THE EXPERIMENT WITH THE CAT
HE wind blew cold and dry. The storm of the day before
had brought it on. Uncle Paul took this pretext to have the
kitchen stove lighted in spite of Mother Ambroisine's
remarks, who cried out at the unseasonableness of making a
"Light up the stove in summer!" said she; "did one ever see
the like? No one but our master would have such a notion. We
shall be roasted."
Uncle Paul let her talk; he had his own idea. They sat down
at the table. After eating its supper the big cat, never too
warm, settled itself on a chair by the side of the stove,
and soon, with its back turned to the warm sheet-iron, began
to purr with happiness. All was going as desired; Uncle
Paul's projects were taking an excellent turn. There was
some complaint of the heat, but he took no notice.
"Ah! do you think it is for you the stove is lighted?" said
he to the children. "Undeceive yourselves, my little
friends: it is for the cat, the cat alone. It is so chilly,
poor thing; see how happy it is on its chair."
Emile was on the point of laughing at his uncle's kindly
attentions to the tom-cat, but Claire, who suspected serious
designs, nudged him with her elbow. Claire's suspicious were
well founded. When they
 had finished supper they resumed the
subject of thunder. Uncle Paul began:
"This morning I promised to show you, with the cat's help,
some very curious things. The time has come for keeping my
word, provided Puss is agreeable."
He look the cat, whose hair was burning hot, and put it on
his knees. The children drew near.
"Jules, put out the lamp; we must be in the dark."
The lamp put out, Uncle Paul passed and repassed his hand
over the tom-cat's back. Oh! oh! wonderful! The beast's hair
is streaming with bright beads; little flashes of white
light appear, crackle, and disappear as the hand rubs; you
would have said that sparks of fireworks were bursting out
from the fur. All looked on in wonder at the tom-cat's
"That puts the finishing touch! Here is our cat making
fire!" cried Mother Ambroisine.
"Does that fire burn, Uncle?" asked Jules. "The cat does not
cry out, and you stroke him without being afraid."
"Those sparks are not fire," replied Uncle Paul. "You all
remember the stick of sealing wax which, after being rubbed
on cloth, attracts little pieces of straw and paper. I told
you that electricity, aroused by friction, is what makes the
paper draw to the wax. Well, in rubbing the cat's back with
my hand I produce electricity, but in greater abundance, so
much so that it becomes visible where it was at first
invisible, and bursts forth in sparks."
"If it doesn't burn, let me try," pleaded Jules.
Jules passed his hand over the cat's fur. The
 bright beads
and their cracklings began again still stronger. Emile and
Claire did the same. Mother Ambroisine was afraid. The
worthy woman perhaps saw some witchcraft in the bright
sparkles from her cat. The cat was then let loose. Besides,
the experiment was beginning to give annoyance, and if Uncle
Paul had not held the animal fast perhaps it would have
begun to scratch.