THE GIRL WHO LOVED CATS SO WELL THAT SHE AGREED TO MARRY THE MAN WHO GAVE HER THE FINEST
By 1906, cat shows, catteries and certain breeds were well enough known to feature in fiction.
Miss Annie McLaughlin had more admirers and more cats than any other girl in America, but now there is but one cat and one admirer for her, and the cat decided the fate of the admirer and won the day for him. Miss McLaughlin's home is at Sacramento, where her father, an eastern man, settled years ago on a wonderful fruit farm, and built a bungalow covered with roses and climbing vines, and where, also, he built a wonderful cathouse for his daughter. She was a cat fancier from childhood, and when a little girl she picked up every stray cat she could find, and when she got larger she went in for fine cats, and longed for opportunities to send them to cat shows and see them win ribbons from the grand cats.
Miss McLaughlin, when grown to womanhood, was acknowledged to be the belle of her set, but she cared little for the attentions the young men showered upon her because it took time — time she might have devoted to her cats and kittens. Perhaps for the reason that she did not want them around, the young men flocked there, and grew more and more persistent. And among them was Dick Lowrie, who was visiting in Sacramento, and had' fallen deeply in love with the slender, graceful girl. It happened that Lowrie was something of a cat fancier himself. Unlike most men, he really liked cats, and this fact rather than the fact that he was tall and handsome, with wavy brown hair and merry blue eyes, admitted him to closer comradeship with Miss McLaughlin than any of the other fellows ever had gained. And, seeing this, the other young men, overcoming their loathing and their prejudices against having cat hairs all over their clothes, and against stepping on cats in their bare feet at night, began to take interest in cats.
It is stated authoritatively that within a few weeks the desire to improve the breed of cats in Sacramento grew by leaps and bounds, until a dozen or more young men were calling regularly on Miss McLaughlin and talking cat learnedly, admiring the latest additions to her cattery, and picking out the good points of each animal. Besides, they industriously scoured the city for fine cats, and paid fabulous sums for mediocre cats to carry in their arms out to the McLaughlin place as an excuse for a morning or afternoon call.
And meantime Dick Lowrie, the original male cat fancier, went back to Seattle with no more encouragement than a frank handshake and a request that, if he found anything fancy in the cat line when he got back home, to write and tell her about it. It is asserted that Lowrie found a cat worthy of a letter about three times a week, and announced his intention of bringing a cat to her as a present the next time he came to Sacramento, "which he hoped would be soon."
About that stage of the proceedings Walter Murphy precipitated the climax by proposing to Miss McLaughlin. Perhaps some of the others suspected he had proposed, and in the fortnight that she had asked him to wait three others proposed. John Tyrrell, Martin Logan, and Irwin Jackson, according to their confessions, and perhaps others.
At the end of the fortnight Miss McLaughlin made an astounding answer to the four suitors. She calmly told them that she had received other proposals, and that she intended to marry the man who presented her with the best cat.
All this time Lowrie, serenely unconscious of what was going on in Sacramento, was in Seattle, preparing to visit Sacramento again, and finally he determined to take Finer’n Silk with him and offer his pet as a gift to Miss McLaughlin. By odd chance he arrived in Sacramento the evening before the great cat show at the McLaughlin place, the show in which the prize-winner was to receive the greatest prize ever awarded in any cat show. Instead of going to the home of his relatives Lowrie went to a hotel, and secured permission to keep Finer’n Silk in his room until morning.
He telephoned to the McLaughlin house the next morning, and Miss McLaughlin bade him come right out. Her manner surprised him, but he took Finer’n Silk under his arm and, ordering an auto, rode out as rapidly as possible. The sight that met his eyes filled him with surprise. Seven or eight young men and as many girls – few of whom he knew – were there, and he suddenly felt that he had intruded upon some picnic party. Everybody seemed excited, and few paid any attention to Lowrie, who, embarrassed and ill at ease, stood until Miss McLaughlin came rushing forward and greeted him warmly, covering her blushes and her excitement by hugging Finer’n Silk in her arms and calling him soft names.
“I’ll put him with the rest,” she said as she led the way towards the cattery.
After half an hour, during which Lowrie saw little of his hostess and was not introduced to the others, Miss mcLauglin announced that she would judge the cats and place a blue ribbon around the winner’s neck.
For another hour almost, the young men and women stood around on the lawn, the girls doing most of the talking and the men fidgeting and turning uneasy eyes towards the cattery. Then the door of the cattery was thrown open and the crowds rushed towards it. Inside the cats were in their little cages. Every man ran straight away for his own cat – and then turned away. Lowrie followed, wondering what it all meant, and when he arrived discovered a blue ribbon round the neck of Finer’n Silk. He turned quickly to find Miss McLaughlin, but she was not in sight. The girls not knowing him, held aloof, and whispered. Lowrie, embarrassed and mystified, walked from cage to cage examining magnificent tortoiseshells, beautiful Angoras, a wonderful blue-black, a majestic Persian, a perfect Maltese.
The Walt Murphy, breaking away from his friends, who were condoling with him, walked to Lowrie.
“Pardon me,” he said, rather huskily, “I’ve never met you. But I congratulate you. We all do. I think she’s gone to the house and is waiting for you there.”
Lowrie, still puzzled, thanked him and moved towards the house. In the darkened parlor room he found her, and as he entered the room, she came towards him and, without a word, extended her arms and threw back her head. He took her in his arms and kissed her.
“I’m so glad it was you who won,” she said, “That white Maltese was nearly as good as yours.”
“I brought him as a gift to you," he said, rather dazed.
In an Instant she tore herself from his arms and stood before him "You mean to say, Dick Lowrie, that you didn't know?"
“I know nothing. What was it?"
“And there I let you kiss me and confessed I loved you, and you never even asked me," she broke down and sobbed.
It was then that Lowrie rose to the occasion. He simply took her in his arms again and said: “Never mind, sweetheart. That's what I came here for, and I'll do it now."
And then, after a proper period, they went out to receive the congratulations of the others, part of whom still were waiting.