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Конкурс переводов - Тур 94 (январь 2011 г.)
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Trentham's sister was his first visitor.

'I say,' said he, when he had satisfied her on the subject of his health, 'would you like to do me a good turn?'

She intimated that she would be delighted, and asked for details.

'Buy the beak's cat,' hissed Trentham, in a hoarse whisper.

'Dick, it was your leg that you hurt, wasn't it? Not--not your head?' she replied. 'I mean--'

'No, I really mean it. Why can't you? It's a perfectly simple thing to do.'

'But what is a beak? And why should I buy its cat?'

'A beak's a master. Surely you know that. You see, Prater's got a cat lately, and the beast strolls in and raids the studies. Got round over half a pound of prime sausages in here the other night, and he's always bagging things everywhere. You'd be doing everyone a kindness if you would take him on. He'll get lynched some day if you don't. Besides, you want a cat for your new house, surely. Keep down the mice, and that sort of thing, you know. This animal's a demon for mice.'

This was a telling argument. Trentham's sister had lately been married, and she certainly had had some idea of investing in a cat to adorn her home.

'As for beetles,' continued the invalid, pushing home his advantage, 'they simply daren't come out of their lairs for fear of him.'

'If he eats beetles,' objected his sister, 'he can't have a very good coat.'

'He doesn't eat them. Just squashes them, you know, like a policeman. He's a decent enough beast as far as looks go.'

'But if he steals things--'

'No, don't you see, he only does that here, because the Praters don't interfere with him and don't let us do anything to him. He won't try that sort of thing on with you. If he does, get somebody to hit him over the head with a boot-jack or something. He'll soon drop it then. You might as well, you know. The House'll simply black your boots if you do.'

'But would Mr Prater let me have the cat?'

'Try him, anyhow. Pitch it fairly warm, you know. Only cat you ever loved, and that sort of thing.'

'Very well. I'll try.'

'Thanks, awfully. And, I say, you might just look in here on your way out and report.'

Mrs James Williamson, nee Miss Trentham, made her way dutifully to the Merevale's part of the House. Mrs Prater had expressed a hope that she would have some tea before catching her train. With tea it is usual to have milk, and with milk it is usual, if there is a cat in the house, to have feline society. Captain Kettle, which was the name thought suitable to this cat by his godfathers and godmothers, was on hand early. As he stood there pawing the mat impatiently, and mewing in a minor key, Mrs Williamson felt that here was the cat for her. He certainly was good to look upon. His black heart was hidden by a sleek coat of tabby fur, which rendered stroking a luxury. His scheming brain was out of sight in a shapely head.

'Oh, what a lovely cat!' said Mrs Williamson.

'Yes, isn't he,' agreed Mrs Prater. 'We are very proud of him.'

'Such a beautiful coat!'

'And such a sweet purr!'

'He looks so intelligent. Has he any tricks?'

Had he any tricks! Why, Mrs Williamson, he could do everything except speak. Captain Kettle, you bad boy, come here and die for your country. Puss, puss.

Captain Kettle came at last reluctantly, died for his country in record time, and flashed back again to the saucer. He had an important appointment. Sorry to appear rude and all that sort of thing, don't you know, but he had to see a cat about a mouse.

'Well?' said Trentham, when his sister looked in upon him an hour later.

'Oh, Dick, it's the nicest cat I ever saw. I shall never be happy if I don't get it.'

'Have you bought it?' asked the practical Trentham.

'My dear Dick, I couldn't. We couldn't bargain about a cat during tea. Why, I never met Mrs Prater before this afternoon.'

'No, I suppose not,' admitted Trentham, gloomily. 'Anyhow, look here, if anything turns up to make the beak want to get rid of it, I'll tell him you're dead nuts on it. See?'

For a fortnight after this episode matters went on as before. Mrs Williamson departed, thinking regretfully of the cat she had left behind her.

Captain Kettle died for his country with moderate regularity, and on one occasion, when he attempted to extract some milk from the very centre of a fag's tea-party, almost died for another reason. Then the end came suddenly.

Trentham had been invited to supper one Sunday by Mr Prater. When he arrived it became apparent to him that the atmosphere was one of subdued gloom. At first he could not understand this, but soon the reason was made clear. Captain Kettle had, in the expressive language of the man in the street, been and gone and done it. He had been left alone that evening in the drawing-room, while the House was at church, and his eye, roaming restlessly about in search of evil to perform, had lighted upon a cage. In that cage was a special sort of canary, in its own line as accomplished an artiste as Captain Kettle himself. It sang with taste and feeling, and made itself generally agreeable in a number of little ways. But to Captain Kettle it was merely a bird. One of the poets sings of an acquaintance of his who was so constituted that 'a primrose by the river's brim a simple primrose was to him, and it was nothing more'. Just so with Captain Kettle. He was not the cat to make nice distinctions between birds. Like the cat in another poem, he only knew they made him light and salutary meals. So, with the exercise of considerable ingenuity, he extracted that canary from its cage and ate it. He was now in disgrace.

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