Beautiful Joe
Chapter 12, Page 2


Please be aware that this book was originally published in 1894 and may contain words, descriptions, or other passages that may be considered offensive today.


Malta was a very wise cat. She knew quite well that she must not harm the parrot nor the canaries, and she never tried to catch them, even though she was left alone in the room with them.

I have seen her lying in the sun, blinking sleepily, and listening with great pleasure to Dick's singing. Miss Laura even taught her not to hunt the birds outside.

For a long time she had tried to get it into Malta's head that it was cruel to catch the little sparrows that came about the door, and just after I came, she succeeded in doing so.

Malta was so fond of Miss Laura, that whenever she caught a bird, she came and laid it at her feet. Miss Laura always picked up the little, dead creature, pitied it and stroked it, and scolded Malta till she crept into a corner. Then Miss Laura put the bird on a limb of a tree, and Malta watched her attentively from her corner.

One day Miss Laura stood at the window, looking out into the garden. Malta was lying on the platform, staring at the sparrows that were picking up crumbs from the ground. She trembled, and half rose every few minutes, as if to go after them. Then she lay down again. She was trying very hard not to creep on them. Presently a neighbor's cat came stealing along the fence, keeping one eye on Malta and the other on the sparrows. Malta was so angry! She sprang up and chased her away, and then came back to the platform, where she lay down again and waited for the sparrows to come back. For a long time she stayed there, and never once tried to catch them.

Miss Laura was so pleased. She went to the door, and said, softly, "Come here, Malta."

The cat put up her tail, and, meowing gently, came into the house. Miss Laura took her up in her arms, and going down to the kitchen, asked Mary to give her a saucer of her very sweetest milk for the best cat in the United States of America.

Malta got great praise for this, and I never knew of her catching a bird afterward. She was well fed in the house, and had no need to hurt such harmless creatures.

She was very fond of her home, and never went far away, as Jim and I did. Once, when Willie was going to spend a few weeks with a little friend who lived fifty miles from Fairport, he took it into his head that Malta should go with him. His mother told him that cats did not like to go away from home; but he said he would be good to her, and begged so hard to take her, that at last his mother consented.

He had been a few days in this place, when he wrote home to say that Malta had run away. She had seemed very unhappy, and though he had kept her with him all the time, she had acted as if she wanted to get away.

When the letter was read to Mr. Morris, he said, "Malta is on her way home. Cats have a wonderful cleverness in finding their way to their own dwelling. She will be very tired. Let us go out and meet her."

Willie had gone to this place in a coach. Mr. Morris got a buggy and took Miss Laura and me with him, and we started out. We went slowly along the road. Every little while Miss Laura blew her whistle, and called, "Malta, Malta," and I barked as loudly as I could. Mr. Morris drove for several hours, then we stopped at a house, had dinner, and then set out again. We were going through a thick wood, where there was a pretty straight road, when I saw a small, dark creature away ahead, trotting toward us. It was Malta. I gave a joyful bark, but she did not know me, and plunged into the wood.

I ran in after her, barking and yelping, and Miss Laura blew her whistle as loudly as she could. Soon there was a little gray head peeping at us from the bushes, and Malta bounded out, gave me a look of surprise and then leaped into the buggy on Miss Laura's lap.

What a happy cat she was! She purred with delight, and licked Miss Laura's gloves over and over again. Then she ate the food they had brought, and went sound asleep. She was very thin, and for several days after getting home she slept the most of the time.

Malta did not like dogs, but she was very good to cats. One day, when there was no one about and the garden was very quiet, I saw her go stealing into the stable, and come out again, followed by a sore-eyed, starved-looking cat, that had been deserted by some people that lived in the next street. She led this cat up to her catnip bed, and watched her kindly, while she rolled and rubbed herself in it. Then Malta had a roll in it herself, and they both went back to the stable.

Catnip is a favorite plant with cats, and Miss Laura always kept some of it growing for Malta.

For a long time this sick cat had a home in the stable. Malta carried her food every day, and after a time Miss Laura found out about her, and did what she could to make her well. In time she got to be a strong, sturdy-looking cat, and Miss Laura got a home for her with an invalid lady.

It was nothing new for the Morrises to feed deserted cats. Some summers, Mrs. Morris said that she had a dozen to take care of. Careless and cruel people would go away for the summer, shutting up their houses, and making no provision for the poor cats that had been allowed to sit snugly by the fire all winter. At last, Mrs. Morris got into the habit of putting a little notice in the Fairport paper, asking people who were going away for the summer to provide for their cats during their absence.