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英语网 | 2011-12-07

The Yorkshire Christmas Cat


  My strongest memory of Christmas will always bound up with1) a certain little cat.I first saw her when I was called to see one of Mrs.Ainsworth’ dogs,and I looked in some surprise at the furry2) black creature sitting before the fire.“I didn’t know you had a cat,”I said.


  The lady smiled.“We haven’t,this is Debbie,at least that’s what we call her.She’s a stray.Comes here two or three times a week and we give her some food.I don’t know where she lives but I believe she spends a lot of her time around one of the farms along the road.”


  As I watched she turned,crept soundlessly from the room and was gone.“That’s always the way with Debbie,”Mrs.Ainsworth laughed.“She never stays more than ten minutes or so,then she’s off.”


  Mrs.Ainsworth was a plumpish 3),pleasant-faced woman in her forties and the kind of client veterinary4) surgeons dream of --well-off ,generous,and the owner of three cosseted5) Basset hounds.And it only needed the habitually mournful expression of one of the dogs to deepen a little and I was round there posthaste.


  So my visits to the Ainsworth home were frequent but undemanding,and I had ample opportunity to look out for the little cat that had intrigued me.On one occasion I spotted her nibbling daintily from a saucer at the kitchen door.As I watched she turned and almost floated on light footsteps into the hall and then through the lounge6) door.The three Bassets were already in residence draped snoring on the fireside rug,but they seemed to be used to Debbie.


  Debbie sat among them in her usual posture:upright,intent,gazing absorbedly into the glowing coals.This time I tried to make friends with her.I approached her carefully but she leaned away as I stretched out7) my hand.However,by patient wheedling and soft talk I managed to touch her and gently stroke her cheek with one finger.There was a moment when she responded by putting her head on one side and rubbing back against my hand,but soon she was ready to leave.Once outside the house she darted quickly along the road then through a gap in a hedge,and the last I saw was the little black figure flitting over the rain-swept grass of a field.


  It must have been nearly three months before I heard from Ainsworth,and in fact I had begun to wonder at the Bassets’ long symptomless run when she came on the phone.


  It was Christmas morning and she was apologetic.“Mr.Herriot,I’m so sorry to bother you today of all days.I should think you want a rest at Christmas like anybody else.”But her natural politeness could not hide the distress in her voice.


  “Please don’t worry about that,”I said.“Which one is it this time?”


  “It’s not one of the dogs.It’s...Debbie.”


  “Debbie?She’s at your house now?”


  “Yes...but there’s something wrong.Please come quickly.”


  Mrs.Ainsworth’s home was lavishly decorated with tinsel and holly,rows of drinks stood on the sideboard and the rich aroma of turkey and sage-and-onion stuffing wafted from the kitchen.But her eyes were full of pain as she led me through to the lounge.


  Debbie was there all right,but this time everything was different.She wasn’t sitting upright in her usual position;she was stretched quite motion less on her side,and huddle close to her lay a tiny black kitten.


  I looked down in bewilderment.“What’s happened here?”


  “It’s the strangest thing,”Mrs.Ainsworth replied.“I haven’t seen her for several weeks then she came in about two hours ago--sort of staggered into the kitchen,and she was carrying the kitten in her mouth.She took it through the lounge and laid it on the rug,and at first I was amused.But I could see all was not well because she sat as she usually does,but for a long time--over an hour--then she lay down like this and she hasn’t moved.”


  I knelt on the rug and passed my hand over Debbie’s neck and ribs.She was thinner than ever,her fur dirty and mud-caked.She did not resist as I gently opened her mouth,a knell sounded in my mind.


  Mrs.Ainsworth’s voice seemed to come from afar.“Is she ill,Mr.Herriot?”


  I hesitated.“Yes...yes,I’m afraid so.She has a malignant growth.”I stood up.“There’s absolutely nothing you can do.I’m sorry.”


  Mrs.Ainsworth reached out and lifted the bedraggled black morsel.She smoothed her finger along the muddy fur and the tiny mouth opened in a soundless miaow.“Isn’t it strange?She was dying and she brought her kitten here.And on Christmas Day.”


  The tears had dried on Mrs.Ainsworth’s cheeks and she was bright-eyed as she looked at me.“I’ve never had a cat before,”she said.


  I smiled.“Well it looks as though you’ve got one now.”


  And she certainly had.The kitten grew rapidly into a sleek,handsome cat with a boisterous8) nature which earned him the name of Buster.On my visits I watched his development with delight.


  As I looked at him,a picture of health and contentment,my mind went back to his mother.Was it too much to think that that dying little creature,with the last of her strength,had carried her kitten to the only haven of comfort and warmth she had ever known in the hope that it would be cared for there?Maybe it was.


  But it seemed I wasn’t the only one with such fancies.Mrs.Ainsworth turned to me and though she was smiling her eyes were wistful9).“Debbie would be pleased,”she said.


  I nodded.“Yes,she would...It was just a year ago today she brought him,wasn’t it?”


  “That’s right.”She hugged Buster to her again.“The best Christmas present I ever had.”


  by James Herriot

  NOTE 注释:

  1. bound up with 和联系在一起

  2. furry adj. 毛皮的, 盖着毛皮的,毛茸茸的

  3. plumpish adj. 较丰满的

  4. veterinary n. 兽医

  5. cosset adj. 受宠的

  6. lounge n. 客厅,休闲室

  7. stretch out 伸手

  8. boisterous adj. 喧闹的

  9. wistful adj. 渴望的, 想望的







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