Chapter 29 - We Lose A Friend
Our beautiful October was marred by one day of black tragedy--the day Paddy died. For Paddy, after seven years of as happy a life as ever a cat lived, died suddenly--of poison, as was supposed. Where he had wandered in the darkness to meet his doom we did not know, but in the frosty dawnlight he dragged himself home to die. We found him lying on the doorstep when we got up, and it did not need Aunt Janet's curt announcement, or Uncle Blair's reluctant shake of the head, to tell us that there was no chance of our pet recovering this time. We felt that nothing could be done. Lard and sulphur on his paws would be of no use, nor would any visit to Peg Bowen avail. We stood around in mournful silence; the Story Girl sat down on the step and took poor Paddy upon her lap.
"I s'pose there's no use even in praying now," said Cecily desperately.
"It wouldn't do any harm to try," sobbed Felicity.
"You needn't waste your prayers," said Dan mournfully, "Pat is beyond human aid. You can tell that by his eyes. Besides, I don't believe it was the praying cured him last time."
"No, it was Peg Bowen," declared Peter, "but she couldn't have bewitched him this time for she's been away for months, nobody knows where."
"If he could only TELL us where he feels the worst!" said Cecily piteously. "It's so dreadful to see him suffering and not be able to do a single thing to help him!"
"I don't think he's suffering much now," I said comfortingly.
The Story Girl said nothing. She passed and repassed her long brown hand gently over her pet's glossy fur. Pat lifted his head and essayed to creep a little nearer to his beloved mistress. The Story Girl drew his limp body close in her arms. There was a plaintive little mew--a long quiver--and Paddy's friendly soul had fared forth to wherever it is that good cats go.
"Well, he's gone," said Dan, turning his back abruptly to us.
"It doesn't seem as if it can be true," sobbed Cecily. "This time yesterday morning he was full of life."
"He drank two full saucers of cream," moaned Felicity, "and I saw him catch a mouse in the evening. Maybe it was the last one he ever caught."
"He did for many a mouse in his day," said Peter, anxious to pay his tribute to the departed.
"'He was a cat--take him for all in all. We shall not look upon his like again,'" quoted Uncle Blair.
Felicity and Cecily and Sara Ray cried so much that Aunt Janet lost patience completely and told them sharply that they would have something to cry for some day--which did not seem to comfort them much. The Story Girl shed no tears, though the look in her eyes hurt more than weeping.
"After all, perhaps it's for the best," she said drearily. "I've been feeling so badly over having to go away and leave Paddy. No matter how kind you'd all be to him I know he'd miss me terribly. He wasn't like most cats who don't care who comes and goes as long as they get plenty to eat. Paddy wouldn't have been contented without me."
"Oh, no-o-o, oh, no-o-o," wailed Sara Ray lugubriously.
Felix shot a disgusted glance at her.
"I don't see what YOU are making such a fuss about," he said unfeelingly. "He wasn't your cat."
"But I l-l-oved him," sobbed Sara, "and I always feel bad when my friends d-do."
"I wish we could believe that cats went to heaven, like people," sighed Cecily. "Do you really think it isn't possible?"
Uncle Blair shook his head.
"I'm afraid not. I'd like to think cats have a chance for heaven, but I can't. There's nothing heavenly about cats, delightful creatures though they are."
"Blair, I'm really surprised to hear the things you say to the children," said Aunt Janet severely.
"Surely you wouldn't prefer me to tell them that cats DO go to heaven," protested Uncle Blair.
"I think it's wicked to carry on about an animal as those children do," answered Aunt Janet decidedly, "and you shouldn't encourage them. Here now, children, stop making a fuss. Bury that cat and get off to your apple picking."
We had to go to our work, but Paddy was not to be buried in any such off-hand fashion as that. It was agreed that we should bury him in the orchard at sunset that evening, and Sara Ray, who had to go home, declared she would be back for it, and implored us to wait for her if she didn't come exactly on time.
"I mayn't be able to get away till after milking," she sniffed, "but I don't want to miss it. Even a cat's funeral is better than none at all."
"Horrid thing!" said Felicity, barely waiting until Sara was out of earshot.
We worked with heavy hearts that day; the girls cried bitterly most of the time and we boys whistled defiantly. But as evening drew on we began to feel a sneaking interest in the details of the funeral. As Dan said, the thing should be done properly, since Paddy was no common cat. The Story Girl selected the spot for the grave, in a little corner behind the cherry copse, where early violets enskied the grass in spring, and we boys dug the grave, making it "soft and narrow," as the heroine of the old ballad wanted hers made. Sara Ray, who managed to come in time after all, and Felicity stood and watched us, but Cecily and the Story Girl kept far aloof.
"This time last night you never thought you'd be digging Pat's grave to-night," sighed Felicity.
"We little k-know what a day will bring forth," sobbed Sara. "I've heard the minister say that and it is true."
"Of course it's true. It's in the Bible; but I don't think you should repeat it in connection with a cat," said Felicity dubiously.
When all was in readiness the Story Girl brought her pet through the orchard where he had so often frisked and prowled. No useless coffin enclosed his breast but he reposed in a neat cardboard box.
"I wonder if it would be right to say 'ashes to ashes and dust to dust,'" said Peter.
"No, it wouldn't," averred Felicity. "It would be real wicked."
"I think we ought to sing a hymn, anyway," asseverated Sara Ray.
"Well, we might do that, if it isn't a very religious one," conceded Felicity.
"How would 'Pull for the shore, sailor, pull for the shore,' do?" asked Cecily. "That never seemed to me a very religious hymn."
"But it doesn't seem very appropriate to a funeral occasion either," said Felicity.
"I think 'Lead, kindly light,' would be ever so much more suitable," suggested Sara Ray, "and it is kind of soothing and melancholy too."
"We are not going to sing anything," said the Story Girl coldly. "Do you want to make the affair ridiculous? We will just fill up the grave quietly and put a flat stone over the top."
"It isn't much like my idea of a funeral," muttered Sara Ray discontentedly.
"Never mind, we're going to have a real obituary about him in Our Magazine," whispered Cecily consolingly.
"And Peter is going to cut his name on top of the stone," added Felicity. "Only we mustn't let on to the grown-ups until it is done, because they might say it wasn't right."
We left the orchard, a sober little band, with the wind of the gray twilight blowing round us. Uncle Roger passed us at the gate.
"So the last sad obsequies are over?" he remarked with a grin.
And we hated Uncle Roger. But we loved Uncle Blair because he said quietly,
"And so you've buried your little comrade?"
So much may depend on the way a thing is said. But not even Uncle Blair's sympathy could take the sting out of the fact that there was no Paddy to get the froth that night at milking time. Felicity cried bitterly all the time she was straining the milk. Many human beings have gone to their graves unattended by as much real regret as followed that one gray pussy cat to his.