“No, mamma, I’ll not even sit down. I’ll just look at the zebra kitty and come right away.”
Mrs. Dunlee smiled. If there were many pets at Number Five it was not likely that Edith would hasten away. “Remember, daughter, fifteen minutes is long enough for a call on an entire stranger. You don’t wish to annoy Mrs. McQuilken; but if you should happen to forget, you’ll hear this little bell tinkle, and that will remind you to leave.”
Number Five was a very interesting room, about as full as it could hold of oddities from various countries, together with four cats, a canary, and a mocking-bird.
“If you had come this morning you would have seen Mag, that’s the magpie,” said Mrs. McQuilken. “She’s off now, pretty creature. She likes to be picking a fuss with the chickens.”
The good lady had been knitting, but she dropped her work into the large pocket of her black apron, and moved up an easy-chair for her guest. Edith forgot to take it. Her eyes were roving about the room, attracted by the curiosities, though she dared not ask a single question.
“That nest on the wall looks odd to you, I dare say,” said Mrs. McQuilken. “The twigs are woven together so closely that it looks nice enough for a lady’s work-bag, now doesn’t it?”
Edith said she thought it did.
“Well, that’s the magpie’s nest. She laid seven eggs in it once. I keep it now for her to sleep in; it’s Mag’s cot-bed.”
Edith’s eyes, still roving, espied a handsome kitty asleep on the lounge. It must be the zebra kitty because of its black and dove-colored stripes. Most remarkable stripes, so regular and distinct, yet so softly shaded. The face was black, with whiskers snow-white. How odd! Edith had never seen white whiskers on a kitten. And then the long, sweeping black tail!
Mrs. McQuilken watched the little girl’s face and no longer doubted her fondness for kittens.
“I call her Zee for short. Look at that now!” And Mrs. McQuilken straightened out the tail which was coiled around Zee’s back.
“Oh, how beautifully long!” cried Edith.
“Long? I should say so! There was a cat-show at Los Angeles last fall, and one cat took a prize for a tail not so long as this by three-quarters of an inch! And Zee only six months old!”
The kitty, wide awake by this time, was holding high revel with a ball of yarn which the tortoise-shell cat had purloined from her mistress’s basket.
“Dear thing! Oh, isn’t she sweet?” said Edith, dropping on her knees before the graceful creature.
Mrs. McQuilken enjoyed seeing the child go off into small raptures; Edith was fast winning her heart.
“Does your mother like cats?” she suddenly inquired.
“Not particularly,” replied Edith, clapping her hands, as Zee with a quick dash bore away the ball out of the very paws of the coon cat. “Mamma thinks cats are cold-hearted,” said she, hugging Zee to her bosom. “She says they don’t love anybody.”