The Patient Cat
by Laura E. Richards
The Patient Cat was published in Ms. Richards’ collection of morality tales and poems, The Pig Brother and Other Fables and Stories (1881). Is it always wise to wait? Timing is everything in this feline morality tale.
HEN the spotted cat first found the nest, there was
nothing in it, for it was only just finished. So she said, “I will wait!” for she was a patient cat, and the summer was before her. She waited a week, and then she climbed up again to the top of the tree, and peeped into the nest. There lay two lovely blue eggs, smooth and shining.
The spotted cat said, “Eggs may be good, but young birds are better. I will wait.” So she waited; and while she was waiting, she caught mice and rats, and washed herself and slept, and did all that a spotted cat should do to pass the time away.
When another week had passed, she climbed the tree again and peeped into the nest. This time there were five eggs. But the spotted cat said again, “Eggs may be good, but young birds are better. I will wait a little longer!”
So she waited a little longer and then went up again to look. Ah! there were five tiny birds, with big eyes and long necks, and yellow beaks wide open. Then the spotted cat sat down on the branch, and licked her nose and purred, for she was very happy. “It is worth while to be patient!” she said.
But when she looked again at the young birds, to see which one she should take first, she saw that they were very thin,—oh, very, very thin they were! The spotted cat had never seen anything so thin in her life.
“Now,” she said to herself, “if I were to wait only a few days longer, they would grow fat. Thin birds may be good, but fat birds are much better. I will wait!”
So she waited; and she watched the father-bird bringing worms all day long to the nest, and said, “Aha! they must be fattening fast! they will soon be as fat as I wish them to be. Aha! what a good thing it is to be patient.”
At last, one day she thought, “Surely, now they must be fat enough! I will not wait another day. Aha! how good they will be!”
So she climbed up the tree, licking her chops all the way and thinking of the fat young birds. And when she reached the top and looked into the nest, it was empty!!
Then the spotted cat sat down on the branch and spoke thus, “Well, of all the horrid, mean, ungrateful creatures I ever saw, those birds are the horridest, and the meanest, and the most ungrateful! Mi-a-u-ow!!!!”
Here was Blue, brown headed and blue eyed, the whole world to her seemed anything but what she had seen on the television screen. She was still very much naive but her opinions of things had been shaped widely from those in her immediate family or her inner circle.
She never really understood that if you loved someone why did you hurt them so. She had seen this so much at home. Her father was not the nicest man when it came to running his house. He yelled and slammed things when he got frustrated and he let anyone who did not do what he want, know how he felt. This usually involved hitting his wife, her mother.
For years Blue spent times in her room listening to all the commotion from her angry father towards her mother. She tried to close her ears but she never could fully enough to feel safe. She often wondered when his anger would turn against her. When was the day he came after her going to happen? She lived constantly fearing that. She also wondered how her much older sister could just sit in her room and let him do these things towards their mother. Why didn’t she step in and fight him? All she could surmise was that she was scared like her.
The things that set him off were things like , his supper not being made on time, bills or spending his money, and sometimes just looking at him wrong would light that anger flame. He was very irrational at times, almost trying to find a control of things that was not his to have and that no one was going to really submit to. Her mother tried to talk him down out of his anger fits, but she never was successful. In fact it made her more of a target for his aggression.
If this was love, she thought, then she did not need it or want it. She would just stick to her stuffed animals and her baby dolls for her loyal support and affection. Humans were always so moody anyway. She did wonder what her mother did that angered him so. She would not dare ask her mother, for fear of hurting her mother’s feelings.
Although she was accustomed to shouting and fits, where things were beaten up or destroyed, it was never easy. Here she was a little girl in a big people world, one that was filled with so much anger and fear. To her nothing about her home ever really felt like a safe place, never. She just knew that when she got older her job would be to step in and defend her mother, regardless of the costs to herself. She would do it to. She waited for that day when her father would have to deal with her, instead of picking on her defenseless mother.
That time would come sooner than she expected it to. Her relationship with her father was strained and awkward anyway, and she was going to jump at the chance to change things around there. She was tired of worrying that one day he was going to hurt her mom bad or worse, kill her. If it was the last and best thing she could do, she would and that was to defend her mother against that monster of a man.