The Mischief-Maker (1) : A stranger warns the people of Shorapur that they will come to regret their hospitality.
The Mischief-Maker
Part one

Based on a story in Household Words Vol. I (March-September 1850), edited and largely written by Charles Dickens.

Charles Dickens’s magazine ‘Household Words’ carried this curious tale in 1850. Set in the legendary past, it concerns the town of Shorapur in India, which in Dickens’s time was still a semi-independent Kingdom, and a question as simple as it is timeless: Cats, or Dogs?

ONCE upon a time, a traveller was received most hospitably in Shorapur, and with unusual curiosity: for he declared that the townsfolk would turn him out if they knew what he was. They assured him they were quite unprejudiced, so he said: I am a Mischief-Maker.

Invited to demonstrate his powers, he entered a flour-dealer’s and asked to try some honey. With growing bemusement, the townsfolk watched him sample jar after jar with a dainty fingertip. Only the Brahmin saw him flick a drop of honey onto the wall, where it stuck.

Soon, however, a fat fly spotted it, and came to gorge itself. Then a lizard glided down the wall to investigate the fly, though not stealthily enough to escape the notice of the flour-dealer’s cat. All in a moment, the fly sipped, the lizard’s tongue flickered, the cat pounced, and amid a clatter of baskets and pots a white dog belonging to a quarrelsome old fellow from across the street bounded up, barking.

* Shorapur is a town in modern-day Yagdir province, Karnataka (Mysore until 1973) in southwest India. It lies about 130 miles southwest of Hyderabad, on the northern side of the River Krishna. When Dickens wrote this story, Shorapur was a semi-autonomous Kingdom in the territory of the Nizam of Hyderabad. Eight years later, in 1858, it was absorbed into the Princely State of Mysore under the British Raj, following an unsuccessful revolt by the last independent Rajah, Venkatappa Nayaka IVth.

Based on a story in Household Words Vol. I (March-September 1850), edited and largely written by Charles Dickens.

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Picture: By Gottfried Mind (1768-1814), Swiss National Library, via Wikimedia Commons. Licence: Public domain. View original
‘A cat, a dog and some bones’, by Gottfried Mind (1768-1814). Mind was a Swiss painter who specialised in cats, earning himself the enviable soubriquet ‘the Raphael of Cats’. For more cat-related art, see the website of the KattenKabinet gallery in Amsterdam. Charles Dickens’s fable relies on the age-old enmity between cats and dogs, and on India’s complex social divisions, especially between Hindus and Muslims. Muslim tradition permits dogs only as working animals, whereas Muhammad himself kept a pet cat. Hinduism traditionally regards dogs as unclean, but as in the case of Yudhishthira and the Tihar festival of West Bengal exceptions are made.
By Charles H. Ross
Part Two
Based on a story by Charles Dickens

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