F W Stella Browne

The Humanitarian, July 1918

Certainly, some London streets, though they cannot exorcise the spring from the earth, go a long way towards nullifying it. The short stretch of greyish-drab houses before me, as I leave our block of flats on a day in May, has its monotony relieved by only two glimpses of foliage: in the gardens on the Embankment at one end, and through a gap, by the model dwellings, on the east side. But that flicker of foliage is at its freshest and most translucent, unsullied by dust, and clothing the branches like bubbles of green foam. The sky encases the grimy monotony of the buildings like a huge limpid turquoise, and as I turn northwards. I see on the pavement a living, moving patch of rusty gold, and hurry to greet a friend. Spring has indeed come to Chelsea, if "Mrs Bates's Ginger" appears in public.

Ginger would grace any landscape, even a tropical forest or a prairie full of bluebells. He is easily the handsomest living creature in L. Street. He is an enormous cat, thirty inches long from the tip of his nose to the tip of his thick ringed tail, and tall in proportion. His build accentuates the effect of size and strength; he is like a Manchurian tiger in shape, with a bull-dog's girth of chest, and the wide massive head, typical of the males of the larger Felidae. He carries himself and moves with easy lounging directness: he is used to friends - and to devoted subjects.

Mars was certainly regnant in Ginger's horoscope.

His colour is tawny, of as deep a tint as a fox's coat, in the broad even stripes on his back and sides, shading to a paler yellow underneath, with white chest and paws. His fur is short, thick and glossy and crackles with electricity in cold weather. His eyes look decidedly greenish in their ruddy gold setting. They are exactly the colour of the finest liqueur in the world - a half and half blend of green and yellow Chartreuse - and usually large. Their friendliness and their indifference are alike, royally frank.

Ginger entered the world six years ago in the same house that he now adorns. Mrs Bates, her father and mother, her brother, her husband, and her delicately pretty little girl, are his domestic deities. He has also other minor friends, among whom I am proud to be numbered. His mother was a small tortoise-shell, very prettily and quaintly marked; a blonde tortoise-shell, white, yellow, and grey, instead of with the black admixture of most tortoise-shells. She was very intelligent and affectionate, and the good folk she lived among saw to it that her life was happy, and her death swift and merciful.

Her son keeps to the house and the trim flagged yard behind it in winter. He haunts the roomy cellars and cosy back parlour of the Bates' house like a gracious Lar. He is beautifully clean, gentle, caressing and very silent; he only speaks to special friends and then with an affection and pleasure all but articulate.

In the spring he appears on the threshold and in the street; but he is unable, through circumstances over which he had no control, to celebrate spring in the most time-honoured and satisfactory manner. Still, the aforesaid circumstances have, no doubt, contributed to the splendour of his appearance - so different from the ragged and world-worn look of most tom-cats in our neighbourhood. And his elimination of one set of activities has tended to stimulate others. Ginger fears no dogs; terriers and collies alike avoid him, although he treats the Pekingese and Pomeranians of the neighbouring flats with benevolent neutrality. And his prowess among the rats, even in his sturdy kittenhood, is an unfailing theme of enthusiastic eloquence.

Ginger sees me as I come towards him. He proudly lift his head and waves his tail in greeting, opens his pink mouth, and with a deep croaking note, vibrant with joy, runs to me, arches his neck, drives the powerful claws of his forefeet into my old coat, and licks my fingers with a warm, crisp tongue.


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