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loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

the peasant and the angora

In 1907, a woman looked back on her childhood in Tuscany, recalling how unusual her cat was in that place and time:

* * *

Teresa, an old woman who helped in the kitchen, and a pet cat, once inspired Alick to a piece of mischief that later he heartily regretted. The old woman was a poor, ignorant, superstitious creature. The cat was a beautiful white Angora, with very long hair, a big fluffy tail, and forget-me-not blue eyes. It had been given us by Countess R , a great friend of ours. Count R was at the time on the special staff of King Humbert, and at royal request, he had brought a brother of our kitten to Rome for Queen Margaret. Our cat was, therefore, really a well-connected cat.

Alick was standing in the garden when the old woman passed, and stopped to admire the cat. She said in an admiring tone: "Signorino, what a beautiful cat. Sant Antonio bless it!"

The blessing of Sant Antonio was necessary, for the Tuscans never admire an animal without calling his blessings upon it, nor do they ever admire a child without calling upon it the blessings of the Lord. We had been well drilled in this ourselves. When in our walks we stopped at the peasant houses the peasants usually showed us their oxen, and then we were expected to say: "Sant Antonio bless them!" And when we saw a baby we were also expected to say: "God bless it!" This in order to keep off the evil eye. It was I who made the never-forgotten break of looking at a baby, and sweetly saying: "Sant Antonio bless it," which, "the children" claimed, mortally offended the peasant.

Alick should not have spoken with the old woman at all, much less should he have indulged in the opportunity of imposing upon her superstitious credulity. But he disregarded rules and answered: "It is n't a real cat. We only call it so because so rare an animal does not have a name of its own."

"Why, Signorino, what is it?"

"It is a cross between a white bantam chicken and a poodle."

The woman looked in amazement. Angora cats were unknown in the vicinity, and the blue eyes of ours had caused a good deal of comment. Besides, the cat was an exceptionally intelligent creature; it had learned to jump through hoops, stand upright, and in fact, perform a lot of tricks which popular tradition states cats can never learn, so, to a certain extent, the ground was prepared for my brother's statements.

* * *
Alick was the author's brother, and he is about to tell poor Teresa the cat is even more unusual than she thought - I'll continue this story tomorrow!

This is from Lisi Cecilia Cipriani, A Tuscan Childhood (The Century Company, 1907), pp. 173-174.


A few Good Cats said...

It was a different world back then, even though it's not that long ago.

parlance said...

Oh, I can't wait to find out why he subsequently regretted misleading the old lady.