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The Cat And Cupid
by [?]


The secret history of the Ebag marriage is now printed for the first time. The Ebag family, who prefer their name to be accented on the first syllable, once almost ruled Oldcastle, which is a clean and conceited borough, with long historical traditions, on the very edge of the industrial, democratic and unclean Five Towns. The Ebag family still lives in the grateful memory of Oldcastle, for no family ever did more to preserve the celebrated Oldcastilian superiority in social, moral and religious matters over the vulgar Five Towns. The episodes leading to the Ebag marriage could only have happened in Oldcastle. By which I mean merely that they could not have happened in any of the Five Towns. In the Five Towns that sort of thing does not occur. I don’t know why, but it doesn’t. The people are too deeply interested in football, starting prices, rates, public parks, sliding scales, excursions to Blackpool, and municipal shindies, to concern themselves with organists as such. In the Five Towns an organist may be a sanitary inspector or an auctioneer on Mondays. In Oldcastle an organist is an organist, recognized as such in the streets. No one ever heard of an organist in the Five Towns being taken up and petted by a couple of old ladies. But this may occur at Oldcastle. It, in fact, did.

The scandalous circumstances which led to the disappearance from the Oldcastle scene of Mr Skerritt, the original organist of St Placid, have no relation to the present narrative, which opens when the ladies Ebag began to seek for a new organist. The new church of St Placid owed its magnificent existence to the Ebag family. The apse had been given entirely by old Caiaphas Ebag (ex-M.P., now a paralytic sufferer) at a cost of twelve thousand pounds; and his was the original idea of building the church. When, owing to the decline of the working man’s interest in beer, and one or two other things, Caiaphas lost nearly the whole of his fortune, which had been gained by honest labour in mighty speculations, he rather regretted the church; he would have preferred twelve thousand in cash to a view of the apse from his bedroom window; but he was man enough never to complain. He lived, after his misfortunes, in a comparatively small house with his two daughters, Mrs Ebag and Miss Ebag. These two ladies are the heroines of the tale.

Mrs Ebag had married her cousin, who had died. She possessed about six hundred a year of her own. She was two years older than her sister, Miss Ebag, a spinster. Miss Ebag was two years younger than Mrs Ebag. No further information as to their respective ages ever leaked out. Miss Ebag had a little money of her own from her deceased mother, and Caiaphas had the wreck of his riches. The total income of the household was not far short of a thousand a year, but of this quite two hundred a year was absorbed by young Edith Ebag, Mrs Ebag’s step-daughter (for Mrs Ebag had been her husband’s second choice). Edith, who was notorious as a silly chit and spent most of her time in London and other absurd places, formed no part of the household, though she visited it occasionally. The household consisted of old Caiaphas, bedridden, and his two daughters and Goldie. Goldie was the tomcat, so termed by reason of his splendid tawniness. Goldie had more to do with the Ebag marriage than anyone or anything, except the weathercock on the top of the house. This may sound queer, but is as naught to the queerness about to be unfolded.


It cannot be considered unnatural that Mrs and Miss Ebag, with the assistance of the vicar, should have managed the affairs of the church. People nicknamed them “the churchwardens,” which was not quite nice, having regard to the fact that their sole aim was the truest welfare of the church. They and the vicar, in a friendly and effusive way, hated each other. Sometimes they got the better of the vicar, and, less often, he got the better of them. In the choice of a new organist they won. Their candidate was Mr Carl Ullman, the artistic orphan.