Soffrona and her Cat Muff
BY MRS. SHERWOOD,
“LITTLE HENRY & HIS BEARER,”
PRINTED BY AND FOR HOULSTON AND SON.
And sold at their Warehouse, 65, Paternoster-Row,London.
[Entered at Stationers’ Hall.]
LITTLE Soffrona lived with a lady who loved her very much. She was notthe lady’s own child, but she was as dear to that lady as if she hadbeen so, and the child always called her mamma. The lady had a littlegirl of her own called Sophia. Sophia was one year older than Soffrona;and Sophia and Soffrona learned lessons together, and played together,and were very happy in each6 other’s company. When you saw Soffrona,you might be sure Sophia was not very far off; and when you saw Sophia,it was very certain that Soffrona was at no great distance.
How delightful it is for little children to live in love and peace onewith another! Hear what David says on this subject——Behold, how goodand pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalmcxxxiii. 1.)
Soffrona and Sophia lived in a very lovely house, surrounded withwoods. Wherever you looked from the windows of that house, you mightsee trees growing thickly together, forming beautiful arbours, andpleasant shades, with little paths7 winding about among those trees;and here and there, near the trees, were fountains of water springingfrom the hills, and running down into the valleys: for there were hillsthere, and the tops of some of them were covered all through the winterwith snow, though in summer they appeared green or blue, according tothe time of the year, and wore a very pleasant aspect.
Soffrona and Sophia were allowed to play in these woods, and they hadlearned to run and skip upon the hills like young fawns. It was verypleasing to see them, and they found many treasures in those wildplaces which children who have never been in woods have no idea of.They found8 snail-shells, and painting-stones, and wild strawberries,and bilberries, and walnuts, and hazel nuts, and beautiful moss, andmany kinds of flowers; and there they heard birds sing—cuckoos, andlinnets, and blackbirds, and thrushes; and saw beautiful butterflieswith gold and purple plumes, and dragon-flies, whose wings look likefine silk net.
One morning in the month of May, Soffrona and Sophia had leave given tothem to play in the woods, after they had finished their lessons, andthey took a basket with them, to bring home any treasures which theymight find. And they went a long way through the woods,—I dare sayas much as half a mile,—till they came9 to a place where an old treehad been blown down by the side of a brook; and there they sat down,and each of them took a little penny book to read out of their basket:and while they were reading, they heard a noise of boys shouting andlaughing, and they jumped up and hid themselves behind some bushes.
10So the boys came nearer, and went down close to the water’s side; andthe little girls heard them say one to another, “Let us put it in thedeepest place, where it cannot scramble out.” And they saw the boysstoop over the water and put something into it, and at the same timethey heard a very young kitten cry; and the two little girls could notstop themselves from screaming out, quite loud, from the midst of thebushes, saying, “Wicked, cruel boys! what are you doing?”
Now the boys heard the cries of the little girls; and, as the Biblesays, The wicked flee when no man pursueth; (Prov. xxviii. 1.) sothey all took to their heels, and ran away11 as fast as they could,leaving the poor little kitten in the water.
Soffrona and Sophia did not lose one moment after the boys were gone,but ran to the brook, and found the little kitten almost dead. However,they got it out, though they wet themselves up to the knees in sodoing, and they returned to the tree, and Soffrona sat down, and laidit upon her lap, while Sophia wiped it dry; and as she rubbed it, shefound warmth returning to its little body, and presently it opened itseyes and began to mew. “O my dear little Puss!” said Soffrona, “howvery glad I am that you are not dead! You shall be my Puss, and I willcall you Muff. Will you12 let her be mine, Sophia? Will you give me yourshare of her?”
Sophia did not say a word against this request, for it was the sameto her whether the little kitten was called hers or Soffrona’s, andshe liked to oblige Soffrona: besides, Sophia was a year older thanSoffrona, and it might be expected that she would be more moderate inher desires, and think less of herself. Sophia had lived twelve monthslonger than Soffrona in the world; and how much may a person learn,with the blessing of God, in twelve months!
So it was agreed that the kitten should belong to Soffrona, and becalled Muff; and when the little girls had dried it as well as theycould,13 they put it into the basket upon some soft moss, and ran homewith it.
The lady was not angry with them for having wetted themselves in thebrook to save a poor little animal’s life, but she hastened to changetheir clothes; and then they took the kitten out of the basket, andprocured some milk to feed it with.
When the fur of the little cat was14 quite dry, it was seen that she wasvery beautifully marked. Her legs, and face, and breast, were quitewhite, and her back was streaked with yellow and black; so that sheappeared like a fine polished tortoise-shell. But she was only nine orten days old, and was not able to lap milk; and this was a great griefto15 Soffrona and Sophia, for they feared that although she had beensaved from the water, she would surely die of hunger. The little girlstried to force milk down her throat with a spoon; but the milk ran downthe outside of her mouth, instead of the inside of her throat, and thelittle creature’s sides became quite hollow for want of nourishment.
Soffrona was thinking of nothing but Muff all the evening, and shekept her on her lap while she was reading and while she was eating hersupper. She was, indeed, so much occupied by her little kitten, that,when the lady asked her to help to make a flannel petticoat for a poorold woman who lived in a cottage16 among the hills, not very far off,she took the needle in her hand, it is true, but I do not think thatshe took twenty stitches; for she was looking down every minute uponthe kitten on her lap: and the petticoat would not have been done thatnight, if Sophia had not been doubly diligent.
Now it was much to be wished that the petticoat should be done thatnight; for it was intended for a good old woman who lived in the woods,a very poor woman indeed, and the March winds had given her greatpain in her limbs, and she was in much need of a warm petticoat; and,more than that, the lady had promised the little girls the pleasureof taking the petticoat, with some tea and sugar,17 the next morning,after they had repeated their lessons, to the cottage. But, as I beforesaid, Soffrona’s heart was with her kitten, and she could think ofnothing else, and of no other creature. She had no pity left for theold woman, so much was she thinking of little Muff. We ought to be kindto animals; but our first affections should be given to our Maker, oursecond to our fellow-creatures, and our third to any poor animals whichmay be in our power.
The last thing Soffrona did in the evening, was to try to put somemilk down Muff’s throat, and this was the first thing she did in themorning: and so far she did right, for the poor little thing dependedon her. But18 when she had done all she could for Muff, she should havegiven her mind to her other duties; but she could not command herselfto attend to any thing else all that morning, and learned her lessonsso ill, that, if the lady had not been very indulgent, she would havedeprived her of the pleasure of walking with Sophia to see the oldwoman, and to carry the petticoat.
There was a neat little maid-servant, called Jane, who used to walk outwith Sophia and Soffrona when they had a long way to go; and Jane wasready waiting for the little girls by the time the lessons were done.
Sophia had asked leave to carry the basket with the petticoat and thetea and sugar; and Soffrona took another19 basket, and put a bit offlannel at the bottom of it, and laid Muff in it, and tied the coverover it; and when Sophia took up her basket to carry, Soffrona also puther arm under the handle of Muff’s basket, and went down stairs with it.
When they were got out of the house, Jane said, “What, have you twobaskets, young ladies, full of good things, to carry to old Martha?Well, I am very glad; for she is a good and pious old woman.”
Soffrona coloured, but did not answer; and Sophia smiled, and said,“She has not got any thing for the old woman in her basket: she hasonly got Muff, wrapped in flannel, in it.”
20“O, Miss!” said Jane, “how can you think of doing such a thing? What atrouble it will be to you to carry the kitten all the way! and we havetwo miles to walk, and most of it up hill. Please to let me carry thekitten back to the house.”
“No, no, Jane,” said Soffrona, “no, you shall not.”
“Shall not, Miss!” said Jane: “is that a pretty word?”
Soffrona looked very cross, and Jane was turning back to complain tothe lady: but Sophia entreated her not to do it; and Soffrona submittedto ask her pardon for being rude, and promised to behave better, ifshe would permit her to carry the kitten where she was going. So that21matter was settled, and Jane and the little girls proceeded.
I could tell you much about the pretty places through which they passedin going to poor Martha’s cottage, which were quite new to the littlegirls. They first went through some dark woods, where the trees metover their heads like the22 arches in a church; and then they came toa dingle, where water was running at the bottom, and they crossed thewater by a wooden bridge; then they had to climb up such a steep, sucha very steep hill, covered with bushes; then they came to a high fieldsurrounded with trees, and in a corner of that field was old Martha’sthatched cottage. It was a poor place: the walls were black-and-white,and there were two windows, one of which was in the thatch, and onebelow, and a door, half of which was open; for it was such a door asyou see in cottages, the lower part of which can be shut while theother is open. There was a little smoke coming out of the chimney,23 forMartha was cooking her potatoes for her dinner.
“Do you think Martha has any