Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > British
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. VI–IX: British
 
Abolishing the ‘Cat’
By Douglas William Jerrold (1803–1857)
 
From “The Barber’s Chair”

Nutts.  Now, Mr. Slowgoe, when you’ve gone through the alphabet of that paper, I’m ready.
  1
  Slowgoe.  Just one minute.  2
  Nutts.  Minutes, Mr. Slowgoe, are the small-change of life. Can’t wait for nobody. I’ll take you then, Mr. Limpy.  (LIMPY takes the chair.)  It makes my flesh crawl to see some folks with a newspaper. They go through it for all the world like a caterpillar through a cabbage-leaf.  3
  Slowgoe.  Well, for my part, I like to chew my news. I think a newspaper’s like a dinner; doesn’t do you half the good if it’s bolted. Haven’t come to it yet; but tell me—Is it true that the Duke of Wellington’s going to repeal flogging?”  4
  Tickle.  Why, yes; they do say so; but the duke does nothin’ in a hurry. Always likes to take his time. You know at Waterloo he would wait for the Prussians; and only because if he’d licked the French afore, he didn’t know how else to spend the evening.  5
  Slowgoe.  I never heard that; but it’s very like the duke. And there’s to be no flogging.  6
  Tickle.  No; it’s to be repealed by degrees, like the corn-laws. In nine years’ time there won’t be a single cat in the British army.  7
  Nosebag.  Why should they wait nine years?  8
  Nutts.  Nothin’ but reg’lar. You see the cat-o’-nine-tails is one of the institutions of the country, and therefore must be handled very delicate.
 “When cat’s away
Sojers play.”
That’s been the old notion. And folks—that is, the folks with gold lace that’s never flogged—think to ’bolish the cat at once would bring a blight upon laurels. They think sojers like eels—none the worse for fire for being well skinned.
  9
  Tickle.  There you are; biting the ’thorities of your country agin. But since you’ve taken the story out of my mouth, go on, though every word you speak’s a bitter almond.  10
  Nutts.  Well, it isn’t a thing to talk sugar-plums about, is it? I’m not a young lady, am I?  11
  Mrs. Nutts  (from back parlour).  I wish you’d remember you’ve a wife and children, Mr. Nutts, and never mind young ladies. You can’t shave and talk of young ladies, too, I’m sure.  12
  Nutts  (in a low voice).  It’s very odd; she’s one of the strongest-minded women, and yet she can never hear me speak of one of the sex without fizzing like a squib.  13
  Nosebag  (solemnly).  Same with ’em all. I suppose it’s love.  14
  Nutts.  Why, it is; that is, it’s jealousy, which is only love with its claws out.  15
  Tickle.  Well, claws brings you to the cat again; so go on.  16
  Nutts.  To be sure. Well, as I was saying—  (To LIMPY.)  What’s the matter? I’m sure this razor would shave a newborn baby; but for a poor man I don’t know where you got such a delicate skin. I will say this, Mr. Limpy, for one of the swinish multitude, you are the tenderest pork I ever shaved.  17
  Slowgoe.  But the Duke of Wellington——  18
  Nutts.  Don’t hurry me; I’m going to his grace. Well, they do say that he’s going to get rid of the cat by little and little. He knows the worth of knotted cords to the British soldier, and, like a dowager with false curls, can’t give ’em all up at once. So there’s to be a law that the cat is still to be used upon the British lion in regimentals, only that the cat is to lose a tail every year.  19
  Slowgoe.  Is it true?  20
  Nutts.  Certain. So you see, with the loss of one tail per annum, in only nine years’ time, or in anno Domino 1855, every tail will be ’bolished; that is, the cat with its nine tails will have lost its nine lives, and be defunct and dead.  21
  Slowgoe.  I don’t like to give an opinion, but that seems a very slow reform.  22
  Nutts.  Why, yes; when folks have a tooth that pains ’em, they don’t get cured in that fashion. But then, again, it’s wonderful with what patience we can bear the toothache of other people.  23
  Nosebag.  What horrid things there’s been all the week in the papers. Officers of all sorts writing what they’ve seen done with the cat. Well, if I was a sojer, my red coat would burn like red-hot iron in me; I should think all the world looked at me, as if they was asking themselves, “I wonder how often you’ve been flayed.”  24
  Slowgoe.  Bless your heart! and here’s a dreadful matter. James Sayer, a marine on board the Queen, sentenced to be hanged for assaulting two sergeants—to be hanged by the neck. And the president says, “James Sayer, I am sorry indeed that I cannot offer you hope that the sentence of this court will not be fully carried out, and I recommend you to prepare yourself to meet your doom.”  25
  Bleak.  What a difference is made by salt water! Frederick White, private soldier, is sentenced to be flogged for giving a blow to his sergeant. James Sayer, marine, is to be hanged for the same offence. So a blow afloat and a blow ashore isn’t the same thing.  26
  Nutts.  But there’ll be no hanging in the case; they say as much in Parliament, don’t they?  27
  Slowgoe.  But it says here the president was “much affected.” Why pass sentence, why give no hope?  28
  Nutts.  Why now, I suppose that’s what they’d call a fiction of the law; and when we think what a dry matter all law is, can we wonder that the ’torneys and such folks spice it up with a few lies? Bless you, if all law was all true, nobody would go on swallowing it. It’s the precious fibs that’s in it that gives it a flavour, and makes men live, and grow fat upon it.  29
 
 
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