One cat belonged to Eva, a plain-looking animal, black with a half-white face, christened “Miss Dip” (an inspiration on my part suggested by the donor’s name, on the “Happy Family” principle). She was the apple of her eye, nevertheless, and nightly Eva could be heard calling “Dip, Dip, Dip,” all over the camp to fetch her to bed. Incidentally it became quite an Angelus for us.
Considering the way she hunted all the meat shops for tit bits, that cat ought to have been a show animal—but it wasn’t. One day as our fairy Lowson was lightly jumping from a window-sill she inadvertently “came in contact” with Dip’s tail, the extreme tip of which was severed in consequence! In wrathful indignation Eva rushed Dip down to the Casino in an ambulance, where one of the foremost surgeons of the day operated with skill and speed and made a neat job of it, to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. If her tail still remains square at the end she can tell her children she was blessee dans la guerre. The other cat was a tortoiseshell and appropriately called “Melisande in the Wood,” justified by the extraordinary circumstances in which she was discovered. One day at No. 35 hut hospital I saw three of the men hunting in a bank opposite, covered with undergrowth and small shrubs. They told me that for the past three days a kitten had been heard mewing, but in spite of all their efforts to find it, they had failed to do so. I listened, and sure enough heard a plaintive mew. The place was a network of clinging roots, but presently I crawled in and found it was just possible to get along on hands and knees. It was most mysterious—the kitten could be heard quite loud one minute, and when we got to the exact spot it would be some distance away again. (It reminded me of the Dutch ventriloquist’s trick in Lamarck). It was such a plaintive mew I was determined to find that kitten if I stayed there all night. At last it dawned on me, it must be in a rabbit hole; and sure enough after pushing and pulling my way along to the top of the bank, I found one over which a fall of earth had successfully pushed some wire netting from the fence above. I waited patiently, and in due time caught sight of a little black, yellow, and white kitten; but the minute I made a grab for it, it bolted. I pulled the netting away, but the hole was much too deep for so small a creature to get out by itself, and it was much too frightened to let me catch it. With great difficulty I extricated myself and ran to the cookhouse, where I soon enlisted Bridget’s aid. We got some small pieces of soft raw meat and crawled to the top of the bank again. After long and tedious coaxing I at last grabbed the little thing spitting furiously while Bridget gave it some food, and in return for my trouble it bit and scratched like a young devil! It was terribly hungry and bolted all we had brought. When we got her to the cook-house she ran round the place like a mad thing, and turned out to be rather a fast cat altogether when she grew up. We tossed for her, Bridget won, and she was duly christened with a drop of tinned milk on her forehead, “Melisande in the Wood.”