PURRING WHEN YOU'RE PLEASED
"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."
—MATT. xii. 34.
 THEY had been licked over hundreds of times by the same
mother, had been brought up on the same food, lived in
the same house, learnt the same lessons, heard the same
advice, and yet how different they were! Never were
there two kittens more thoroughly unlike than those
two! The one, with an open, loving heart, which never
could contain itself in its joy, but purred it out at
once to all the world; the other, who scarcely ever
purred at all, and that never above its breath, let him
be as happy or as fond as he would.
It was partly his mother's fault, perhaps, for she
always set the children the example of reserve; rarely
purring herself, and then only in a low tone. But, poor
thing, there were excuses to be made for her; she had
had so many troubles. Cats generally have. Their
kittens are taken away from them so often, and they get
so hissed about the house when people are busy, and the
children pull them about so heedlessly, and make the
dogs run after them—which is so irritating—that really
the wonder is they ever purr at all.
 Nevertheless, her not feeling inclined to purr much
herself was no good reason for her thinking it silly or
wrong in other people to purr when they were pleased;
but she did, and she and her purring daughter were
always having small tiffs on the subject.
Every morning, for instance, when the nice curly-headed
little boy brought the kittens a saucer of milk from
his breakfast, there was sure to be a disturbance over
the purring question; for, even before the saucer had
reached the floor, Puss Missy was sure to be there,
tail and head erect and eager, singing her loudest and
best, her whole throat vibrating visibly; while Puss
Master, on the contrary, took his food, but said very
little about it, or, if ever tempted to express his
natural delight, did it in so low a tone that nobody
could hear without putting their ears close down to him
Now this was what the mother cat called keeping up
one's dignity and self-respect, so it can easily be
imagined how angry she used to get with the other
child. "Wretched little creature!" she would say to
poor Puss Missy, who, even after the meal was over,
would lie purring with pleasure in front of the fire;
"what in the world are you making all that noise and
fuss about? Why are you to be always letting yourself
down by thanking people for what they do for you, as if
you did not deserve it, and had not a right to expect
it? Isn't it quite right of them to feed you and keep
you warm? What a shame it would be if they left you
without food or fire! I am ashamed to see you make
yourself so cheap, by showing gratitude for every
trifle. For goodness' sake have a little proper pride,
and leave off such fawning ways! Look at your brother,
and see how
 differently he behaves!—takes everything as
a matter of course; and has the sense to keep his
feelings to himself; and people are sure to respect him
all the more. It keeps up one's friends' interest when
they are not too sure that one is pleased. But you,
with your everlasting acknowledgments, will be seen
through, and despised very soon. Have a little more
esteem for your own character, I do beg! What is to
become of self-respect if people are to purr whenever
they are pleased?"
Puss Missy had not the least notion what would become
of it in such a case, but she supposed something
dreadful; so she felt quite horrified at herself for
having done anything to bring it about, and made a
thousand resolutions to keep up her dignity, save
self-respect from the terrible unknown fate in store,
and purr no more.
But it was all in vain. As soon as ever anything
happened to make her feel happy and comfortable, throb
went the little throat, as naturally as flowers come
out in spring, and there she was in a fresh scrape
again! And the temptations were endless. The little
boy's cousin, pale, and quiet, and silent as she was,
would often take Puss Missy on her knee, and nurse her
for half an hour at a time, stroking her so gently and
kindly—how could any one help purring?
Or the boy would tie a string, with a cork at the end
of it, to the drawer-handle of a table, so that the
kittens could paw it, and pat it, and spring at it, as
they pleased—how was it possible not to give vent to
one's delight in the intervals of such a game, when the
thing was swinging from side to side before their very
eyes, inviting the next bound?
And when there was nothing else to be pleased about,
there were always their own tails to run after,
 and the
fun was surely irresistible, and well deserved a song.
Yet the brother very seldom committed himself in that
way—that was the great puzzle, and Puss Missy grew more
perplexed as time went on. Nay, once, when they were
alone together, and her spirits had quite got the
better of her judgment, she boldly asked him, in as
"Why do you not purr when you are pleased?"
as if it was quite the natural and proper thing to do.
Whereat he seemed quite taken by surprise, but answered
"It's so weak-minded, mother says; I should be
ashamed. Besides," added he, after a short pause, "to
tell you the truth—but don't say anything about it—when
I begin there's something that chokes a little in my
throat. Mind you don't tell—it would let me down so in
mother's eyes. She likes one to keep up one's dignity,
Had Mother Puss overheard these words, she might have
been a little startled by such a result of her
teaching: but, as it was, she remained in happy
ignorance that her son was influenced by anything but
her advice . . . Yet, strange to say, she had that
choking in the throat sometimes herself! . . .
But, at last, a change came in their lives. One day
their friend, the curly-headed boy, came bounding into
the kitchen where Puss and her kittens were asleep, in
raptures of delight, followed by the pale, quiet,
silent cousin, as quiet and silent as ever. The boy
rushed to the kittens at once, took up both together in
his hands, laid one over the other for fun, and then
said to the girl:
"Cousin, now they're going to give us
the kittens for our very own, just tell me which you
 really? I'm so afraid you won't choose for
yourself when they ask you, and then, if I have to
choose instead, I sha'n't know which you would rather
have! And I want you to have the one you like most—so
do tell me beforehand!"
"Oh, I like them both!" answered the girl, in the same
unmoved, indifferent tone, in which she generally
"So do I," replied her cousin; "but I know which I like
best for all that; and so must you, only you won't say.
I wonder whether you like to have the kittens at all?"
added he, looking at the pale child a little
doubtfully; then whispering, as he put them both to her
face to be kissed, "Cousin, dear, I wish I could see
when you were pleased by your face! See! give a smile
when the one you like best goes by. Do—won't
you—this once—just for once?" . . .
It was in vain! He passed the kittens before her in
succession, that she might see the markings of their
fur, but she still only said she liked both, and, of
course, was glad to have a kitten, and so on; till, at
last, he was disheartened, and asked no more.
It is a great distress to some people when their
friends will not purr when they are pleased; and as the
children went back together to the drawing-room, the
little boy was the sadder of the two, though he could
not have explained why.
And then, just what he expected happened—the choice
between the two kittens was offered first to the girl;
but, instead of accepting it as a favour, and saying
"Thank you" for it, and being pleased as she ought to
have been, she would say nothing but that she liked
both, and it could not matter which she had; nay, to
look at her as she spoke, nobody
 would have thought she
cared for having either at all!
How was it that she did not observe how sorrowfully her
aunt was gazing at her as she spoke; aye, and with a
sorrow far beyond anything the kittens could occasion?
But she did not; and presently her aunt said: "Well,
then, as she did not care, the boy should choose." On
which the poor boy coloured with vexation; but when he
had sought his cousin's eyes again and again in vain
for some token of her feelings, he laid sudden hold on
Puss Missy, and cuddled her against his cheek,
"Then I will have this one! I like her much the best,
mother, because she purrs when she is pleased!"
And then the little girl took up Puss Master, and
kissed him very kindly, but went away without saying
And so a week passed; and though the children nursed
their kittens, they never discussed the question of
which was liked best again, for a shyness had sprung up
about it ever since the day the choice had been made.
But at the end of the week, one sunshiny morning, when
the boy was riding his father's pony, and only the
little girl was in the house, her aunt, coming suddenly
into the school-room, discovered her kneeling by the
sofa, weeping a silent rain of tears over the fur-coat
of Puss Missy, who was purring loudly all the time;
while her own kitten, Puss Master, was lying asleep
unnoticed by the fire.
Now, the pale, silent little girl had been an orphan
nearly two years—father and mother having died
 within a
few weeks of each other; and she had been ever since,
till quite lately, under the care of a guardian, who,
though married, had no children, and was more strict
and well-intentioned than kind and comprehending; so
that, between sorrow at first and fear afterwards,
joined to a timid, shrinking nature, she had, without
knowing anything about it, shut herself up in a sort of
defensive armour of self-restraint, which, till now,
neither aunt, nor uncle, nor even loving cousin, had
been able to break through.
But they had gently bided their time, and the time had
come at last, and Puss Missy pointed the moral; for,
with her aunt's arms folded round her, and a sense of
her comforting tenderness creeping into the long-lonely
heart, she owned that she had fretted all the week in
secret because—actually because—it was so miserable to
nurse a kitten who would not purr when he was pleased!
Anybody may guess how nice it was, ten minutes
afterwards, to see the little girl, with the roused
colour of warm feeling on her cheeks, smiling through
her tears at the thought of how like the unpurring
kitten she had been herself! Anybody may guess, too,
with what riotous joy the loving boy-cousin insisted on
her changing kittens at once, and having Puss Missy for
her very own.
And now, on the other hand, he set to
work himself, with a resolute heart, to make Puss
Master so fond of him that purr he must, whether he
would or no; and how that, now and then, by dint of
delicate attentions, such as choice morsels of food and
judicious rubbing under the ears, he worked the
 creature up to such a pitch of complacency, that the
vibrations of his throat became, at any rate, visible
to sight, and perceptible to touch.
Truly, they were a very happy party; for after Puss
Master took Puss Missy for friend, confidante, and
adviser, he grew so loving and fond, that he could not
help showing his feelings in a thousand pretty pleasant
ways: and the mother-cat herself relaxed by degrees;
perhaps because she found her kittens were not taken
away—partly, perhaps, because Puss Missy's
openheartedness stole into her heart at last, with a
sense of comfort—who knows?
Certainly she left off
scolding and lecturing, and would not only watch their
gambols, but join in them at times herself. And if
neither she nor her son ever purred quite so much, or
so loudly as their neighbours, the reason, no doubt,
was only that tiresome choking in the throat!
Why, the pale little girl herself complained of having
felt something very like it, during the sad two years
before her kind aunt made her happy again! It always
used to come on when she wanted to say what she felt.
And, perhaps, there is always something that chokes in
the throat when people do not purr when they are
Let us hope so!