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Although doubly a Mrs., Mrs. Jane Tabby preferred but had never insisted upon the title. It is not the way of most cats to spend all their lives in a marriage. Her first marriage had been brief indeed, the father of her first litter—her most extraordinary litter of four winged kittens—gone before their birth.

Mrs. Jane had wondered about her kittens. She could have hardly helped but wonder, she who had her fair share of any cat's natural curiosity. However, the utterly mysterious how of her winged children had soon faded as unimportant, eclipsed by worries for their future. Her kittens were not safe in the city, could not be safe anywhere that was so much under human eyes—or above, considering how high they liked to go once they had taught themselves to fly. The four could hardly have pretended to be pigeons. Just barely possibly, if they flew only at night, except pigeons roosted then. Or, she, had fretted, if her kittens looked less like cats, if they had been grey or brown patched, but tabby stripes are so very distinctive.

After those four had left, winging their way out of the city, Jane accepted the marriage proposal of Mr. Tom Jones, liking his quiet ways and sleek black fur. Her time with this her second husband was also short, for he went permanently to some other part of the city on business while their one kitten was still at home. While Tom had not purposefully abandoned her, Mrs. Jane was solely responsible for the kitten in the terrible time when humans removed the dumpster that had been what she sheltered behind since before her first litter.

The loss of concealment was awkward for Mrs. Jane, much worse for her kitten, whose wings made her an object of interest while she was yet too young to fly well. The kitten was seen by humans and chased, flying up beyond her mother's finding.

Distressed, Mrs. Jane was harried and wandering, calling for her lost daughter, when unexpectedly gentle hands reached for her. She allowed herself to be picked up and did not struggle overmuch while carried. Up and up steps, through a rooftop garden, and at last into a house.

Her settling with that human was at first marred with worry. Her anxiety was about her daughter, and the sons and daughters of her first litter, who were gone out of the city, surely to have flown to some refuge. Mrs. Jane had prowled the roof-garden, staring at the other buildings, none of which were near enough to leap to. If only she had herself had wings!

In the garden she had found a door that smelled, faintly, of outside, and which must close away stairs she dimly remembered from the other direction, stairs right down through the building and out to the streets. That door was always locked. She was tempted to scratch at the surface of it, but the door felt terribly solid when she bumped it with her shoulder and then with her reaching paws, so she kept her claws tucked away.

Politely, since she had after all permitted herself to be carried inside in the first place, Mrs. Jane did not use her claws within the house at all. She explored with soft paws and quivering whiskers, finding hiding places and high perches.

It was not very many days after the human brought Mrs. Jane Tabby into her home, that she named the cat, most appropriately. While Mrs. Jane did not understand the human's words, she listened to the gentle tone and knew the human's attention was directed to her.

"Look at you, cat, sitting there like a queen, right at home although you've only been here with me a week. Nine days, in fact," the old woman said, continuing after a moment to calculate out the days. Then, with a happy thought of history that would have been entirely incomprehensible to any cat, "You can sit as a queen for many days longer. I will call you Jane."

Thus, unknown to either of them due to the imprecision of communication between human and cat, did she bestow the cat's own name upon her. Or at least, the most important part of the name, for "tabby" was self evident, and as already mentioned Jane would not have quibbled with the omission of the title Mrs.

 

All her motherly concerns were set to rest when James and Harriet paid her a flying visit, reunited her with their yet unnamed younger sister. The older two took time explaining to her how they had rescued their sister. She was wind-ruffled and wide-eyed, and nearly silent except for the smallest of purrs when she tucked herself against her mother's tabby-striped side. Harriet and James talked enough for any three or four cats, explaining their new, comfortable lives. Those were good hours, curled up purring together under the draping leaves of the roof-garden's plants.

Mrs. Jane watched the three of them fly away with satisfaction. She also felt a little wistful. Nevertheless, children grow up and leave, in the natural the way of things. Especially when one is a cat who is, for reasons never to be known, ordinary herself but the mother of no fewer than five winged kittens.

 

This human who had taken her in was a kind one, although she had a few faults. The worst of them, never unlocking the door which must lead down to the street, despite Mrs. Jane crying at it in longing for her lost daughter who she wished to go searching for, stopped mattering after the kittens' visit. Once Mrs. Jane knew that her youngest daughter—all her children—had flown away to safety, she was content with her rounds of the rooftop garden and within the house.

Her schedule was marked by breakfast and dinner, her rounds timed to bring her to the kitchen. Jane was quick to appreciate the twice daily rattling of kibbles into her bowl. The provision of food in this manner provided less in variety than hunting and scavenging, balanced by a pleasant reliability. A point to her human for punctuality.

Another fault, however, was the human's voice. She talked sweetly enough, when sat in such a way as to make a warm lap she invited the cat to. But at times she decided to sing, warbling notes which went nearly to a high sharpness that no self-respecting cat would have sung except on occasional, passionate nights in alleys.

Mrs. Jane might tolerate some singing were it a song mentioning cats, or her own name—she knew the sound of those names from her human. Mrs. Jane did not always jump immediately from her human's lap in stiff, fast walk away from the harsh songs. When she did stay, it was with flattened ears, her striped back gone tense. An audience should be honest, so Mrs. Jane was clear that she was not impressed with the songs.

She was a cat of the city, who had once roamed the alleys and shadows, nowadays contenting herself to the garden and sunlight. Her children were cats of the sky, settled in their home a long flight away, those kittens she had once purred lullabies to.

Home, she considered, was a place for, if any songs, only the quietest of purring lullabies, low and loud in turn. She demonstrated those, on contented evenings. The best times were when the human gave up her own songs entirely and instead was a silent audience to her cat's lullabies. On those near perfect evenings, Mrs. Jane's purring swelled in volume while her human's soft hands petted her. The correct song accompanying time on a warm lap in a comfortable home.