Part 1 - Sir Alfred's Daughter
Sir Alfred Catterton was a large white cat who lived near Scout Hall, in a lovely hedge facing the Arabian Sea. Lady Mabel Catterton, his wife, a pleasantly plump striped tabby, was serving him his morning cup of tea with crackers when she noticed an unusual furrow of care on her husband’s normally self-satisfied face.
“Something the matter?” she asked, swiping at a butterfly that had gotten too close to her long, fine whiskers.
“Oh, nothing, it’s just young Fred Dombeycat from Dombey Valley.”
“What about young Fred from Dombey Valley?” Lady Mabel asked again, knowing that information had to be extracted from her husband with the expertise of a human reaching for the last olive in a pickle jar.
“Well, he’s been in love with that Felicia Felinity from Kalyan for dog’s years, as you know, and he’s meeting her father tomorrow.”
“Well, so what? I mean, I know he’s a great protégé of yours and all that, but it hardly involves you directly, does it?” Lady Mabel said, indifferently examining her claws for signs of wear-and-tear (there were none).
“He’s a good lad, and one does feel for him,” said Sir Alfred, who remembered his own nervousness when he had to meet Lord Cataganet Pouncer, Mabel’s father.
“So advise him based on your own experience,” shrugged Lady Mabel, who also recalled those times vividly, as she tossed a couple of fish onto a plate.
“Ah, but you see, my dear…your father, well, he is a high-and-mighty cat, but he is also noble, you know, and good breeding counts for so much. Felicia Felinity’s father hangs out in seedy parking lots and I think” – here Sir Alfred shuddered, his lovely white fur standing on end for a moment – “he even deals in second-hand cars. That sort of man could stoop to anything. Act with no reference to logic. And worst of all, since they are such shady tomcats, they think equally badly of their kittens.”
A look of distaste crossed Lady Mabel’s face, and her tail curled with disgust. But she quietly pushed the fish plate towards her lord, and crossed her front paws, looking up at him and he nibbled away.
“Dombeycat was asking me if he ought to wear a tie for the meeting with old Felinity,” said Sir Alfred, when the first few morsels had been chewed down.
“What did you say?”
“I told him he had better not,” said Sir Alfred, licking a crumb off the tip of his right forepaw. “Wouldn’t count for anything with a tomcat of that sort. He’d probably think it an impertinence or something.”
“I suppose so, who knows how they live out there in the far suburbs,” agreed Lady Mabel.
“Now if we ever have kittens, and one of them is a pussycat, I’d expect any young tomcat coming to seek her paw to wear a tie all right. And not a bow-tie either. A proper tie,” Sir Alfred puffed up perceptibly as he imagined a future conference with a prospective son-in-law, humbly seeking his approval to pay his attentions to a future daughter.
Lady Mabel laughed.
“Oh, Alfred, Alfred,” she said.
“What? Why’re you chuckling?” he hissed. If he had had eyebrows, he would have knitted them at her, but he did not, being a cat.
“Alfred, by the time we have a daughter old enough to marry, we will find out about her wedding through a WhatsApp message saying ‘Hi dad got married 2 Shamsuddin Billa frm Kurla 2de Luv u k thx bye’,” Lady Mab spelled out the words of the future text message with a ghoulish delight.
The wail that Sir Alfred let out was audible all the way to Comrade Vladimir Illyovich Katnakoff’s lair at the other end of the park.
“Oh shut up, Alfred. We don’t even have a kitten yet,” Lady Mab swiped her paw dismissively at his nose, but he would not be comforted, feeling for sure that Lady Mab had made an oracular prediction. For the rest of the day, he walked about with as long a face as Gundya from the temple, whose adventures with the white plaster-of-paris rat my readers should be familiar with already.
“Was that you I heard squealing this morning?” the big, old Russian grey who was called Comrade Kat asked him as they played rummy at the Pretty Kitty Club that evening. They may not see eye-to-eye on the privileges of the nobility, the rights of dogs, human territorial claims or division of fish, but they played cards together anyway.
A clowder of young tomcats from the Pretty Kitty Club gathered around the communist cat and the baronet, eager to know the answer to the question.
“Yes, Comrade Kat,” said Sir Alfred, who had never been able to keep a secret from the Comrade. “Lady Mab predicted that our daughter will marry a jobless tomcat from Kurla and only inform us by text message. The thought itself is so shameful, I feel I could not raise my head in polite society again!”
Comrade Kat, that brave leader of so many cat revolutions - well, he knew Sir Alfred was being ridiculous, but held his tongue. The aristocracy of which Sir Alfred was a part may have been odious to him, but he himself had a beloved little girl of his own, sweet Katya Katnakoff, and political divisions fell away before the shared apprehensions of a father. He reached out with his left paw, big, blue and fluffy, and placed it on Sir Alfred’s smaller, white one. Eyes met, and the shared sorrow of days to come would have made tears come to their eyes, had they not been cats, who do not cry to express sadness.
Thus was the first step towards the great Communist-Aristocratic Team government that ruled Cat Society so long, and so well, taken.