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Beverly's Pneumatic Cat-Silencer

BY THOMAS A. JANVIER

MY friend Mr. Beverly's disposition toward cats, collectively and as individuals," said the Colonel, "was of the friendliest. On a previous occasion as you doubtless remember, I have—"

"That amiable trait in Mr. Beverly's character," interrupted the Bishop, "has my warm sympathy and my lively commendation. What our home would be like without our Ginger I don't like to think! He really is one of the nicest cats that ever lived. His intelligence is something wonderful. Why, only yesterday morning, while we were at breakfast, Ginger— But pardon me, Colonel. Possibly I have spoken before the complete conclusion of your remark."

"I reckon you did, Bish," said the Doctor, "as you butted in with your Ginger smack in the middle of one of the Colonel's long-winded sentences. Go ahead- Colonel. Don't let the Bishop choke you off that way right at the start."

"The Colonel certainly knows that I have no desire to choke him off. Quite the contrary," said the Bishop, cordially. "And therefore am sure that he will pardon the interjection of my inadvertent words and will proceed."

"On a previous occasion," resumed the Colonel, a little stiffly, "I have exhibited to you the cat-loving side of Mr. Beverly's character in my detailed description of his plan for organizing, on the lines of circulating libraries, a continent-wide—and, eventually, a world-wide—system of circulating catteries: a benevolent project by which cat-lovers, at all times and in all places—on payment of fees commensurate with the quality of cat taken out and with its length of use—could acquire temporarily (or even permanently—a feature of the scheme providing for definite purchase) the pleasing solace of cat companionship."

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"You did give us that yarn, all right, Colonel," said the Doctor. "And I remember that the circulating catteries busted up before they to circulate. Most of Beverly's things seem to have gone that way. It's likely he had the habit of biting off more than he could chew."

"The detail that Mr. Beverly's admirably conceived and theoretically perfected project was not practically realized," replied the Colonel, coldly, "is quite apart from its essential merit and its intrinsic practicality. Nor is consideration of that detail at present relevant. My reference to the matter is intended merely to exhibit convincingly what I may term Mr. Beverly's exceptionally pronounced philo-felinity; and so to emphasize the fact—creditably illustrative of his large-minded impartiality—that in inventing his Pneumatic Cat-silencer he demonstrated that his affection for cats, notwithstanding its intensity, did not blind him to what universally is regarded as the worst of cat faults."

"You interest me keenly, Colonel," said the Bishop, with much earnestness. "A cat-silencer would be not less than a priceless boon to all humanity. Why, only last night, while I was engaged on my St. Jude's visitation sermon, such a turmoil of caterwaulings arose in our back-yard that composition became quite impossible. Rising from my desk and looking from the window, I was pained to find that our own Ginger was in the very thick of it. There was Ginger—the moonlight was bright and there was no mistaking him—close to the corner of the back fence, his back up, and his tail prodigiously distended. Facing him, just around the corner of the fence, was the Thurston cat—in like attitude and with a like tail distention. And those two cats were addressing each other in rasping terms of reproach that were simply ear-splitting. With regret I confess, as most unbecoming to my cloth, that their interrupting clamor so angered me as to bring into my mind—not, I am glad to say, to my lips—certain almost violent expressions. Naturally, therefore, I have a most lively personal longing, Colonel, to be informed concerning Mr. Beverly's invaluable cat-silencing invention. I must not, however, be unjust to Ginger. Under ordinary conditions he is—"

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"You will pardon me, I trust, Bishop," interpolated the Colonel, with a chill courtesy, "if I venture to suggest that while your disquisition upon Ginger continues—pray understand that we all take a deep interest in what you have to tell us about that engaging animal-my opportunity for satisfying your desire for enlightenment concerning Mr. Beverly's cat-silencing device is so closely circumscribed, not to say eliminated, that—"

"My dear Colonel," broke in the Bishop, heartily, "again I beg that you will pardon my really unpardonable inthrust of inept loquacity. Most earnestly I ask you to accept my most earnest apology: and quite as earnestly I ask you to tell us how Mr. Beverly's admirable invention operated and how it was contrived."

"I very sincerely share in the Bishop's interest in this curious matter," added the Judge; "and I join in his request that you proceed."

"And so do I, Colonel," said the Doctor. "If anybody has struck out a plan for keeping cats from yowling everybody awake—short of killing the cats—you may bet your sweet life I want to know what it is!"

Responding, but a trifle grudgingly, to this outburst of kindly urgence, the Colonel continued: "Mr. Beverly's Pneumatic Cat-Silencer may be described more accurately as an original inventive adaptation than as an original invention outright. With a characteristic honesty and modesty he himself was most insistent that his credit in the matter was limited strictly to that of so modifying the device of another master-inventor—an attachment to the muzzles of firearms that effectively silences the disturbance incident to their discharge—as to make it effective in producing cat-aphonic results.

"As is well known, the device in question consists of a relatively short cylinder that incloses—symmetrically distributed around a central passage—a convoluted system of backward-curving projections which temporarily arrest, and which compel to find their exit by a relatively slow spiral motion through a series of intricate windings the gases generated when the piece is discharged. Thus restrained and directed, the emergence of the gases is so gradual a process, relatively speaking, that their delayed and lessened impact upon the atmosphere is practically noiseless. In a word, the silencer checks what technically is termed the muzzle-blast; and so, by abating the instantaneity of the explosion, abates the noise-producing commotion incident to a sudden and violent percussive disturbance of the air."

"And did Beverly mean to tie that thing on a cat every time it took to yowling?" asked the Doctor. "And did he think he could stop the racket by spiraling its yowls?"

"I sincerely trust." said the Bishop, with warmth, "that no such cruelty on Mr. Beverly's part, if intended, was suffered to be perpetrated. Even in the bitterness of my anger against our Ginger and the Thurston cat last night, I could not have brought myself to secure relief from their truly hideous clamor by so barbarously weighting them with heavy instruments of iron. If Mr. Beverly's plan involved such cruelty—"

Pray calm yourself, Bishop," interposed the Colonel. "I assure you that Mr. Beverly's silencing device had no resemblance whatever to the crude process that the Doctor has evolved from the crudity of his own mind: a process that, I am charitable enough to believe, even he would perceive, upon consideration, to be at once impracticable and ridiculous. Mr. Beverly did not seek to apply the gun-silencer, unchanged, to cat-silencing. What he purposed—and what, substantially, he triumphantly accomplished—was so to modify the gun-silencer structurally as to make it absolutely effective for cat-silencing- use. Omitting confusing technical details, it is sufficient to state that his device consisted of a suitably contrived cylinder, constructed of a suitably light but strong material, that embodied the essential principle of its prototype; and that this perfected instrument was provided with a suitable adjusting apparatus that made it easily and painlessly attachable to any size of cat."

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"Your explanation, Colonel, appreciably relieves my mind. And I may add," continued the Bishop, "fittingly rebukes my overhasty censure of Mr. Beverly on inadequate grounds. The disposition to cavil unthinkingly, if I may be permitted to draw an improving moral by generalizing from my own delinquencies—"

"Let up on your generalized delinquencies, Bish," struck in the Doctor, "and give the Colonel a chance to tell what happened when Beverly got the thing fast to a cat. How did it work, Colonel?"

"In accordance with Mr. Beverly's logically deduced theory," resumed the Colonel, speaking with a guarded precision, "its working on a cat could not be other than identical with its working on a gun. That is to say, the cat's utterances—upon passing into the cylinder and there impinging upon the convoluted system of backward-curving projections—would be diverted from a direct into a spiral motion; would progress through the convolutions of the cylinder with a constantly decreasing impetus; and ultimately would emerge from it with their initial force—their muzzle-velocity, as I may term it—so greatly diminished that their percussive impact upon the atmosphere would be insufficient to produce, at the most, more than a mere whisper of sound."

"According to the well-established laws of dynamics," commented the Judge, "Mr. Beverly's invention certainly was sound in principle. As we know, force is divided into motive, accelerative, and retardative—the latter, of course, being constant as a deterrent quantity; and, if adequate, destructive of primary impulse. Admitting that the convolutions in the cylinder of Mr. Beverly's most ingenious device did adequately retard the cat's utterances, it follows—"

"Dynamics be blowed!" said the Doctor, with energy. "Did or did not Beverly try it on a cat?"

"Mr. Beverly did try it on a cat," replied the Colonel. "In point of fact, he tried it simultaneously on two cats—to the end that their irritant effect upon each other might provoke a free emission of the characteristic sounds which he desired to curb. Moreover, to the end that his test might be so severe as to give finality to its result, he selected cats of a great size, with phenomenally powerful lungs."

"Gosh! I wish I'd been there," exclaimed the Doctor. "And then he egged 'em on into a rumpus, I suppose, and. got them to swearing at each other. Why, it must have made those cats just crazy when they found their cuss-words didn't go off! What did they do about it?"

"What they did," said the Colonel, "was appreciably aside from what Mr. Beverly expected them to do. In his eagerness to try out his invention, as he subsequently admitted, he indulged in a regrettable precipitancy that induced unfortunate results—among them the wreck of both silencers, with the consequent elimination of data on which he could base accurate conclusions as to their aberrant practical non-conformity with their seemingly theoretically perfected design. It was his opinion, however, that their relatively defective action was due to nothing more serious than a slight error of adjustment: a trifling detail that he could have rectified easily—and that, no doubt, he would have rectified had he not just then become so deeply interested in a new invention that his cat-silencing device was laid aside.

"Whatever this minor error may have been—the matter is immaterial, since absolute silence attended what, in that essential respect, was a demonstration of the correctness of Mr. Beverly's theory—its effect was to produce within the cylinder a back-draught of great intensity, for which, at that tentative stage of experimentation, no adequate provision had been made. Under stress of this very powerful retroactive urgence, the full volume of emitted sound was returned suddenly and violently into its generating source; with the result that, coincidentally with the explosion of both silencers, the completeness of the test still further was modified by the regrettable fact that—"

"If Mr. Beverly's most ingenious device did effectively still the emitted sounds," observed the Judge, thoughtfully, "I greatly regret that he laid it aside unperfected. Being perfected, it would have been one of the most benevolent inventions of modern times. I assert with conviction that the most intolerable of the minor ills which afflict humanity is the diabolical noise made by cats during the nocturnal hours divinely set apart for slumber. In this connection, gentlemen, I use the word 'diabolical' advisedly, because of my reasoned belief that the world-wide popular association of cats with witches, and with the witches Sabbath, and so directly with the devil, is due to the truly devilish character of their passion-inspired nocturnal utterances."

"Your astute deduction, Judge," commented the Bishop, with interest, "is as apposite as it is profound. I regard it as an important addition to the science of inductive folk-lore. Inherently it is convincing, since one readily may perceive how naturally primitive man—enraged by sleep-destroying cat-noises, and noting the indubitable profanity of cat-language—did arrive at the conclusion that you so enlighteningly present. As we know, the belief in cat-devilishness—"

"Pardon me, Bishop," said the Colonel: "I venture to beg—"

"Just one moment, my dear Colonel. This phase of the matter is most interesting." The Bishop spoke with insistence, and continued: "As we know, the belief in cat-devilishness ascends to a most remote antiquity. To illustrate: Glanvil declares, in his well-known Sadducissimus Triumphatus, referring to witches, that 'the devil gives them a beast about the bigness and shape of a young cat, that they call a carrier'; and he adds: 'What this carrier brings them they must receive from the devil.' You thus will perceive that even in Glanvil's ancient time the connection between cats and the devil—and doubtless for the illuminating reason that the Judge so sapiently has adduced—notoriously was established. Further, in regard to the evil character of witches—a matter directly cognate to our subject in chief—you all will remember that Olaus Magnus, in his description of the witches' cauldron, tells us: 'Olla autem omnium maleficarum—' "

"Jiminy crickets, Bish!" exclaimed the Doctor, "what sort of hash are you and the Judge giving us? This isn't anybody's red-hot folk-lore society! Drop it all—can't you?—and let the Colonel tell us what happened when Beverly got those two extra-sized back-yard yowlers geared fast to their muzzles and they began to let off their yowls. What did happen, Colonel? Crack on and tell us the rest."

"Mv little effort to interest and to amuse," said the Colonel, with dignity, "so obviously fails to accomplish its well-meant purpose that I gladly abandon it—and so yield to the Judge and the Bishop, especially to the Bishop, ample opportunity to continue the inchoate and irrelevant conversation in which so courteously, at the crisic moment of my narrative, they have seen fit to engage."

"My dear Colonel," said the Judge, cordially, "I recognize fully that my interpolated disquisition upon the connection between cats and devils, while apposite, was most ill-timed. I beg that, pardoning my unintentional rudeness, you will proceed."

"And I, my dear Colonel," added the Bishop, with a like kindly warmth, "join sincerely in the Judge's apology, and in requesting you to continue your most interesting remarks."

"And you know how I stand. Colonel," said the Doctor, heartily. "Haven't I done my best to keep these chumps quiet from the start?"

"In response to these erratic and belated manifestations of interest in what the Bishop terms my 'most interesting remarks,' " said the Colonel, in tones of chill sarcasm, "I am glad that I can conclude them—and at the same time escape from a most uncongenial environment—by uttering precisely four words. I have the honor to bid you all a very good day, gentlemen, and to utter those words, Both cats also exploded!"

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.