The White Cat

There was a gentleman of independent means who, at about the age of fifty-six, conceived of a passionate hatred for his much-younger wife’s white Persian cat.

His hatred for the cat was all the more ironic, and puzzling, in that he himself had given the cat to his wife as a kitten, years ago, when they were first married. And he himself had named her—Miranda—after his favorite Shakespearean heroine.

It was ironic, too, in that he was hardly a man given to irrational sweeps of emotion. Except for his wife (whom he’d married late—his first marriage, her second) he did not love anyone very much, and would have thought it beneath his dignity to hate anyone. For whom should he take that seriously? Being a gentleman of independent means allowed him that independence of spirit unknown to the majority of men.

Julius Muir was of slender build, with deep-set somber eyes of no distinctive color; thinning, graying, baby-fine hair; and a narrow, lined face to which the adjective lapidary had once been applied, with no vulgar intention of mere flattery. Being of old American stock he was susceptible to none of the fashionable tugs and sways of “identity”: He knew who he was, who his ancestors were, and thought the subject of no great interest. His studies both in America and abroad had been undertaken with a dilettante’s rather than a scholar’s pleasure, but he would not have wished to make too much of them. Life, after all, is a man’s primary study.

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