye of blue and one of orange, which cheapened them, “though they are none the less worth loving,” Aunt Sallie said.
Elsie meant to go to the show when they held it, and hoped Lady Teazle would win a prize.
Tabby jumped into the box when she heard Elsie racing through the house. Kneeling beside it she looked thoughtfully at the tiny plain gray kitten. Aunt Sallie and her mamma smiled tenderly as they heard her say softly, “Tabby, you and your babies look like thirty cents – but,” thoughtfully, “I believe I love you anyway.”