LET NO man suppose this city is awash with light and joy. I do not believe in rubbing noses in sorrow, but some things must be both comprehended and accepted:

The cat of the British Embassy has died. Muffin. He is buried under his favorite magnolia facing on Massachusetts Avenue, the embassy has announced. This cat had no tail. Some said it gave itself airs as a Manx.

Let me say I knew and admired this cat and never once saw it giving itself any airs. De mortuis nisi nil bonum .

Both at luncheon and dinner Muffin used to get under the table and rub against diners' legs. Perhaps there were misunderstandings for a moment, but there never was any reason to make a big deal of it. Perhaps friendships were born.

Anyhow, the chapter is closed. Friends of Muffin were glad the new ambassadorial family took to Muffin in a very warm way, as all their predecessors had done. This cat was full of years (the embassy cannot say how many) and was present for Queen Elizabeth's dinner at the embassy - for a cat may look at a queen - and had seen many of this world's great ones come and go. Friendly but not fawning. Proud but not imperious. Interested in mice, but a gentleman for all that.

I once tried to check out a rumor that Muffin's short tail was caused by being run over by a clumsy gardener with a lawn mower years ago, but this was like inquiring whether the Queen Mother had a mole on her thigh.

Some things you do not ask. Or do not get answers to. He died under a vet's care, and all was done that a gentleman would wish to be done and no more.

Muffin on the harp. Well, it will be quite something to hear.

Don't buckle. There is more to bear:

The great American elm off the Bishop's Garden at Washington Cathedral has died. All proper medical efforts were made to save it. Some say it was the largest and finest elm in the capital. Hundreds sat in its shade for generations of picnics.

I knew this tree well. It was a good tree. St. Alban's School is somewhat berserk, but grief passes.

The wildness does, at least.

The thing I have noticed, in the case of certain good dogs, for example, is that we feel very bad and then (as Odysseus did, after his dear companions were devoured screaming by the monsters but no one could save them) settle down to a good supper. For as Mrs. Gaskell once so rightly observed, many a one is comforted in grief by a good pudding.

But sometimes years later, by the fire, it comes to you how Luke used to doze by it and three times set his tail ablaze while stretching in his sleep. Indeed it is precisely in such recollections that the common point of laughter and tears is most easily seen.

Brightness falls from the air. And ere you were born was beauty's summer dead.