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repel. In the first place, it must be observed, they do not rest upon any proofs. Granted that the feet of some pigeons, or the feathers of some chickens, may be produced ; can these be admitted as evidence be. fore any tribunal upon earth ? Great crimes are, besides, the consequences of misery and want; and we receive every day from you, to the number of eighteen cats, of which our troop consists, abundant means of subsistence; nothing is wanting to us.
And can we be supposed to scratch the hand by which we are nourished ? Have you not, more than once, with your own eyes, seen your chickens come and eat off the same dish with us, without the least hostile movement on our part ? And if you are told that we never eat the chickens when conscious we are oh. served, that it is by night our murders are committed, we answer, that it is our calumniators who hide them. selves under the veil of darkness to frame their cruel plots against us. This we may the rather say, since they are reduced to impute to us nocturnal crimes, which are contradicted by our conduct throughout the day.
But, say our enemies, the poultry-yard of our most illustrious lady is maintained at an expense of twenty-five louis annually, while of two or three hundred chickens reared there, she never eats more than fifty ; so that, from her great economy, they cost her only twelve livres each : what then becomes of the rest?
We will ask, in the first place, were the chickens numbered and consigned to our care, and are we answerable for them ? Surrounded by so many destructive beings, by men in particular, who are firmly per. suaded that chickens were created only to be eaten by
them, is it on us that the first suspicion can with justice fall ? Every Sunday at the gate of the wood of Boulogne, and in the public houses of Auteuil, a hundred fricassees are served up; is it not probable that some of your chickens may have glided gently in among them ? and certainly it is not by us that they are remitted to the innkeepers. After all, madam, without wishing to become the apologists of chickenstealers, let us be permitted to observe, that whatever may be the causes which occasion the diminution complained of in your stock of poultry, they are in the order of nature, and produce a salutary effect to your. self, since they restrain within due bounds the multi. plication of this species, which, if suffered to go on unrestrained, would soon convert your whole house into a receptacle for chickens, and reduce you to going without a shift, that no limits may be placed to the number of your fowls.
As to the pigeons, it must be allowed that several of the children of Coco * have disappeared ; but you must not permit your tenderness for him, which goes so far as to suffer him to break your china, provided he will condescend to eat out of your hand, to render you unjust towards us. Where is the proof, that we have ever eaten any of his children? or do we and his species ever approach each other? Always keeping upon the tiles, or at a distance, do they not manifest a distrust of us at which we have just reason to be offended ? Let the whole wood-yard be examined next spring, and if any traces of murder be discovered, we will be among the most forward in endeavouring to
. A favourite tame pigeon of Madame Helvetius, to which she had given that name.
detect the malefactors, and give them up to justice. But the pigeons are not like us, poor humble cats, confined to the soil where we were born; they can fly in the air to another country: those whom you miss, jealous no doubt of the preference shown by you to some over the rest, have taken their flight in search of equality to some republican dove-cote, rather than drag on a painful existence under the insolent tyranny of your favourite Coco.
The accusation brought against us with regard to the canary birds, you must yourself see is wholly ab. surd, and a gross imposture. The intervals in the lattice of your aviary are so narrow, that when sometimes we have in sport endeavoured to thrust a paw through them, it was not without the utmost difficulty that we could withdraw it again. It is true, that we sometimes amuse ourselves with watching the little innocent sports of these pretty creatures, but we can. not reproach ourselves with having ever shed a drop of their blood.
We shall not endeavour to defend ourselves equally from devouring as many sparrows, blackbirds, and thrushes, as we can possibly catch. But here we plead in extenuation, that our most cruel enemies, your Abbés themselves, are incessantly complaining of the ravages made by these birds among the cherries and other fruit. The Sieur Abbé Morellet, in parti. cular, is always thundering the most violent anathe. mas against the blackbirds and thrushes, for plunder. ing your vines, which they do with as little mercy as he himself. To us, however, most illustrious lady, it appears, that the grapes may just as well be eaten by blackbirds as by Abbés, and that ou warfare against the winged plunderers will be fruitless, if you encourage other biped and featherless pilferers, who make ten times more havock.
We know that we are also accused of eating night. ingales, who never plunder, and sing, as they say, most enchantingly. It is indeed possible that we may now and then have gratified our palates with a deli. cious morsel in this way, but we can assure you that it was in utter ignorance of your affection for the species; and that, resembling sparrows in their plumage, we, who make no pretensions to being connoisseurs in music, could not distinguish the song of the one from that of the other, and therefore supposed ourselves regaling only on sparrows. A cat belonging to M. Piccini * has assured us, that they who only know how to mew cannot be any judges of the art of sing. ing; and on this we rest for our justification. However, we will henceforward exert our utmost endeavours to distinguish the Gluckists t, who are, as we are informed, the sparrows, from the Piccinists, who are the nightingales. We only entreat of you to par. don the inadvertence into which we may possibly fall, if, in roving after nests, we may sometimes fall upon a brood of Piccinists, who, being then destitute of plumage, and not having learnt to sing, will have no mark by which to distinguish them.
The last imputation we are called upon to repel, most illustrious lady, is that of suffering your house to be infested with such a quantity of mice. They make terrible havock, it is said, with your sugar and sweetmeats; they gnaw the books of your savans, and even nibble the slippers of Mademoiselle Luillier,
* An Italian composer.
as she is walking. It is urged that cats being created by Providence (who watches with equal goodness over all his creatures) for no other purpose but to eat mice, deserve nothing better, when they fail in the object of their vocation, but to be drowned.
Certainly, most illustrious lady, it is easy to discover in this language the influence of personal interest in the mouths of our accusers. The Sieur Cabanis", who makes an enormous consumption of sweetmeats in your house, and who is always ready to steal a lump of sugar when he thinks he can do it unobserved, has certainly very good reasons for making you consider the gourmandise of a few mice, who nibble a loaf of sugar, or begin eating a pot of jelly before him, as a capital crime; but he shows a mind still more atrocious than interested, when he would condemn us as meriting death, because we do not prevent the little animals availing themselves, to the best of their power, of a system of spoliation which he himself, great as he is, practises every day without discretion and without remorse. Could he carry his barbarity towards us farther, if we were, like the mice and himself, sugar-ivorous and sweet-meat-ivorous animals? Is it not manifest, that gourmandise alone inspires him with sentiments so cruel, and can you give them admission into your bosom ?
With regard to the books of the Abbé de la Roche, and that other savant t, whose speech at the Academy we just now read, as it wrapped up a calf's lights which you had the goodness to give us; with regard to their
* A friend of Madame Helvetius, who lived in her house.
+ The Abbé Morellet.