The Passing of Zoroaster 1

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THE PASSING OF ZOROASTER

The Curious Adventures of the Dead Shot and the White Cat.
(After Janvier)

[Written by S. H. D. for The Sunday Republican.]

"Don't do it, Jack, I bet of you! You can't kill a cat if you try. You are not used to firearms, and the neighborhood is so crowded you will be more likely to kill somebody's wife or child by the ball glancing through a parlor window, than that old omnipresent white cat!"

"I shall kill that cat to-night, Kate. As to aim and control of a small shotgun, I guess I am up to that! All my ancestors were army men, and somehow I think those things run in the blood."

But his wife looked unconvinced as she said, with a sigh, "I do so hate to have anything that is alive, killed, Jack! It seems like stabbing the infinite to me."

"But that creature," Jack retorted, "is a dangerous, depraved thing. He ate your canary, - beautiful yellow Zip, - and now he is trying his best to reach the cage of the mocking-birds."

He does seem like a lost spirit," agreed Kate reluctantly.

"He dies to-night!" declared the nimrod. Later a fine, sharp shot was heard in the tiny, suburban back yard. Kate, who was deep in Tom Hardy, sprang to her feet.

"He has done it!" she cried, and before she could faint or fly, the door was thrust open from the porch and Jack burst in with ashen face, bearing aloft, - not the white cat-diabolique, but the great, gray tomcat Zoroaster, next door; the Angora, pet of all Judge Sutherland's family! - the idol and pampered pet of the judge himself! Kate could not, in true feminine habit, heap ironical reproaches on the head of her dear, heedless Jack. He could not have looked more haunted, more lost to earth, had he been on his way to his own funeral pyre.

Kate, "the woman thou gavest me," with I suppose the instinctive remorse of her sex for the original breach of law and delicacy in the garden of Eden, - did not scream as she beheld him. Instantly she bethought herself of the fig leaves of circumstance, - first impulse of the evil-doer, - and in a flash was contriving their escape from detection. First in amelioration, - the argus-eyed cook had gone to Hoboken to a blessed funeral. Grief and the cup that cheers would keep her out of their way until to-morrow afternoon. The dull Polish waitress was at the usual dance, no factor in the household until the wee small hours. Stimulated by her instinct for their honor and preservation, Jack tried to rally from his despair.

"I will go right out quietly and bury the thing," he said. Already mention of it by name seemed to lend a sort of human, enormity to his guilt. "I can stuff it down in the tulip bed, where the earth is soft."

"Why, you can't do that, Jack," protested Kate. "You will be seen and heard. It is bright moonlight. Besides, the Montgomerys' terrier Jupiter would be liable to scent it and dig it out at any moment. Our lives would be one continuous dread." The situation grew more appalling.

"I will tell you what to do," said Kate, with inspiration, "and it is the only thing you can do safely. Take it in as dapper a bundle as possible by the early 7 o'clock train to town to-morrow morning, and when you are crossing the ferry drop it overboard. Then go and buy a bottle of Florida water at the nearest druggist's, and surprise your office boy and secure a long day for work and repentance."

It was a nightmarish sort of sleep that awaited the eyelids of that guilty pair, but dawn came, and their well-laid plans converged and diverged as to time and manner. Kate had the blessed satisfaction of seeing her Jack safely off with a marketable looking bundle, stoutly tied in brown paper, under his arm. She threw countless kisses after him as a good augury until he disappeared. Happily for the sake of her day at home, she, no more than the immortal Weller, could see "around corners and up a couple of flight of stairs."

The exultant Jack was a little jostled in his serenity during his hour's ride to the ferry, by dropping his package and