night around the midnight hour
As lamps were burning low,
A merchant ciphered his accounts
Within the murky glow.
The scattered ledgers told a tale
Of what might lie ahead;
Each column balanced with the next
With ink both black and red.
Against the hearthstone's dying flames
A feline form was etched;
She pried awake an amber eye,
Yawned several times, then
In contemplative mood she watched
The merchant hard at work
And pondered her upcoming task
She could no longer shirk.
With grand resolve and mustered strength
She sprang forth in a flash
And landed firmly in-between
Assets and Petty Cash.
"Forgive my bold intrusion, sir,
But can we talk awhile?
Of late, I've pondered many thoughts
Which I can't reconcile."
The merchant dropped his quill and sighed;
He had no time to chat—
But it was useless to ignore
This egocentric cat.
"Please keep it brief,"
the man replied,
"I have a lot to do—
There's little profit to be made
By spending time with you."
The cat replied, "I find your
At best, quite condescending,
But hear me out and you'll be rich—
Of this I am depending.
I've held my tongue a dozen years,
But now I must inquire—
How long before you'd freeze to death
If thrown upon a fire?"
"Don't be absurd," the
"Of this there is no doubt—
When opposites are thus compared
They both are cancelled out."
"I thought as much," the
"Which brings me to my
I've noticed inconsistencies
Which, frankly, don't seem right.
In business you are shrewdly cold—
A scourge among your peers,
Manipulating the naive
And driving men to tears.
Yet clearly you're a pious man,
Who warms a weekly pew—
You kneel in prayer most every night,
And tithe more than your due.
Now, this is where I need your help,
Please tell me, if you can,
How opposites, like faith and greed,
Can thrive within one man."
The merchant glowered at the cat,
"How can you dare impart
A stain of impropriety
Upon my blameless heart?
I don't expect a cat like you
To fully understand,
But business needs an iron fist,
And faith an open hand."
"I see," replied the wily
"My logic went astray—
I had assumed from watching you
It took two hands to pray."
The merchant blushed a crimson hue
And stammered, "Listen here!
Although it's true I love my work,
My faith is quite sincere!
The times I haggled with the weak
Or left them worse for wear
Were balanced by my tithes and gifts
And hours of fervent prayer."
The cat cocked back a puzzled ear,
"I didn't realize,
When greed fulfills a common good
Our God will close His eyes."
"That isn't so!" the
"God sees our every sin—
He knows the motives of our hearts,
From outside and within.
But in our work and daily lives
We often must suppress
Some lesser aspects of our faith
To garner our success."
A frigid silence filled the room,
The desk lamp sputtered out,
The cat's eyes flickered with the gleam
Of one dispelled from doubt.
"There hangs a mask around your
Of virtues you extol—
When it's worn, you hide the greed
Which smirks within your soul.
You deal with men and God the same,
With equal disregard
And take advantage of their hopes
And leave them bruised and scarred.
In all, a sad and hopeless plan
To camouflage your fraud—
You bare your fangs at mortal men,
But wear a mask for God!"
The merchant winced and turned away,
Unable to reply;
He mulled the cat's indicting words
Which he could not deny.
His eyes brimmed over with remorse,
"How could I be so cruel?
While thinking others were impressed,
In truth, I looked a fool.
From this day forth I'll live by faith
And never cheat again
Or try to bribe the LORD my God,
With gold from broken men."
With that, he fell upon his knees
To make amends and pray...
...the merchant's cat just sat and smiled
with nothing more to say.