|From the Illustrated Police News, October 8, 1892, via British Newspaper Archive|
Meet Miss Vint, beloved Crazy Cat Lady Emeritus, and a woman with an admirably open-minded sense of family ties. From the "Royal Cornwall Gazette," October 6, 1892:
It is probably to no small extent due to the circumstance that she is not a rich woman that Miss Vint, of Eden-gardens, Walworth, is permitted to enjoy the sweets of liberty. If, instead of a modest income of but little more than a hundred per annum, she were possessed of thousands of pounds, and in place of having no relatives at all she were blessed with kith and kin that took as lively an interest in her affairs as in their own, it is not impossible that her present place of residence would be Hanwell or Colney Hatch, which would be a thousand pities, as well on the harmless lady's own account as on that of her feline friends and companions, who share with her the comforts of home.
Regarded as a cat case, that of Miss Vint differs widely from some lately brought under magisterial notice. The lady in question is not a person selfishly eccentric in the matter of tabbies and tortoiseshells, harbouring them indiscriminately, and in such a way that they become a nuisance, calling for the interference of the sanitary inspector. Although Miss Vint owns and houses several cats, male and female, the most fastidious next-door neighbours could establish no just ground of complaint against them. They are a highly respectable and cleanly family of pussies, eschewing low company, and having nothing to say to the loose-living, prowling vagabonds of their kind haunting the locality, and who, no doubt, would take delight in demoralising them.
I am not speaking from hearsay. I have been honoured with an interview with Miss Vint, who first questioning me as to my belief in the doctrines of Pythagoras, and satisfying herself that my faith in that ancient philosopher was unassailable, introduced me to her subjects. I have stated that Miss Vint has no relatives; but that, as she regards it, is scarcely correct. She has a mother and father, an aunt Deborah, a sister, and two brothers, all of whom have departed biped life, but live again in feline form, and are dependent on her, their only human relief, to provide for and make them comfortable. I may mention that Miss Vint is a maiden lady, prim and neat, tall, with silvery hair worn in old-fashioned French curls, with a mild and pleasing manner, and, barring cats, I verily believe, as sane as Solomon.
Of the way in which she first became imbued with a belief in transmigration, Miss Vint is reluctant to speak. She admitted, however, that it came to her through her grandmother, of whom she was particularly fond. The old lady, it seemed, when in the flesh had, amongst many more, three peculiarities: grey eyes, that were of not exactly the same colour, a wart on her nose, and a terror of lucifer matches. Up to the last she stuck to the old flint-and-steel method of obtaining a light, the sharp crackling sound caused by striking a lucifer match causing her a nervous shock from which she did not recover for hours afterwards. Her grandmother lived in Devonshire, and on the very day, before Miss Vint was made aware of the demise of her aged relative, there mysteriously appeared to her a kitten. The chamber door being shut and locked, and Miss Vint not having as yet risen from her couch, there suddenly leapt upon it the animal mentioned. It purred at the pillow, and commenced to mew plaintively, whereon Miss Vint opened her eyes, and the kitten at the same moment expanding hers, the lady was instantly struck by the discovery that it had eyes of the grey of her grandmother, and that one of them was a shade lighter in hue than the other, From Kitty's optics, Miss Vint glanced at its pink little nose, and lo! there was a wart? It was winter-time, and scarcely daylight, and with a strange sensation creeping over bar, she leant out of bed to strike a light and as she did so the kitten uttered a cry of affright, and leaping down from the counterpane ran to hide in a distant corner.
Such evidences were, to an unbiased mind, irresistible, and Miss Vint waited only to hear that her grandmother had ceased to exist within a few minutes of the appearance of the kitten on the bed, when she literally took the creature to her bosom, regarding it as a sacred duty to adopt it. Her own mother and father being dead, it was but natural that she should wonder whether they too existed in similar bodily tenements. Bearing in mind those of their characteristics that would most "likely reappear" in animal shape--her father was lame in his left foot--only a short time elapsed before she recovered both her parents, and within a very few months her Aunt Deborah as well. If anything was needed to convince Miss Vint that it was really her own mother in catskin she was cherishing, it was provided when the animal in question put in an uninvited appearance. Aunt Deborah, it seemed, and old Mrs. Vint could never agree in human life. The former was a cross-grained, red-haired woman, and afflicted with a squint, and so was the cat that, forcing its way into the premises and refusing to be "hished" away, pertinaciously picked a quarrel with its whilom sister and fought and scratched her. Had it been a simple question of preserving peace and quietness, Miss Vint, as she herself assured me, would have got rid of the carroty creature by some means or other; but the feelings of a niece prevailed with her, and she permitted it to remain.
Miss Vint's feline relatives had each for its domicile one of a range of boxes, comfortable and capacious, fixed pigeon-hole fashion against the further wall of her large kitchen. A soft bed of hay was provided, and above every doorway appeared the name of the occupier. "Aunt Deborah's" name so appeared, and she was at home. A strong, wrong-headed, sulky-looking cat, she arched her back and spat at me when I attempted to stroke her. "I am sadly afraid," Miss Vint remarked in an undertone and with a sigh, as we turned away from the boxes and returned to the fireplace, "that I shall always have trouble with her." "Is she, then, in the habit of misbehaving herself?" "She is a wicked, wicked creature," whispered the poor lady. "A thief perhaps?" She glanced round, expecting, I believe, that the carrotty cat was listening, and then, screening her mouth with her hand, replied, "Worse, far worse than that. She is a murderess. She killed her own mother--the kind old soul I told you of, and who originally died in Devonshire. She ought, no doubt, to have been long ago dealt with according to law, but the puzzle is, to what law is she answerable? Anyhow, it would be a hard thing for a niece to denounce her aunt, whatever her shape, for such a terrible crime." "But then, again, it might have been an accident." "You are very kind," returned Miss Vint gratefully, "to make such a suggestion, but unfortunately I myself witnessed it, and a more cruel or cold-blooded deed was never committed. She was, as usual, wrangling with her sister when dear old granny interfered, and she at once flew at her, and, seizing her by the throat, strangled her before I could separate them. It has weighed heavily on my mind ever since. It is two years ago, but I feel that I can never forgive her."
"And what as to the other members of your interesting family?--your transmigrated sister, and your three brothers--are they tolerably tractable?" " Well, thank goodness," said Miss Vint, "they give me scarcely any trouble at all. As for my ' Sister Minnie,' no creature, human or otherwise, could be more faithful or affectionate." She called "Minnie, Minnie," and quite a handsome large white cat jumped down from its box, and gracefully leaping first up its mistress's extended arm, and then on her shoulder, putting its cheek against hers. "And by what sign or taken were you able to identify Minnie as your 'departed sister?'" 'Well, that I am scarcely able to explain," she made answer, as she caressed her feline relative. "It was more the prompting of nature than anything else. My dear sister had blue eyes--she was seventeen when she died--a pretty, mincing way of walking, and this darling had the same. There was nothing else, that just drew us together, except that Minnie, my sister, used to take pride in a pink sash worn over her white frock, and Minnie, when she first came here and scratched at the parlour window, had a pink ribbon tied round her throat. She returned her "sister Minnie "' to her box and called "Micah," and gravely introduced the speckled animal to me as her elder brother. The feline Micah was excessively fat and whiskerless, and, as Miss Vint declared, such a living likeness of the firstborn of her respected parents that she recognised him at first sight. It was fortunate that she was able to do so. It was more than a mile distant from Eden-gardens; and the wretched cat was being stoned to death by ragamuffin boys when the identification took place; and the boys were instantly routed and "Micah" rescued.
Observing another box labelled "Job," I inquired for the animal hearing that name, and Miss Vint's face at once assumed an anxious expression. "Conscientiously," she remarked, "I have some doubts respecting Master Job. "As to his being deserving of your confidence and protection, do you mean ?" "Oh, he would be quite welcome to both, of course, if I could feel quite certain as to his previous life, but I must own that at times I am troubled with doubts. The points of resemblance are more in character than in features. Job, my own brother, was not a steady lad. He got into trouble with a young woman before he was twenty-three and ran away and went to sea, and the only letter ever received from him was one that bore the Persian post-mark. That is many years ago, and, as I need not tell you, it made me very anxious, he being my only remaining relative. My belief is, however," and the lady placed her hand on my arm and looked wondrous wise, "that Job Vint died at sea, probably in the Persian Gulf, on the night of February 7th, 1887." "And what is it that enables you to fix the date so exactly?" "Because, sir, that night I was awoke by cries of distress, as of a creature struggling for its life, and, opening the staircase window, near which is this cistern, the lid of which my maid had accidentally left open the day before, there saw, gasping for breath and in the act of sinking, a Persian cat and as it opened its month I observed that it was deficient of some of its front teeth, which was the case with my brother Job, who had lost them in fighting when a boy. I saved its life and took it in, and from that moment called it Job, and treated it as such. But I don't know!" and she shook her grey curls dubiously. "His propensity for roaming is certainly like that of my younger brother, but he was always fond of me, and the cat is not. The only person he shows any regard for is the cat's-meat man, and he would sooner sleep of nights in the dustbin than in his comfortable bed here. I may have made a mistake, but if 1 have," and Miss Vint brightened up, "thank goodness, it is the only one." I did not have the heart to contradict her.
I, myself, would never dream of contradicting Miss Vint. I hope she and her resurrected relatives had a long and happy life together. (Well, maybe except for Aunt Deborah.)
And that putting her family tree together later gave genealogists fits.