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Wow: A Story Of A Cat's Paw

[March 23, 1872.]

I think you will be interested in the following anecdote of a
distinguished foreigner. One of the happiest results of that abandonment
of their ancient exclusiveness which has rendered us familiar with the
Japanese, has been the arrival on these shores of a very pretty fluffy
little dog, a born subject of the Mikado, who hails or rather barks from
Nagasaki, and who is happily domiciled with a friend of mine, of a
sufficiently elevated mind to esteem at its proper value the privilege
of being the master of a clever and refined dog. The child of the sun
and the earthquake has been named Wow, an ingenious combination of the
familiar utterance of his kind with the full-mouthed terminals of the
language of the merely human inhabitants of his country. My own
impression is that Wow smacks rather of the melodious monosyllabic
tongue of the Flowery Land than of that of the Dragon country; but this
is a detail, and, as a young naval officer newly come from Nipon
remarked to me lately, with much fervour, "Thank God! a fellow isn't
obliged to learn their lingo." Wow has made himself at home and happy in
his Northern residence with all the courtesy and suavity of a true
Japanese, and has attached himself to his master with apparent
resignation to the absence of pigtail and petticoat, articles of attire
replaced in this case by the wig and gown of a Q.C. About this
attachment there is, however, none of the exclusiveness which
characterises the insular dog. Wow is a politician, or at least a
diplomatist, and he desires to maintain friendly relations, with
profitable results to himself, with everybody. He succeeds in doing so
to an extraordinary extent, of which fact his master lately discovered
evidence. Very strict orders, including the absolute prohibition of
bones, had been issued with regard to Wow's diet. The ideas of a country
in which little dogs eat, but are not eaten, require liberality in his
opinion, and Wow made up his mind he would have his bones without
incurring the penalties of disobedience, which his master, in the
interests of the delicate foreigner, was determined to inflict. A
commodious and elegant residence was fitted up in the study for Wow, and
he was permitted free access to the upper floors of the house, but the
line was drawn at the kitchen staircase. That way lay bones and ruin,
and its easy descent was interdicted by stern command, which Wow
understood as clearly as did its utterer, though he at first affected a
simple and unconscious misapprehension. Then Wow was reproved and gently
chastised, an administration of justice performed with the utmost
reluctance by his master, but with the happiest results. Nothing could
be more admirable than Wow's submission, more perfect than his
obedience. He never looked towards the kitchen stairs, and would attend
at the family meals without following the retiring dishes with a wistful
gaze, or betraying a longing for the forbidden bones by so much as a
sniff. Attached to the lower department of the household is a humble
cat, a faithful creature in her way, but not cultivated by my friend as
I could wish. With this meek and useful animal Wow contracted a
friendship regarded by his master as a proof of his amiability and
condescension. (In my capacity of narrator I am compelled to use the
latter somewhat injurious term--as a private individual with an undying
recollection, I repudiate it). But the single-minded Q.C. had something
to learn of the four-footed exile from the Far East concerning this
intimacy. Coming into his study one day at an unusual hour, he saw the
cat--I do not know her name, I am afraid she has not one--stealthily
depositing a bone behind a curtain. Presently she went downstairs, and
returned with a second bone, which she conveyed to the same place of
concealment, whence proceeded a gentle rustling and whisking, suggestive
of the presence of Wow, whose house, or pagoda, was empty. Then arose
the Q.C., and cautiously peeped behind the curtain, where he beheld Wow
and his humble friend amicably discussing their respective bones, Wow's
being the bigger and the meatier of the two.

Thus did the Japanese exile illustrate the cosmopolitan story of the
catspaw (with the improvement of making it pleasant for the cat), and
accomplish the proverbially desirable feat of minding both his meat and
his manners. If we could be secured against their imitation, it would be
pleasant to ask our own domestic pets the problems:

"What do you think of that, my cat?"
"What do you think of that, my dog?"


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