JUST SO STORIES
THE CAT THAT WALKED BY HIMSELF
HEAR and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, O my Best Beloved, when the Tame animals were wild. The Dog was wild, and the Horse was wild, and the Cow was wild, and the Sheep was wild, and the Pig was wild—as wild as wild could be—and they walked in the Wet Wild Woods by their wild lones. But the wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.
Of course the Man was wild too. He was dreadfully wild. He didn’t even begin to be tame till he met the Woman, and she told him that she did not like living in his wild ways. She picked out a nice dry Cave, instead of a heap of wet leaves, to lie down in; and she strewed clean sand on the floor; and she lit a nice fire of wood at the back of the Cave; and she hung a dried wild-horse skin, tail-down, across the opening of the Cave; and she said, ‘Wipe your feet, dear, when you come in, and now we’ll keep house.’
That night, Best Beloved, they ate wild sheep roasted on the hot stones, and flavoured with wild garlic and wild pepper; and wild duck stuffed with wild rice and wild fenugreek and wild coriander; and marrow-bones of wild oxen; and wild cherries, and wild grenadillas. Then the Man went to sleep in front of the fire ever so happy; but the Woman sat up, combing her hair. She took the bone of the shoulder of mutton—the big fat blade-bone—and she looked at the wonderful marks on it, and she threw more wood on the fire, and she made a Magic. She made the First Singing Magic in the world.
Out in the Wet Wild Woods all the wild animals gathered together where they could see the light of the fire a long way off, and they wondered what it meant.
Then Wild Horse stamped with his wild foot and said, ‘O my Friends and O my Enemies, why have the Man and the Woman made that great light in that great Cave, and what harm will it do us?’
Wild Dog lifted up his wild nose and smelled the smell of roast mutton, and said, ‘I will go up and see and look, and say; for I think it is good. Cat, come with me.’
‘Nenni!’ said the Cat. ‘I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. I will not come.’
‘Then we can never be friends again,’ said Wild Dog, and he trotted off to the Cave. But when he had gone a little way the Cat said to himself, ‘All places are alike to me. Why should I not go too and see and look and come away at my own liking.’ So he slipped after Wild Dog softly, very softly, and hid himself where he could hear everything.
When Wild Dog reached the mouth of the Cave he lifted up the dried horse-skin with his nose and sniffed the beautiful smell of the roast
This is the picture of the Cave where the Man and the Woman lived first of all. It was really a very nice Cave, and much warmer than it looks. The Man had a canoe. It is on the edge of the river, being soaked in the water to make it swell up. The tattery-looking thing across the river is the Man’s salmon-net to catch salmon with. There are nice clean stones leading up from the river to the mouth of the Cave, so that the Man and the Woman could go down for water without getting sand between their toes. The things like black-beetles far down the beach are really trunks of dead trees that floated down the river from the Wet Wild Woods on the other bank. The Man and the Woman used to drag them out and dry them and cut them up for firewood. I haven’t drawn the horsehide curtain at the mouth of the Cave, because the Woman has just taken it down to be cleaned. All those little smudges on the sand between the Cave and the river are the marks of the Woman’s feet and the Man’s feet.
The Man and the Woman are both inside the Cave eating their dinner. They went to another cosier Cave when the Baby came, because the Baby used to crawl down to the river and fall in, and the Dog had to pull him out.
mutton, and the Woman, looking at the blade-bone, heard him, and laughed, and said, ‘Here comes the first. Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, what do you want?’
Wild Dog said, ‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy, what is this that smells so good in the Wild Woods?’
Then the Woman picked up a roasted mutton-bone and threw it to Wild Dog, and said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, taste and try.’ Wild Dog gnawed the bone, and it was more delicious than anything he had ever tasted, and he said, ‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy, give me another.’
The Woman said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, help my Man to hunt through the day and guard this Cave at night, and I will give you as many roast bones as you need.’
‘Ah!’ said the Cat, listening. ‘This is a very wise Woman, but she is not so wise as I am.’
Wild Dog crawled into the Cave and laid his head on the Woman’s lap, and said, ‘O my Friend and Wife of my Friend, I will help your Man to hunt through the day, and at night I will guard your Cave.’
‘Ah!’ said the Cat, listening. ‘That is a very foolish Dog.’ And he went back through the Wet Wild Woods waving his wild tail, and walking by his wild lone. But he never told anybody.
When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always. Take him with you when you go hunting.’