Written by Clara D. Pierson
This is the story of something which did not really happen in the dooryard of the big house, yet it has seemed best to tell it this way because it could all be seen from that yard, and because Silvertip, the cat, had a part in it.
He was sitting quietly upon the broad top-rail of the fence one afternoon, wishing that the sun would shine again. It had rained most of the time for three days, and he did not like wet weather. He thought it was going to clear off, for the clouds had not sent any drops down since noon. The grass and walks were still damp, so he sat on the fence-rail. He had stayed in the house so long that he was tired of it, and he was also watching a pair of Robins who had built a nest on one of the up-stairs window-ledges. They had put it right on top of last year’s Robins’ nest, and that was on one of the year before. You can see that it was well worth looking at.
Silvertip had been here only a short time, when he saw Mr. White Cat, from another house, walking over to the one across the street. Miss Tabby Cat lived there, and he knew that Mr. Tiger Cat was around somewhere. Mr. White Cat looked very cross. He was one of those people who are good-natured only when the sun is shining and they have everything they want, and this, you know, is not the best sort of a person.
“Um-hum!” said Silvertip to himself. “I think there will be a fight before long. I will watch.” He stood up and stretched himself carefully and sat down the other way, so as to see all that happened. Silvertip himself never fought. He spent a great deal of time in making believe fight, and usually entertained his Cat callers by glaring, spitting, or even growling at them, but he never really clawed and scratched and bit. He did not care to have sore places all over him, and he did not wish to get his ears chewed on.
“I can get what I want without fighting for it, so why should I fight?” he said. He was a very good sort of Cat, and had never really been cross about anything except when the Little Boy came to live in the big house. Then he had been sulky for weeks, and would not stay in the room with the Little Boy at all. He thought that if he made enough fuss about it, the Gentleman and the Lady would not let the Little Boy live there. When he found the Little Boy would stay anyway, he stopped being cross. After a while he loved him too.
No, Silvertip would not fight. But he very much liked to watch other Cats fight. Now he saw Miss Tabby sit quietly by the house across the street and right in front of a hole under the porch. She had her legs tucked beneath her, and her tail neatly folded around them. She looked as though she had found a small spot which was dry, and wanted to get all of herself on that.
Just inside the open doorway of the barn, there sat Mr. Tiger Cat. He also had his legs tucked in and his tail folded around him. Mr. White Cat walked straight up to him and stood stiff-legged. Mr. Tiger Cat, who had just eaten a hearty meal and wanted an after-dinner nap, half opened his eyes and looked at him. Then he closed them again.
This made Mr. White Cat more ill natured still. He did not like to have people look at him and then shut their eyes. He began to switch his tail and stand his hair on end. He decided to make the other Cat fight anyway. He cared all the more about it because Miss Tabby was watching him. He had not noticed Silvertip. “Er-oo!” he said, drawing back his head and lowering his tail stiffly. “Did you say it was going to rain, or did you say it was not?”
“I hardly think it will,” answered Mr. Tiger Cat pleasantly.
“You don’t think it will, hey?” asked Mr. White Cat. “Well, I say it will pour.”
Mr. Tiger Cat slid his thin eyelids over his eyes.
“Did you hear me?” asked Mr. White Cat, still standing in the same way.
“Certainly,” answered the other.
“Well, what do you say to that?” asked Mr. White Cat, and now he began to stand straighter and hold his tail out behind.
“I am willing it should pour,” said Mr. Tiger Cat, beginning to uncover his eyes slowly.
“Oo-oo! You are?” growled Mr. White Cat. “You are, are you? Well, I am not!”
There was no answer. You see, Mr. Tiger Cat did not want to fight. He did not need to just then, and he never fought for the fun of it when his stomach was so full. He supposed he would have to in the end, for he knew when a fellow has really made up his mind to it, and is picking a quarrel, it has to end in that way. At least, it has to end in that way when one is a Cat. If one is bigger and better, there are other ways of ending it.
Mr. Tiger Cat knew all this, and yet he waited. “The longer I wait,” he thought, “the more I shall feel like it. My stomach will not be so full and I can fight better. He needn’t think he can come around and pick a quarrel and chew my ears when Miss Tabby is looking on. No indeed.”
You see, Mr. Tiger Cat was also fond of Miss Tabby.
“Er-roo!” said Mr. White Cat, straightening his legs until he stood very tall indeed. “Er-roo!”
He had made himself so angry now that he could not talk in words at all. Mr. Tiger Cat sat still.
“Er-row!” said Mr. White Cat, speaking way down his throat. “Er-row!” Mr. Tiger Cat still sat still.
Silvertip became so excited that he could not stay any longer on the fence. He dearly loved to see a good fight, you know, so he jumped quietly down without looking away from the barn door, and began walking softly toward it. He knew that when a Cat got to saying “Er-row!” down in his throat, something was going to happen very soon. Silvertip did not know, however, exactly what it would be because he did not see a couple of big dogs trotting down the street toward him.
He crept nearer and nearer to the barn, hardly looking where he stepped for fear of missing some of the fun. His pretty white paws got wet and dirty, but that did not matter now. Paws could be licked clean at any time. Fights must be watched while they may be found.
“Ra-ow!” said Mr. White Cat, giving a forward jump.
“Pht!” answered Mr. Tiger Cat, standing stiffly on his hind feet and letting his front ones hang straight down. He was wide awake now, and ready to teach Mr. White Cat a lesson in politeness.
“Bow-wow!” said the Dogs just behind Silvertip. He might have run up a tree nearby, but he had a bright idea.
“I’ll do it,” he exclaimed. “The Little Boy says it is not good to fight, anyway.” Then he ran straight in through that open door and jumped to a high shelf in the barn. He saw Miss Tabby turn a somersault backwards and crawl under the porch.
Mr. Tiger Cat took a long jump to the sill of a high window. Mr. White Cat did not seem to care at all whether it was going to pour or not. He sprang to the top round of a ladder. The Dogs frisked below, wagging their tails and talking to each other about the Cats.
Mr. Tiger Cat, who was very well-bred and could always think of something polite to say, remarked to Silvertip: “Your call was quite an unexpected pleasure!” He had a smiling look around the mouth as he spoke.
“Yes,” answered Silvertip, who liked a joke as well as anybody, unless it were a joke on himself alone. “Yes, I found myself coming this way, and just ran in.”
Then they both settled down comfortably where they were, tucking their feet under them and wrapping their tails around. Nobody said anything to Mr. White Cat, who had no chance to sit down, and, indeed, could hardly keep from falling off the ladder.
The Dogs frisked and tumbled in the barn for a while and hung around the foot of the ladder. They knew they could not get either of the other cats to chase, but they had a happy hope that Mr. White Cat might come down.
When at last the Dogs had gone, and Mr. White Cat had also snuck away, Mr. Tiger said: “Fighting is very wrong.”
“Yes,” replied Silvertip, “very wrong indeed. But,” he added, “I’ll make believe fight anybody.” So he jumped stiffly down and Mr. Tiger Cat jumped stiffly down, and they glared and growled at each other all afternoon and never bit or even unsheathed a claw. They had a most delightful time, and Miss Tabby came out from under the porch and smiled on them both. She loved Cats who acted bravely.