Back to Miscellaneous

Smiler's Pious Cat

An Old Cornish Character: the Cat of Smiler of St. Ives, Cornwall by J. Henry Harris

A Most Orderly Feline

Smiler 'n' Bob

Did you ever hear the story, from St. Ives, of Smiler's cat? No? Then I'll tell you. He wasn't a fighter, except when he was provoked, and then he was game; but he was a most orderly cat, and pious too. Now you may laugh, but if ever there was a pious cat, it was Smiler's. Smiler wasn't pious, but Bob the Cat was. Bob was black with a white tie round his neck, so he had a respectable appearance, and was looked up to by all the cats in the parish. Bob knew when Smiler had had a good week, and knew where to find him when he'd drunk his fill and it was time to go home. Smiler was a peaceful man at all times. When he'd had his full allowance of beer, and more, he'd sit down and talk over old times, about his father and mother, and begin to cry. Then Bob would rub against his legs and make for the door, and Smiler would follow exactly like a child - yes he would. When it was dark Bob would walk backwards and show Smiler the way by the light of his eyes - starboard and port, port and starboard - till Smiler got home.

Bob was that pious he wouldn't eat fish on a Sunday, and he was so admired by all the cats that not one would run down to the quay on a Saturday or Sunday night - not even if all the boats came in chock-full of fish. "No Sunday fish for St. Ives!" was the motto with Bob, and all the cats followed his example. Smiler got that merry on Saturdays that he couldn't rise on Sundays. Bob used to keep watch over him and listen to the Salvation Army services that he could hear quite plainly through the open window. Bob got to like the music and grew serious, and took to following the band. People took notice, and said it was Smiler's Bob, and expected to see Smiler follow the cat, as he did at night when he was well soused.

Bob was going after Smiler one night, as usual, after sharing a pint or two, and, as ill fortune would have it, he met an old friend in the cat-line, and they went off together. This was sad for Smiler, whose footing went wrong, and he slipped into the water without being seen or heard. Bob went about like a dazed cat, and never rested till he sniffed out old Smiler, caught by a mooring chain. It was wonderful to see Bob following at the funeral, and many would have taken care of him, but he had a calling, and followed the Salvation Army. To the last day of his innocent life he would eat no fish on a Sunday - not even fish caught on a Saturday. There were no risks for Bob. If only some people were as good as some cats.

Edited from "Cornish Saints & Sinners" (1906)

Back to Miscellaneous

Return to top of page