Hector Munro (1870 to 1916) writing under the pen name of Saki is considered a master of the very short story (under10 pages)and is often mentioned as an English O Henry. Saki was born in Burma (I prefer the old name) in 1870 where his father was serving as inspector general for the Burmese police. Burma was part of the British Empire at that time. At age two Saki is sent back to England to be raised by his grandmother when his mother died as a result of an incident with a cow. His father later retired to England and he and Saki appeared to have had an amiable relationship as perhaps indicated by Saki also joining the office of the Burmese police inspector at age 23. Saki caught malaria at age 25 and returned to England where he would become journalist. He worked for a couple of years as foreign correspondent in Russia where he witnessed the infamous bloody Sunday episode. He also gave that up and for about the last ten years of his life he was not formally employed on a regular basis and was supported by family wealth. It is during this period that he wrote most of his work. Saki is famous for his satires of the upper classes in Edwardian England
"Tobermory" can be read online HERE
This morning I was looking at one of my favorite web pages East of the Web:Short Stories and found the story of the day was "Tobermory" by Saki. When I read the description of the story "Revealing the dangers of giving previously dumb animals the power of speech. Especially cats" I thought reading this might be a lot of fun. It turns out I was right and I wanted to share this story with readers of my blog.
I have already posted on two short stories by Saki, "Open Window" and "The Feast of Nemesis" both of which I really like.
"Tobermory" opens during a conversation with members of the lower gentry ( the milieu of Saki)
in which Corenelius Appin explains to everyone that for many years he has been working at teaching animals human speech and states that he has taught the family house cat, Tobermory, to speak. Of course no one believe him so he brings the cat in the room to prove his point.
I loved the remarks made by the cat and and I really felt that if my cats would talk this is how they might sound.
"Will you have some milk, Tobermory?" asked Lady Blemley in a rather strained voice.
"I don't mind if I do," was the response, couched in a tone of even indifference. A shiver of suppressed excitement went through the listeners, and Lady Blemley might be excused for pouring out the saucerful of milk rather unsteadily.
"What do you think of human intelligence?" asked Mavis Pellington lamely.
"Of whose intelligence in particular?" asked Tobermory coldly.
"Oh, well, mine for instance," said Mavis, with a feeble laugh.
"You put me in an embarrassing position," said Tobermory, whose tone and attitude certainly did not suggest a shred of embarrassment. "When your inclusion in this house-party was suggested, Sir Wilfrid protested that you were the most brainless woman of his acquaintance, and that there was a wide distinction between hospitality and the care of the feeble-minded. Lady Blemley replied that your lack of brain-power was the precise quality which had earned you your invitation, as you were the only person she could think of who might be idiotic enough to buy their old car. You know, the one they call 'The Envy of Sisyphus,' because it goes quite nicely up-hill if you push it."I do not wish to spoil the plot of this wonderful story by giving away more of the plot. Maybe I did not like the ending but that just shows how good the story was. Saki may not be the great artist Katherine Mansfield or Virginia Woolf is but this story made me smile and and took me away for a bit and that is sometimes worth as much as great art. I do not think there is a cat lover who will not be glad they read it.
"Tobermory" can be read online HERE