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 w
th 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?"