Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome | Annotated Tale

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Countess’s Cat, The


THERE was a very rich Countess who was a widow and lived all alone, with no companion but only a cat, after her husband died. The greatest care was taken of this cat, and every day a chicken was boiled on purpose for him.

               One day the Countessa went out to spend the day at a friend's villa in the Campagna, and she said to the waiting woman:

               'Mind the cat has his chicken just the same as if I were at home.'

               'Yes! Signora Countessa, leave that to me,' answered the woman; but the Countess was no sooner gone out than she said to the man-servant:

               'The cat has the chicken every day; suppose we have it to-day?'

               The man said, 'To be sure!' and they ate the chicken themselves, giving the cat only the inside; but they threw the bones down in the usual corner, to make it appear as if he had eaten the whole chicken.

               The cat said nothing, but looked on with great eyes, full of meaning. [2]

               When the Countess came back that evening the cat, instead of going out to meet her as he always did, remained still in his place and said nothing.

               'What's the matter with the cat? Hasn't he had his chicken?' asked the Countess, immediately.

               'Yes! Signora Countessa,' answered the cameriera. 'See, there are the bones on the floor, where he always leaves them.'

               The Countessa could not deny the testimony of her eyes, so she said nothing more but went up to bed.

               The cat followed her as he always did, for he slept on her bed; but he followed at a distance, without purring or rubbing himself against her. The Countess saw something was wrong, but she didn't know what to make of it, and went to bed as usual.

               That night the cat throttled [3] the Countess, and killed her.

               The cat is very intelligent in his own interest, but he is a traitor.

               'It would have been more intelligent,' I observed, 'if he had throttled the waiting woman in this instance.'

               Not at all; the cat's reasoning was this:--If thou hadst not gone out and left me to the mercy of menials, this had not happened; therefore it was thou who hadst to die.

               This is quite true, for cats are always traitors. Dogs are faithful, cats are traitors. [4]


Perhaps this tale would have been hardly worth printing, but that the selfsame story was told me as a positive fact by an Irishman, who could not have come across the Italian story. In the Irish version it was its master the cat killed; in the wording of the narrator he 'cut his throat.'


[1] 'Il Gatto della Contessa.'

[2] 'Il gatto non dissi niente, ma guardava con certi occhi grossi, grossi, fissi.'

[3] 'Strozzato,' throttled; killed by wounding the strozzo, throat.

[4] 'E questo è un fatto vero, sa; perchè il gatto è traditore sempre. Il cane e fedele si, ma il gatto è traditore.'

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Countess’s Cat, The
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Book Title: Roman Legends: A Collection of the Fables and Folk-lore of Rome
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel Harriette
Publisher: Estes and Lauriat
Publication City: Boston
Year of Publication: 1877
Country of Origin: Italy
Classification: unclassified

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