"He is but an Old Gray Cat..."

John Hartwell

Forum Host
Aug 27, 2011
Central Massachusetts
The following isn't at all Civil War related, though it was written during the war. It comes from the diary of Edward H. Savage, a veteran Boston police officer, and included in his 1865 book, A chronological history of the Boston watch and police, from 1631 to 1865; together with the Recollections of a Boston police officer. I shall co-opt the final words of his first paragraph, and "hope to be pardoned for recording it here."


I find the following among my records of Police Recollections. It is, perhaps, a little out of place, but it is so true, and it calls up in my heart the recollections of other days in such deep emotion, that I hope to be pardoned for recording it here.

June 17, 1864.
I have a pet cat, who has eaten of the crumbs of my table, this day, seventeen years. He is an old fellow, — not a tooth in his head this many a year, — yet he is as fat and sleek, as lively and playful, as when a kitten. He is, in fact, rather a curious old fellow for a cat, and I often think that he really knows more than he will tell.

After the close of my day's labor, no sooner does my footstep reach the threshold, than he is at the door to welcome my entrance with a pert or a mew. If I am in the house, he is uneasy unless he is with me, and hardly any closed door is proof against his handy paws till he reaches me; and then the antics and pranks that he will cut are anything but what would be expected of an old cat.

I sometimes think that many of his notions appear more like calculation than instinct. Often, when about to leave the house, have I found his long crooked claws inserted in my coat-tail, or deeply imbedded in the leg of my pants, endeavoring with all his might to prevent my egress, as if to say, "Don’t go yet."

He is but an old gray cat, but he has followed me, and shared my varied fortunes, for seventeen years. He is but an old gray cat, but he was a special favorite with a dear and loved one who now lies mouldering in the tomb. In his early life his friends were my friends; but among them there are now none left, — no, not one! He seems to be the only living link that binds me so tenderly to those who have left me to battle the ills of life alone; and often, while looking at him, I find the big hot tears stealing unwittingly down my furrowed cheeks, as memory wanders o'er the scenes of other days.

He is but an old gray cat, but why should I not care for him in the wane of life? He will die one of these days, — and so shall I.
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