Most days I check the website, East of the Web:Short Stories to discover what they have selected as their short stories of the day. It was this way I first read Katherine Mansfield. If I like their selection (and especially if it is not real long) there is a good chance I will read it. Saki (Hector Munro-UK-1870-1916-killed in WWI) is often featured and so far I have posted on seven of his stories. The more I read Saki the more I like and I hope understand his stories. It would be easy to dismiss his stories as simple pre-modern twist ending short stories aimed at a small class of English society but if you do that you will miss out on his gentle (though he can be wicked) satire and his very relaxing prose style. His stories have so far all made me smile and think a bit. Plus in two of the seven I have read a cat plays a central part!
The central character in "The Philanthropist and the Cat" is Jocantha Bessbury , the contented wife of an affluent kind man who loves her and provides her with a life of comfort and leisure. One day in a reflective mode the wife decides that the only one she knows who might be more contented than her is her cat, Attab.
"He lies there, purring and dreaming, shifting his limbs now and then in an ecstasy of cushioned comfort. He seems the incarnation of everything soft and silky and velvety, without a sharp edge in his composition, a dreamer whose philosophy is sleep and let sleep; and then, as evening draws on, he goes out into the garden with a red glint in his eyes and slays a drowsy sparrow."
One morning Jocantha looks around her lovely house (imagine something out of the set of the movie The Age of Innocence) and decided when she is out and about today she will do something nice for a shop girl (as they were called). She decides to buy a theater ticket (way beyond the reach of the shop girl) and give it away. She imagines how terribly enriched the recipient's life will be by this gesture. Of course things do not work out the way Jocantha had in mind and it turns out to be her whose life will be changed by what happens-It is just a five minute read so I will not tell more of the plot.
OK I concede Saki's stories may not be canon status works and they are kind of escapist reads but they are fun, well written if you can accept the mannered Edwardian prose, expose the silliness of people in a kind way and have cats in them! I will be reading and posting on more of his stories. Teachers should take note that there is politically incorrect language in some of his stories, including this one.
This story can be read online