[Illustration: ONE EVIL-MINDED BLACK TOM.]
Finding the beast utterly unhangable, I determined to try drowning. My nature is by no means a cruel one, quite the reverse; but Beauty’s cup of iniquity had long been full to the brim, and running over into the saucer. He had gulped down my canaries like pills, poached my pigeons, fricasseed my rabbits, and made himself an abominable beast generally; and had now committed a crime that capped everything.
My cock bantam, which had won first prize at the Slocum-Pogis poultry show, mysteriously disappeared. Jim, the gardener’s boy, and I hunted everywhere without finding any trace till we sighted Beauty. The beast was seated on my verbena bed, with fearfully distended stomach, waving my poor little bantam’s tail feathers from between his teeth. Had I been an ancient Egyptian high priest, and Beauty at the top of the tree of holy cats, his diabolical godship should have been made into a mummy instanter. As things were, he had to be drowned forthwith.
[Illustration: AT A CABINET COUNCIL IN THE COAL CELLAR.]
At a cabinet council in the coal cellar, composed of the cook, footman, Jim, and myself, all the executive details were arranged; my aunt being, of course, kept in happy ignorance of our intentions. As soon as my respected relative uttered the preliminary snore of her afternoon siesta, Beauty made an involuntary exit out of the house, all the lower doors and windows having been carefully fastened. Then commenced a silent cat-hunt, a serio-comic drama in dumb show, with a crowded audience breathlessly gazing from the windows. The scenery was a series of dissolving views, beginning on a flower-decked lawn, and ending at a mill-pool a mile or so away from the audience. Beauty played leading actor with considerable activity, notwithstanding the drawback of being handicapped with an undigested bantam. He flew over dozens of flower-beds, through all the outhouses, over the stable, out into the park, up and down all the tallest trees, and all over the country, till he took refuge in the deserted old mill. There we wriggled him into an ancient sack, and tied him up in the harmonious company of a couple of brickbats. Then we committed the body to the deep. The burial service was short, but hearty. “One—two—three, and away!” sung out in unison, was the special form for the occasion, accompanied by Beauty’s farewell blessing as we “awayed” him into the silent depths of the mill-dam. There was a splash, a shrill cry from a frightened moorhen, a short jubilate from Jim, to which I piously added “amen,” and all was over. Jim ran home with half-a-sovereign in his pocket, while I walked back to dress for dinner. On the stairs I met my aunt, already in evening array, and looking hungry. I knew the sign, and stealthily tried to vanish, vainly.
[Illustration: IN THE DESERTED OLD MILL.]
“Late again, Samuel!” she remarked, with a freezing spectacle-gleam that fixed me to the stair-carpet—my right foot two steps above the left. “You have just come in, I suppose. Have you seen Beauty?”