Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Cat Clock

This is an intriguing bit of lore that is worth posting;

KeelyNetOne day when we went to pay a visit to some families of Chinese Christians peasants, we met, near a farm, a young lad, who was taking a buffalo to graze along our path. We asked him carelessly, as we passed, whether it was yet noon. The child raised his head to look at the sun, but it was hidden behind thick clouds, and he could read no answer there.

"The sky is so cloudy," said he; "but wait a moment;" and with these words he ran towards the farm, and came back a few minutes afterwards with a cat in his arms. "Look here," said he, "it is not noon yet;" and he showed us the cat's eyes, by pushing up the lids with his hands.

We looked at the child with surprise, but he was evidently in earnest; and the cat, though astonished, and not much pleased at the experiment made on her eyes, behaved with most exemplary complaisance.

"Very well," said we; "thank you;" and he then let go the cat, who made her escape pretty quickly, and we continued on our route.

To say the truth, we had not at all understood the proceeding; but we did not wish to question the little pagan, lest he should find out that we were Europeans by our ignorance. As soon as ever we reached the farm, however, we made hast to ask our Christians whether they could tell the clock by looking to the cat's eyes.

They seemed surprised at the question; but as there was no danger of confessing to them our ignorance of the properties of the cat's eyes, we related what had just taken place. That was all that was necessary; our complaisant neophytes immediately gave chase to all the cats in the neighborhood.

KeelyNetThey brought us three or four, and explained in what manner they might be made use of for watches. They pointed out that the pupil of their eyes went on constantly growing narrower until twelve o'clock when they became like a fine line, as thin as a hair, drawn perpendicularly across the eye, and that after twelve the dilation recommenced.

When we had attentively examined the eyes of all the cats at our disposal, we concluded that it was past noon, as all the eyes perfectly agreed upon the point.

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