Throughout the week, Miss Abigail found herself out and about, frequenting places she hadn’t been for a very long time - the hairdressers, the tea shop, the shoe repair, the perfumery, the tailors, the millinery, all in anticipation of meeting again, the next Tuesday, with Mr. Elliot. So needless to say, Sheila did not spend much time in the curio cabinet. Because of her initial negligence, Miss Abigail was sure to introduce Sheila to all the town’s people, opening her poke-a-dot purse, lifting the little cat from it and while giving a little pat on her head, saying, “Allow me the pleasure of introducing you to Sheila.”
Despite their misgivings about Miss Abigail’s unbridled enthusiasm for a bewildered looking stuffed cat with a crooked tail, the shop owners were all happy to see Miss Abigail again and some even dared to believe that Miss Abigail had finally overcome that horrible funk for good. So the tailor, the hairdresser, the cobbler, the tea shop owner, the perfumer seller, the milliner and all the rest, plastered smiles on their faces and expressed how pleased they were to meet such a fine companion. And they all agreed when they encountered each other on the street after Miss Abigail had gone home, that certainly the oddness of the situation was a small price to pay for the return of a grown woman’s joy.
And joy was exactly the feeling that Miss Abigail experienced for that entire week.
With all of the comings and goings, in and out of the poke-a-dot purse, Sheila became a bit disheveled, her ears squished down, her fur ruffled, her tail all the more crooked. Though Miss Abigail would never have been able to admit it, Sheila had not been made for such rough handling and was, unlike a real cat, made to stay in a curio cabinet. Thus, after a week of outings, on Monday night, the very eve of the day that Sheila was to be introduced to Mr. Elliot, something rather extraordinary happened.
It had been a day of last minute preparations and Miss Abigail was in a dither with so much still to do. She returned to the house much later than she had planned. It was already getting dark. Between whipping eggs for the sour cream raisin pie and ironing her new dress, Miss Abigail saw that she had forgotten to put Sheila back in the curio cabinet. Hastily, so as not to ruin the pie, she took Sheila from the poke-a-dot purse. Unfortunately, on route to the curio cabinet, Sheila’s nose came loose and fell silently like a seed, landing upon the rug.
Had Sheila been a more aggressive type of cat, she would have alerted Miss Abigail to the sudden coolish tickling she felt upon her face, and things would of turned out very differently. But, as we know, Sheila was not that kind of cat. She resolved that this queer feeling upon her face was just the settling in of an early winter cold. Had Miss Abigail been less rushed in her preparations for the next day, she would have taken more care with setting Sheila in the curio cabinet and spent a moment wishing her a goodnight at which point she would have, most assuredly, noticed something amiss.
Needless to say, both Miss Abigail and her cat spend a restless, dream filled night.
Sheila woke several times and saw the black cat looking back and forth, back and forth, still perched on the wall. She had decided that this was the way of this very odd creature and that there was nothing she could do about it but accept him for who he was. But now, with this strange tickling feeling in the center of her face, Sheila was draw to the cat’s nose and noticed that this black cat had a very attractive and solid nose. For the first time in her life, Sheila experienced the regrettable emotion of envy.
Being Tuesday, the punctual and determined maid arrived just as the sun was rising. Miss Abigail, having finally fallen into a very deep sleep after such a difficult night, did not awaken when the maid began her vacuuming. This was not the case for Sheila who could not help but watch the maid in her cleaning frenzy, the vacuum being so loud it vibrated the glass of the curio cabinet.
The maid, having spotted something small on the floor, bent to examine what it could be. And so it was that Sheila saw the maid bend down to pick up what was her own lovely little cat nose. Sheila was overcome with both horror and relief; horror at having discovered that the strange tickling she felt was not an early winter cold, but the absence of her very own nose; and relief that the maid was conscientious enough to save her nose from any further harm. But, the maid, having scrunched up her own piggish nose at the thing pinched between her thumb and finger, concluded that it was just another detestable piece of fuzz and threw it upon the rug and vacuumed it up.
Sheila suffered a terrible case of shock.
The black cat clock ticked and tocked, its eyes moving back and forth, back and forth.