Cat got your collar?

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Unsure of how to wear regurgitated lace? Well, Cranford’s Mrs Forrester has the answer. In Chapter 8 of Elizabeth Gaskell’s celebrated novel, Mrs Forrester advises us on how to retrieve a prized piece of lace from the belly of your pet.

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Sick Kitty: Image taken from The Internet Archive – page 421 of “St Nicholas [serial]” 1873 

“Of course, your ladyship knows that such lace must never be starched or ironed. Some people wash it in sugar and water, and some in coffee, to make it the right yellow colour; but I myself have a very good receipt for washing it in milk, which stiffens it enough, and gives it a very good creamy colour. Well, ma’am, I had tacked it together (and the beauty of this fine lace is that, when it is wet, it goes into a very little space), and put it to soak in milk, when, unfortunately, I left the room; on my return, I found pussy on the table, looking very like a thief, but gulping very uncomfortably, as if she was half-chocked with something she wanted to swallow and could not. And, would you believe it?”

Step 1: After your cat has consumed said lace – show some pity – but not too much.

“At first I pitied her, and said ‘Poor pussy! poor pussy!’ till, all at once, I looked and saw the cup of milk empty—cleaned out! ‘You naughty cat!’ said I , and I believe I was provoked enough to give her a slap, which did no good, but only helped the lace down—just as one slaps a choking child on the back. I could have cried, I was so vexed; but I determined I would not give the lace up without a struggle for it. I hoped the lace might disagree with her, at any rate; but it would have been too much for Job, if he had seen, as I did, that cat come in, quite placid and purring, not a quarter of an hour after, and almost expecting to be stroked. ‘No, pussy!’ said I, ‘if you have any conscience you ought not to expect that!’” 

Step 2: Send your maid to get a boot from a local doctor’s surgery and then place puss-in-boot (apologies, I know and am already ashamed of this pun).

“And then a thought struck me; and I rang the bell for my maid, and sent her to Mr Hoggins, with my compliments, and would he be kind enough to lend me one of his top-boots for an hour? I did not think there was anything odd in the message; but Jenny said the young men in the surgery laughed as if they would be ill at my wanting a top-boot.”

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Illustration by C.E Brock from 1904 edition – Project Gutenberg

Step 3: Fill cat with tartar emetic mixed with current-jelly and await the inevitable.

“When it came, Jenny and I put pussy in, with her forefeet straight down, so that they were fastened, and could not scratch, and we gave her a teaspoonful of current-jelly in which (your ladyship must excuse me) I had mixed some tartar emetic. I shall never forget how anxious I was for the next half-hour. I took pussy to my own room, and spread a clean towel on the floor.”

Step 4: Dry the lace on a lavender bush and wear to a tea party as if nothing happened..

“I could have kissed her when she returned the lace to sight, very much as it had gone down. Jenny had boiling water ready, and we soaked it and soaked it, and spread it on a lavender-bush in the sun before I could touch it again, even to put it in milk.” 

 

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