A good story can be a joy forever. Or at least for 16 years, which is the case for “Kate and her Kitty.” Originally written for The Young Reaper (April 1848; pp. 13-14), the story was reprinted the next month in Youth’s Companion. In the process, the “author’s name”—“Sister Mary”—was lost. In 1865, this story of personal sacrifice becomes a story of patriotic sacrifice in the pages of Student and Schoolmate, as little Katie sells her beloved kitten so she can give the money to help Union soldiers. Was it by the same author? Don’t know. Was it by a reader of the Reaper or the Companion? Can’t tell. The story’s ending, though, is stronger than the one here. Whoever it was may have learned something about writing in the intervening years.

“Kate and Her Kitty” does, however, have another pleasure: a description of the kinds of toys little girls played with in 1848. Besides the dolls, there is the “baby house,” an early phrase for “dollhouse.” Jack-straws takes focus and dexterity, as players take turns removing a single straw from a small pile of them, without moving any of the other straws. It’s easy to see how a young child could become overexcited while playing.

[Nursery] “Kate and Her Kitty” (reprinted from The Young Reaper; from The Youth’s Companion, May 25, 1848; p. 15)

“Open the door, O please open the door quick,” shouted a merry voice, and when I had opened the door of the parlor, there stood little Kate with her sunbonnet hanging by the strings from her fat neck, and her rosy face half hidden by the curling hair which had fallen over it. She was such a little darling, that I could not help catching her in my arms, and giving her half a dozen kisses, before I looked to see what it was she was holding so carefully wrapped in her apron, and tightly clasped in her white dimpled arms. And when we were seated by the window, and she had slowly unfolded her treasure, what do you think I saw? A kitten—a beautiful grey kitten, which looked up at my little sister with her soft meek eyes, as if she was imploring to be loved and taken care of. “She knows me already—she’s as tame as can be,” said Kate, as she stroked the soft fur on kitty’s back.

“It’s just what you have been wishing for, is’nt it?” said I; “where did you get i?”

“Ellen gave it to me—Ellen Ames—she’s got three more, and they are just as tame—oh, if you could see them play!”

“Perhaps kitty will be lonesome without her playfellows—are you not afraid she will run off home again?”

“Oh no. Ellen’s mother said if I covered her eyes she couldn’t see where I took her, and beside,” said Kate, squeezing kitty so hard in her love for her, that she was forced to mew a little, though she was evidently used to being handled, “besides I’m going to be her sister now, and you’ll have two kitties to play with.”

We put the kitten on the floor, and after she had run round the room, and smelt of everything in it, she seemed to feel very well acquainted, and redeemed her character for playfulness by jumping at a spool of thread which happened to be on the floor, and twirling it round and round on the carpet, greatly to the delight of my little sister and myself—for I must confess that I have never so far forgotten my childhood, as to cease to love these graceful creatures.

Kate’s little pet proved to be a very intelligent kitten, and she taught her a great variety of funny tricks, so that before Summer was ended, “Katie’s kitty” became the wonder of the neighborhood, and numerous little visitors brought their favorites of the same species to be taught at “sister Mary’s seminary,” (for so the family had named the room where Kate and I used to amuse ourselves with pussy).

Autumn with its bright flowers and delicious fruits had nearly passed away, and one day I was seated in the summer-house, at the foot of the garden, with my little sister in my arms, and we were laughing heartily to see how vexed kitty was getting with the dry leaves on the grass, that kept whirling round and round in the breeze, and would not let her catch them, though she turned round so fast that she almost ran over her own tail. All at once a carriage came rattling along the road by the garden fence. It stopped before our door, and we saw mother go out on the piazza to welcome a lady who alighted form it. “I know who it is,” said Kate, springing from my arms, and clapping her hands in glee—“It is aunt Emma come at last, and see, they are taking cousin Anna out of the carriage—oh, I’m so glad—come kitty, kitty,” and away she ran into the house with the kitten following her, and it was hard to tell which little feet moved the fastest. I followed more slowly, for I dreaded to see the contrast between my active and healthy sister and her cousin, who, weak and crippled by long sickness, could hardly support herself on her feet, and had entirely lost the power of raising them from the ground.

Kate had been told that the expected visitor would not be able to play much with her, but she could not realize it, and for a few days she was dissappointed, [sic] and almost unhappy that Anna could not run out of doors with her, or even go up stairs alone, when she wished to show her the “baby house,” which had been arranged fifty times in expectation of her coming. After a while, however, she learned to adapt her sports to the amusement of the meek and quiet child, and they played together very happily during the month that she staid with us.

The day before she was to leave, my sister came to me with a bright smile on her face, and climbing up into my lap said, “Sister Mary, I have been thinking what I shall give Anna to keep when she goes away. I want to give her something—what shall I?”

“What do you think she likes best of all your playthings?” I said.

“I don’t know. She thinks my doll Jenny is the prettiest, but then she says she’s got lots of dolls at home. She likes my dissected map, too, but I promised to give that to Lucy Reed, and I must keep my promise you know; and oh, I know—my Jack-straws—she admires to play with them—but then it always tires her dreadfully,” she added, after a moment, “and aunt Emma says she gets too excited about them,—what does she mean by that, sis?”

“Anna gets so much interested in the game that it makes her tremble all over, and her heart beats too fast, and so gets tired because she is weak and sick,” said I. “I think though that the Jack-straws would do as well as anything to give her, for it is almsot the only think you have that is new to her. [I]’d give her those if you don’t think of something else.”

“So I will,” said she; and she ran to get them, but as she reached the door she stopped, and after standing still a few moments as if thinking, she came back very slowly, and stood by my side, looking very sad indeed, and much perplexed.

“What is it?” said I, seeing she did not speak.

“There is something else,” she replied in a low voice, “something she likes best of all—something that would be beautiful to give her, only”—

“Only what?” said I.

“Only I love kitty so well myself,” and overcome by the struggle in her feelings, she burst into tears.

“Don’t cry,” said I, as I smoothed the curls from her forehead and kissed her. “Anna won’t want the kitten if it makes you unhappy to give her away. But only think little sister, how many things you have to make you happy. You are well and strong, and can run about wherever you please, and play as hard as you like, and when you get tired playing I can tell you stories. Poor Anna has no sister, and her mother is often busy and can’t talk to her, and she has to stay all day in one room, and very often is not well enough to sit up. Only think how much it would amuse her to have kitty playing off her cunning tricks in the room with her, and when she is too sick to play, don’[t] you think she would like to have kitty come and rub herself against her hand, and purr, as if she pitied her, as she did the other day?”

Kate had dried her tears while I was talking, and now she looked up in my face with her own bright smile. “I love kitty dearly,” she said, “but Anna shall have her—she loves Anna too.”

I told her I was glad she was so generous, but if I was in her place I would’nt say anything about it to Anna till the next day, that she might have plenty of time to think about it, and make up her mind to bear the loss of kitty cheerfully, because she would miss her very much if she gave her away.

Kate was quite sober all the rest of the day, and caressed the kitten rather more than usual, but when I kissed her and bade her good night, she whispered—“I’ve thought all about it, and I will.”

Anna was much delighted the next morning when she found that she was to take the kitten home with her, and as for kitty herself, she had taken great fancy to our cousin, and did not seem to object to the change of mistresses, till just as Anna was getting into the carriage to go, when seeing Kate on the piazza, she sprang out of her new owner’s arms, and with a hop and a spring, had seated herself as demurely as possible on Kate’s shoulders. My little sister hugged and kissed the little favorite again and again, but her resolution did not fail. She ran down the steps and gave kitty into Anna’s arms, and then running back into Anna’s arms, and then running back into the house threw herself on to the sofa, and for a moment cried very heartily.

“Are you sorry?” said I, as I wiped away her tears.

“No, I ain’t a bit sorry, but I hope kit won’t be homesick,” said she.

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