Barks and Purrs, Colette

BARKS AND PURRS

 

BY

 

COLETTE WILLY

 

Barks and Purrs, Colette

 TRANSLATED BY

 

MAIRE KELLY

CONTENTS

SENTIMENTALITIES

ON THE TRAIN

DINNER IS LATE

SHE IS ILL

THE FIRST FIRE

THE STORM

A CALLER

PREFACE

 

Madame:

There are moments when one seems to come to life. One looks about and

distinguishes a creature whose foot-print closely resembles the ace of

spades. The thing says: bow-wow. It is a dog. One looks again. The ace

of spades is now an ace of clubs. The thing says: pffffffff–and it is a

cat.

This is the history of the visible world and in particular, that of my

god-children, Toby-Dog and Kiki-the-Demure. They are so natural–I use

the word in the sense in which it is applicable to the savages of

Oceania–that all their acts conspire to make of life, a very simple

proposition. These are animals in the fullest sense of the

word–animos–if I may employ the original orthography, capable of

exclaiming with those of Faust:  “The fool knows it not! He knows not

the pot, He knows not the kettle.”

 

       *       *       *       *       *

 

And as such, Madame, you have placed them exactly where they should be:

their earthly Paradise is the apartment of Monsieur Willy. In your

salon, the probable palm and rubber-plant give the impression of

luxuriant Edenic flora, relatively speaking, and illustrate the

transmogrification which is to allow M. Gaston Deschamps–critic of a

“Temps” plus-que-pass–to announce to the wilderness (where he speaks

familiarly of Chateaubriand), and to the College de France, how well he

can admire and understand a true poet.

 

       *       *       *       *       *

 

For you are a true poet and I will declare it freely, not concerning

myself more with the legends Parisians have the habit of weaving about

every celebrity. They admire Gauguin and Verlaine, not so much for their

originality, as for their eccentricities. And so it happens that certain

persons, unacquainted with the nameless sentiment, the order and purity,

the thousand interior virtues which guide you, persist in saying that

you wear your hair short and that Willy is bald.

 

Must I then–living at Orthez—tell Tout-Paris who you are, present

you to all who know you–I who have never seen you?

 

       *       *       *       *       *

 

I will say then, that Madame Colette Willy never had short hair, that

she does not wear masculine attire; that her cat does not accompany her

when she goes to a concert, that her friend’s dog does not drink from a

tumbler. It is inexact to say that Mme. Colette Willy works in a

squirrel’s cage, or performs upon trapeze and flying rings, and can

reach with her toe the nape of her neck. Madame Colette Willy has never

ceased to be the plain woman par excellence, who rises at dawn to give

oats to the horse, maize to the chickens, cabbage to the rabbits,

groundsel to the canaries, snails to the ducks and bran-water to the

pigs. At eight o’clock, summer and winter, she prepares the café au lait

for her maid–and herself. Scarcely a day passes that she does not

meditate upon this admirable book:

 

A LADY’S COUNTRY-HOUSE

 

BY

 

MME. MILLET ROBINET.

 

Orchard, kitchen-garden, stable, poultry-yard, bee-hive and hot-house,

have no further mysteries for Madame Colette Willy. They say, she

refused to divulge her secret for the destruction of mole-crickets to “a

great statesman, who prayed her on his knees.”

 

*       *       *       *       *

 

Madame Colette Willy is in no way different from the description I have

just given of her. I am aware that certain folk, having met her in

society, insist upon making her very complex. A little more, and they

would have ascribed to her the tastes of the mustiest symbolists–and

one knows how far from pleasing are those Muses’ robes, how odious the

yellow bandeaux above faces expressionless as eggs. Robes and bandeaux

are to-day relegated to drawers in the Capitol at Toulouse, from which

they will never be taken more, except when occasion calls for the

howling of official alexandrines in honor of M. Gaston Deschamps.

 

Madame Colette Willy rises to-day on the world of Letters as the

poetess–at last!–who, with the tip of her slipper sends all the

painted, laureled, cothurned, lyre-carrying Muses–that, from Monselet

to Renan, have roused the aspirations of classes in Rhetoric–rolling,

from the top to the bottom of Parnassus.

 

How charming she is thus–presenting her bull-dog and her cat with as

much assurance as Diana would her hound, or a Bacchante her tiger.

 

See her apple-cheeks, her eyes like blue myosotis, her

lips–poppy-petals, and her ivy-like grace! Tell me if this way of

leaning against the green barrier of her garden-close, or of lying under

the murmurous arbor of mid-Summer, is not worth the starched manner,

that old magistrate de Vigny–with his neckcloth wound three times

around, and rigid in his trousers’ straps–imposed upon his goddesses?

Madame Colette Willy is a live woman, a real woman, who has dared to be

natural and who resembles a little village bride far more than a

perverse woman of letters.

 

*       *       *       *       *

 

Read her book and you shall see how accurate are my assertions. It has

pleased Madame Colette Willy to embody in a couple of delightful

animals, the aroma of gardens, the freshness of the field, the heat of

state-roads,–the passions of men…. For through this girlish laughter

ringing in the forest, I tell you, I hear the sobbing of a well-spring.

One does not stoop to a poodle or tom-cat, without feeling the heart

wrung with dumb anguish. One is sensible, in comparing ourselves to

them, of all that separates and of all that unites us.

 

*       *       *       *       *

 

A dog’s eyes hold the sorrow of having, since the earliest days of

creation, licked the whip of his incorrigible persecutor in vain. For

nothing has mollified man–not the prey brought him by a famishing

spaniel, nor the humble guilelessness of the shepherd-dog, guarding the

peace of the shadowy flocks under the stars.

 

A tragic fear shines in the cat’s eyes. “What are you going to do to me

now?” it seems to ask, lying on a rubbish-heap, a prey to mange and

hunger–and feverishly it waits the new torture that will shatter its

nervous system.

 

But have no fear … Madame Colette Willy is very kind. She quickly

dispels the hereditary dread of Toby-Dog and Kiki-the-Demure. She

meliorates the race, so that dogs and cats will learn in the end that it

is less dull to frequent a poet than an unhappy College de France

candidate–had this candidate proven more copiously still, that the

author of “Memoires d’Outre-Tombe” had topsyturvily described the

jawbone of the Crocodile.

 

*       *       *       *       *

 

Toby-Dog and Kiki-the-Demure well

know that their mistress is a lady who

would do no harm–neither to a piece of

sugar nor to a mouse; a lady who, for our

delight, jumps a rope she has woven of

flower-words which she never bruises, and

with which she perfumes us; a lady who sings,

with the voice of a clear French rivulet, that

wistful tenderness which makes the hearts of

animals beat so fast_.

 

FRANCIS JAMMES.

 

*       *       *       *       *

 

 

 

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, A Maltese cat.

 

TOBY-DOG, A French bull-dog.

 

HE and SHE, Master and Mistress (of minor importance).

 

 

 

SENTIMENTALITIES

 

 The sunny porch. TOBY-DOG  and KIKI-THE-DEMURE sprawl on the hot stone-flags, taking their after luncheon nap. The silence of Sunday

prevails, yet TOBY-DOG is not asleep: the flies and a heavy luncheon

torment him. Hind-quarters flattened out frog-fashion, he drags himself

on his belly up to KIKI-THE-DEMURE  whose striped body is perfectly

quiet.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Are you asleep?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (_purrs feebly_)

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Are you even alive? You’re so flat! You look like the empty skin of a

cat.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (_in faltering tones_)

 

L-e-t–m-e–a-l-o-n-e….

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Not sick, are you?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

No…. Let me alone. I’m asleep. I’m not even conscious of my body. What

torment to live with you! I’ve eaten, it’s two o’clock, let’s sleep.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I can’t. Something’s made a ball in my stomach. It means to go down I

guess, but very slowly. And then,–these flies, these flies! The

eyes start out of my head at the sight of one of them. I’m all jaws,

bristling with terrible teeth (just hear them snap), yet the infernal

things escape me. Oh! my ears! Oh! my poor, sensitive, brown belly! My

feverish nose! There! … you see?… right on my nose! What shall I

do? I squint all I can … two of them now?… No … only one … no,

two!… I toss them up like bits of sugar and it’s the empty air I

snap…. I’m worn out. I detest the sun, and the flies, and

everything!…

 

(He wails.)

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (sitting up, his eyes pale from the light and

sleepiness)

 

Well, you’ve succeeded in waking me. That’s all you wanted, isn’t it? My

dreams are gone! These flies that you’re pursuing–I hardly felt their

little teasing feet through my thick fur. The merest touch, like a

caress, now and then thrilled along the silky sloping hairs which clothe

me…. But then you never act with any discretion. Your vulgar gayety is

a nuisance, and when sad you howl like a low comedian.

 

TOBY-DOG, (bitterly)

 

If you woke up just to tell me that–

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (correcting)

 

Of course you’ll remember ’twas  you woke me.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I was so uncomfortable, I wanted someone to help me, to give me a word

of encouragement….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I don’t know any digestive words.

 

(Pause.)

 

Fancy their giving me a bad character when … Just examine your

conscience a bit and compare us. Hunger and heat wear you out and drive

you mad; cold makes your blood curdle….

 

TOBY-DOG, (vexed)

 

Mine is a sensitive nature.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

A demoniacal nature, you mean!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

No, I don’t mean that. You–you’re a monstrous egoist.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Perhaps…. You and the Two-Paws don’t understand what you’re pleased to

call a cat’s egoism…. Our instinct of self-preservation, our dignity,

our modest reserve, our attitude of weary renunciation (which comes of

the hopelessness of ever being understood by them), they dub, in

haphazard fashion, egoism. You’re not a very discriminating dog, but at

least you’re free from prejudice. Will you understand me better? A cat

is a guest in the house, not a plaything. Truly these are strange times

we’re living in! The Two-Paws, He and She, have they alone the right

to be sad or joyful, to lick plates, to scold, or to go about the house

indulging their capricious humors? I too have my whims, my sorrows,

my irregular appetite, my hours of reverie when I wish to be

alone….

 

TOBY-DOG, (attentive and conscientious)

 

I’m listening, but I can hardly follow what you say. It’s so

complicated–a bit over my head, you know. But you astonish me! Are they

in the habit of hindering you in your changeful moods? You mew, and they

open the door. You lie on the paper–the sacred paper He’s scratching

on–He moves away, marvelous condescension!–and leaves you his soiled

page. You meander up and down his scratching table, obviously in quest

of mischief, your nose wrinkled up, your tail giving quick little jerks

back and forth like a pendulum. She watches you laughing, while He

announces “the promenade of devastation.” How then, can you accuse

Them–

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (insincere)

 

I don’t accuse Them. After all, psychological subtleties are not in your

line.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Don’t speak so fast. I need time to understand. It seems to me–

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (slyly)

 

Pray, don’t hurry! Your digestion might suffer in consequence.

 

TOBY-DOG, (unconscious of the irony)

 

You’re right! I’ve some trouble in expressing myself to-day.–Well, here

goes: it seems to me that of the two of us it’s you they make the most

of, and yet you  do all the grumbling.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

A dog’s logic, that! The more one gives the more I demand.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

That’s wrong. It’s indiscreet.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Not at all. I have a right to everything.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

To everything? And I?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I don’t imagine you lack anything, do you?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Ah, I don’t know. Sometimes in my very happiest moments, I feel like

crying. My eyes grow dim, my heart seems to choke me. I would like to be

sure, in such times of anguish, that everybody loves me; that there is

nowhere in the world a sad dog behind a closed door, that no evil will

ever come….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (jeering)

 

And then what dreadful thing happens?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

You know very well! Inevitably, at that moment She appears, carrying a

bottle with horrible yellow stuff floating in it–Castor Oil! Wilful and

unfeeling, she holds me between her strong knees, opens my jaws—

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Close them tighter!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

But I’m afraid of hurting her–and my tongue, horrified, tastes the

slimy mawkish stuff. I choke and spit, my poor face is convulsed and the

end of this torture is long in coming…. You’ve seen me afterwards

dragging myself around, melancholy, my head hanging, listening to the

unwholesome glouglou the oil makes in my stomach….

 

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Once when I was little She tried to give me castor oil. I scratched

and bit her so, she never tried again. Ha! She must have thought she

held the devil between her knees. I squirmed, blew fire through my

nostrils, multiplied my twenty claws by a hundred, my teeth by one

thousand, and finally–disappeared as if by magic.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I wouldn’t dare do that. You see, I love her. I love her enough to

forgive her even the torture of the bath.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (interested)

 

You do? Tell me how it feels. It makes me shiver all over, just to see

her putting you in the water.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Alas…. Listen then, and pity me. Sometimes, when She’s come out of her

tub with nothing on her but her skin, her soft hairless skin that I lick

respectfully,–She spills out more warm water, throws in a brown brick

which smells of tar, and calls, “Toby!” That’s enough! The soul quits

my body; my legs shake under me. Something shines on the water–the

picture of a window all twisted out of shape–it dances about and blinds

  1. She seizes me, poor swooning thing that I am, and plunges me in….

Ye Gods! From that time on I’m lost…. My one hope is in her. My eyes

fasten themselves on hers, while a close warmth sticks to me like

another skin on top of mine…. The brick’s all foamy now … I smell

tar … my eyes and nostrils smart … there are storms in my ears. She

grows excited, breathes loud and fast, laughs, and scrubs me

light-heartedly. At last She rescues me, fishing me out by the nape of

my neck, I paw the air, begging for life; then comes the rough towel and

the warm coverlet where, exhausted, I relish my convalescence….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (deeply impressed)

 

Calm yourself.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Jove! The telling it alone!… But–you old sly-boots–didn’t I see her

one day armed with a sponge standing over you, holding  you down on

the toilet table?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (quite embarrassed, lashing his tail)

 

An old story! The long, fluffy hairs on my legs (which give them the

outline of a Zouave’s) had somehow gotten dirty. She insisted upon

washing me. I persuaded her that I suffered atrociously under the

sponge….

 

TOBY-DOG

 

What a fibber you are! Did She believe you?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

‘Um … at first. It was my own fault tho’ when She didn’t. Turned over

on my back, I proffered the candid belly, the terrified and forgiving

eyes of a lamb about to be sacrificed. I felt a slight coolness, nothing

more. A fear that my sensibilities might be destroyed, took possession

of me. My rhythmical wailings increased, then subsided, then went up

again like the noise of the sea (you know the strength of my voice). I

imitated the calf, the whipped child, the cat in the night, the wind

under the door. Little by little I grew enraptured with my own song, so

that long after She had finished soiling me with cold water I continued

wailing, my eyes fixed on the ceiling. Then She laughed tactlessly and

cried out, “You’re as untruthful as a woman!”

 

TOBY-DOG, (with conviction)

 

That was annoying.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I was angry with her the entire afternoon.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Oh, as to sulking, you do your share! I never can. I forget injuries.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (dryly)

 

You lick the hand that chastens you. Oh it’s well known!

 

TOBY-DOG, (gullible)

 

I lick the hand that–yes, that’s it exactly.–An awfully pretty

expression.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Not mine…. Dignity doesn’t trouble you any! My word! I’m often

ashamed for you. You love everybody. You take all sorts of rebuffs

without even raising your back. You’re as pleasant and as banal as a

public garden.

 

TOBY-DOG 

 

Don’t you believe it, you ill-bred cat! You think you know

everything and you don’t understand simple politeness. Frankly now,

would you have me snarl at His or Her friends’ heels,–well-dressed

people who know my name (lots of people I don’t know know my name) and

good-naturedly pull my ears?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I hate new faces.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I don’t love them either–whatever you say. I love–Her and Him.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

And I, Him–and Her.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Oh, I guessed your preference long ago. There’s a sort of secret

understanding between you two–

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (smiling mysteriously and abandoning himself to his reverie)

 

An understanding, yes–secret and profound. He rarely speaks but makes a

noise like a mouse, scratching his paper. It’s for Him I’ve treasured up

my little heart, my precious cat’s heart, and He, without words, has

given me his. This exchange makes me happy and reserved. Now and then

with that pretty, wayward, ruling instinct which makes us cats rivals of

women, I try my power over him. When we are alone, I point my ears

forward devilishly as a sign that I’m about to spring upon his

scratching paper. The tap, tap, tap of my paws straight through pens and

letters and everything scattered about, is addressed to him as well as

the insistent miauling when I beg for liberty. “Hymn to the Door-Knob,”

He laughingly calls it, or “The Plaint of the Sequestered Cat.” The

tender contemplation of my inspiring eyes is for him alone; they weigh

on his bent head, until the look I’m calling searches and meets mine in

a shock of souls, so foreseen and so sweet, that I must needs close my

lids to hide the exquisite shyness I feel.

 

As for Her, she flutters about too much, often jostles me, holds my paws

together and rocks me in the air, pets me in excited fashion, laughs

aloud at me, imitates my voice too well–

 

TOBY-DOG, (moved with indignation)

 

You’re very hard to please! I certainly love Him; he’s good and pretends

not to see my faults, so that he won’t have to scold, but She’s the most

beautiful thing in the world to me, the dearest and–the most difficult

to understand. The sound of her step enchants me, her changeful eyes

dispense happiness–and trouble. She’s like Destiny itself, she never

hesitates. Even torture from her hands–you know how She teases me?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Cruelly.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

No, not cruelly, but artfully. I never can tell what’s coming next. This

morning She bent down as if to speak to me, lifted one of my “tiny

elephant’s ears,” as She calls them, and sent a sharp cry into it, which

went to the very back of my brain.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Horrors!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Was it right or wrong? I can’t decide even now. It started waves of

nervousness running madly through me. Then, She has a fancy for making

me do tricks. Almost every day I must–“Do the Fish, Toby dear.” She

lifts me in her arms and squeezes me until I gasp. My poor dumb mouth

opens as a carp’s does when they’re drowning it in air….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

That’s just  like Her!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Suddenly I find myself free–and still alive, miraculously saved by the

power of her will. How beautiful life seems to me then! How fondly I

lick the hand hanging at her side, the hem of her dress!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (contemptuously)

 

A pretty thing to do!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

All good and all evil come to me from Her. She is my worst torment and

my one sure refuge. When I run to her, my heart sick with fear, how soft

her arms are and how sweet her hair, falling in my face! I’m her

“black-baby,” her “Toby-Dog,” her “little bit o’ love.” She sits on the

ground to reassure me, making herself little like me–lies down

altogether and I go wild with delight at the sight of her face under

mine, thrown back in her fragrant hair. My feelings overflow, I can’t

resist such a chance for a jolly good game. I rummage and fumble about,

excitedly poking my nose everywhere, till I find the crispy tip of a

pink ear–Her ear. I nibble it just enough to tickle her–to make her

cry out: “Stop, Toby! That’s awful! Help! Help! This dog’s devouring

me!”

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

H’m! Simple, homely, wholesome joys! … And then, off you go to make

friends with the cook.

 

TOBY-DOG 

 

And you,–with the cat at the farm.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (coldly)

 

Enough I pray, that concerns no one but myself … and the little cat.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

A pretty conquest! It should make you blush–a seven-months-old kitten!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (roused)

 

For me she has all the charm of forbidden fruit and no one dare steal

her from me. She is slim as a bean-pole….

 

TOBY-DOG, (aside)

 

You old rascal! 

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

… and long; poised on long legs she walks with the uncertain step

common to all young things. She hunts field-mice, shrew-mice–even

partridge, and this hard work in the fields has toughened her young

muscles and given a rather gloomy expression to her kitten-face.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

She’s ugly.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

No, not ugly, but odd-looking. Her muzzle with its very pink nostrils

strongly resembles that of a goat, her large ears remind one of a

peasant’s coif, her eyes the color of old gold are set slant-wise, and

their naturally keen expression is varied by an occasional piquant

squint.

 

With what a will does she fly me confounding modesty with fear! I pass

slowly by (one would think me quite uninterested), draped in my splendid

coat. She’s struck by its stripes. Oh, she’ll come back, a little

love-sick kitten, and putting aside all constraint she’ll throw herself

at my feet–like a supple white scarf–

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I’ve no objection, you know…. I’m comparatively indifferent to all

that concerns love. Here my time’s so completely filled … physical

exercise … my cares of watch-dog, I … hardly give a thought to the

bagatelle.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (aside)

 

Bagatelle!… He indulges in the persiflage of a traveling salesman!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I love–Her and Him devotedly, with a love that lifts me up to them. It

suffices to occupy my time and heart.

 

The hour of our siesta is passing, my scornful friend. Do you know, I

like you in spite of your scorn and you like me, too. Don’t turn your

head away, your peculiar modesty would hide what you call frailty and

what I call love. Do you think me blind? How often, on coming back to

the house with Her, have I seen your little triangular face at the

window, light up and smile at my approach,–the time to open the door

and you’d already put on your cat’s mask–your pretty Japanesy mask,

with its narrow eyes…. Isn’t it so?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (resolved not to hear)

 

The hour of the siesta is passing. The cone-shaped shadows of the pear

trees grow long on the gravel path. We’ve talked away our sleepiness.

You’ve forgotten the flies, your uneasy stomach, and the heat which

dances in waves on the meadows. The beautiful, sultry day is dying.

Already there’s a breeze bringing perfume from the pines. Their trunks

are melting into bright tears….

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Here She is! She’s left her wicker chair, stretched her lovely arms and,

judging from the movement of her dress, I think we’re going to take a

walk. See her behind the rosebushes? Now, with her nails she breaks a

leaf from the lemon tree; she’s crumpling it up and smelling it. Ah …

I belong to Her, soul and body. With my eyes closed I can divine her

presence.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Yes, I see Her. She is quiet and gentle for the time being. He’ll leave

his paper now to follow her. He’ll come out calling, “Where are you?”

and sit on the bench, tired out. For him, I shall rise politely, and

go “do my nails” along the leg of his trousers. Silent, happy

companions, we’ll listen for the day’s departing footsteps. The perfume

of the lindens will become sickeningly sweet at the same hour that my

seer’s eyes grow big and black and read mysterious Signs in the air….

Later on a calm fire will be lit down there, behind the pointed

mountain–a circle of glistening rose-color in the gray-blue of the

night–a sort of luminous cocoon from which will burst the dazzling edge

of the moon. She will sail along, cleaving the clouds…. Then, it will

be time to go to rest. He’ll carry me in on his shoulder and I’ll sleep

close to his feet, which are ever mindful of my repose…. Dawn will

find me shivering but rejuvenated, sitting face to the sun, in a silvery

halo of incense, offered me by the dew. Thus, I am a perfect picture of

the god I was in the old, old days.

 

 

 

 

ON THE TRAIN

 

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, TOBY-DOG, SHE and HE, have taken their places in a first-class compartment. The train rolls along towards distant

mountains, and the freedom of Summer-time. TOBY, on a leash, lifts an

inquiring nose to the window. HE has strewn the carriage with

newspapers: KIKI-THE-DEMURE, silent and invisible in a closed basket,

is under his immediate protection. SHE, leaning back against the dusty

cushions, dreams of the mountain she loves best and of the low house on

it, weighted down with jasmine and virginia-creeper.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

How fast this carriage goes! It can’t be our regular coachman. I haven’t

seen the horses, but they smell very bad and make black smoke. Oh,

Silent Dreamer, look at me and tell me–shall we arrive soon?

 

(No response. TOBY gets fidgety and blows through his nostrils.)

 

SHE

 

Hush! Toby, hush!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I’ve hardly said a word…. Shall we arrive soon?

 

(He turns towards his master, who is reading, and puts a discreet paw

on the edge of his knee.)

 

HE

 

‘Sh!…

 

TOBY-DOG, (resigned)

 

Hard luck! No one wants to talk to me. I’m bored and what’s more, I

don’t know this carriage well enough. I’m tired out. They woke me very

early this morning. I amused myself by running all over the house. They

had hidden the chairs under sheets, wrapped up the lamps, rolled up the

rugs. Things were white and changed and awful. There was a horrid smell

of camphor everywhere. My eyes filled with water, I sneezed under the

chairs and slid on the bare floor in my haste to follow the maids’ white

aprons. They bustled about among trunks with such unwonted zeal, that I

was sure something exceptional was going to happen. At the last minute

just as She came in, calling: “Toby’s collar and the cat’s basket!

Quick! put the cat in his basket!”–just as she was saying that, my chum

disappeared. It was indescribable! He, terrible to see, swore by all the

gods, and struck the floor with his cane, furious because they had

allowed his Kiki to get away. She called “Kiki!” at first

supplicatingly, then in threatening tones, and the maids brought empty

plates, meant to deceive, and yellow paper from the butcher’s. I really

thought my chum had left this world, when suddenly–there he was perched

on top of the book-case, looking down on us with an expression of

contempt in his green eyes. She put up her arms: “Kiki will you come

down immediately! You are going to make us lose the train!” But he

didn’t come down and it made me dizzy–though I was on the ground–to

see him way up there walking and turning about and miauling shrilly to

tell us how impossible he found it to obey. He was about frantic and

kept saying: “Heavens, he’s going to fall.” But She smiled skeptically,

went out of the room and came back armed with the whip. The whip said,

“crack!” twice only; then a miracle happened I think, ’cause the cat

leaped to the floor, softer and more bouncey than our plaything, the

ball of wool. I would have broken to pieces falling like that!… He

has been in this basket ever since…. (TOBY goes to the basket.) Ah!

here’s a little peek-hole…. I see his whiskers … they’re like white

needles. Whew! What eyes! (He jumps back.) I’m rather afraid. One

can’t really shut a cat up; he always manages to get out somehow. … He

must suffer, poor fellow! Perhaps if I speak kindly to him … (he

calls very politely) Cat!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (spitting furiously)

 

Khhh!…

 

TOBY-DOG, (jumping back)

 

Oh, you said a bad word! You look awful! Have you a pain anywhere?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Go away! I’m a martyr…. Go away I tell you, or I’ll blow fire at you!

 

TOBY-DOG, (ingenuous)

 

But why?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Why!–Because you’re free, because I’m in this basket, because the

basket’s in a foul carriage which is shaking me to pieces, and because

the serenity of those two exasperates me.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Would you like me to look out and tell you what one sees from the

carriage window?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Everything is equally odious to me.

 

TOBY-DOG, (having looked out, comes back)

 

I haven’t seen anything….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (bitterly)

 

Thanks just the same.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I mean I haven’t seen anything that’s easy to describe. Some green

things which pass right close to us–so close and so fast that they give

one a slap in the eye. A flat field turning ’round and ’round and over

there, a little pointed steeple–it’s running as fast as the carriage.

Another field all red with blossoming clover has just given me another

slap in the eye–a red slap. The earth is sinking in–or else we’re

going up, I’m not sure which. I see way off, far away, some green

lawns dotted with white daisies–perhaps they’re cows.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (with sarcasm)

 

Or wafers, for sealing letters–or anything you like.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Aren’t you the least little bit amused? 

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (with a sinister laugh)

 

Ha! Ask of the damned …

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Of whom?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (more and more melodramatic, but without conviction)

 

… of the damned in his vat of boiling oil, if anything amuses him!

Mine is not physical torment. I suffer imprisonment, humiliation,

darkness, neglect–

 

(The train stops. A conductor on the platform cries “Aw-ll a-bor!!…

awl aborr!!”_)

 

TOBY-DOG, (bewildered)

 

Someone’s crying out! There’s an accident!! Let’s run!!!

 

(He throws himself against the carriage door and scratches madly at

it.) 

 

SHE, (half asleep)

 

Toby dear, you’re a nuisance!

 

TOBY-DOG, (distracted)

 

Oh, you inexplicable person! How can you sit there quietly? Don’t you

hear those cries? They’re stopping now–the accident has gone away. Wish

I’d known …

 

(The train starts again.)

 

HE, (throwing down his paper)

 

The poor beast is hungry.

 

SHE, (now very wide awake)

 

You think so? Well, I am too. But Toby is to eat very little.

 

HE, (anxiously)

 

And Kiki-the-Demure?

 

SHE, (peremptorily) 

 

Kiki sulks, and he hid this morning, so he’ll have even less than Toby.

 

HE

 

He isn’t making a sound. Aren’t you afraid he’s sick?

 

SHE

 

No, he’s simply vexed.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (as soon as there’s question of himself)

 

Me-ow!

 

HE, (tenderly and eagerly)

 

Come my beautiful Kiki, my imprisoned one, come. You shall have cold

roast-beef and some breast of chicken …

 

(He opens the prison basket and KIKI puts forth his head, flattened

on top like that of a serpent; then his long, striped body, cautiously,

and so very slowly that one begins to think it’s coming out by the

yard.)

 

TOBY-DOG, (pleasantly)

 

Ah, there you are, cat! Well, now, proclaim your freedom!

 

(KIKI, without replying, smoothes his ruffled fur.)

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Proclaim your freedom I tell you! It’s the custom. Whenever a door is

opened one must run, jump, twist oneself into half circles and cry out.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

One? Who’s one, pray?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

We dogs.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (seated and very dignified)

 

Would you have me bark, too?… We have never followed the same rules

of conduct, that I know of.

 

TOBY-DOG, (vexed)

 

Oh very well, I don’t insist. How do you like this carriage?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (sniffing fastidiously)

 

It’s frightful.–However, the cushions are rather good for one’s nails.

 

(He suits the action to the word.)

 

TOBY-DOG, (aside)

 

Now if I did that …

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (continuing to scratch the upholstery)

 

Hon! May this spongy, gray cloth soothe my rage!… Since morning, the

whole universe has been in a state of monstrous revolt. He whom I love,

and who venerates me, made not the least effort to defend me. I’ve

submitted to humiliating contacts, been jolted to death, piercing

whistles have shot through my head from ear to ear. Ho, ho, how good it

is to relax the nerves and to imagine that, with gleeful claws, one

tears the enemies’ flesh in bloody shreds! Ho, ho! S-c-r-a-t-c-h, and

lift the paws on high! Lift them high as possible! It’s a supremely

insolent gesture….

 

SHE

 

I say, Kiki, when are you going to stop that?

 

HE, (Indulgent and admiring)

 

Let him alone. He’s doing his nails.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

He has spoken for me. I forgive him. But since it’s allowed, I don’t

care any more about tearing the cushions … When will I get out of

this? Not that I’m afraid; they are both there, and the dog too, with

their everyday faces … I’ve twinges in my stomach.

 

(He yawns. The train stops. A conductor on the platform cries, “Aw-ll

a-bor! Aw-ll a-b-o-r-r!!”_)

 

TOBY-DOG, (excited)

 

Screaming again! Another accident?!–Let’s run!…

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Heavens, what a tiresome dog! What does it matter to him, if there is

an accident?

 

I don’t believe in it moreover. It’s the cry of a man, and men cry out

for the pleasure of hearing their own voices.

 

TOBY-DOG, (calm again)

 

I’m hungry. Can’t we hope to eat soon, my mistress? I don’t know what

time it is in this strange country, but it seems to me….

 

SHE

 

Come now, we’ll all have our luncheon.

 

(She takes the things out of the basket, crumples up some tissue paper

and breaks a crisp brown roll.)

 

TOBY-DOG, (chewing)

 

What She gave me then must have been very good indeed to seem such a

tiny bit. It melted in my mouth, there’s not even the memory of it

left….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (chewing)

 

Breast of chicken! Purr-rr … Goodness me! I was purring without

knowing it! That won’t do. They’ll think me resigned to this journey. I

must eat slowly, grim, and undeceived, eat for the sole purpose of

keeping myself alive …

 

SHE, (to the dog and cat)

 

Allow me to have my luncheon now, if you please. I too, like cold

chicken and the hearts of lettuce, dipped in salt….

 

HE, (anxiously)

 

What shall  we do to make this cat go into his basket again?

 

SHE

 

I don’t know. We’ll see presently …

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Finished already? I could swallow three times that much. I say Cat,

you’re eating rather well for a martyr.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (fibbing)

 

Trouble digs a hole in one’s interior. Move away please, I want to sleep

now … if I can. Perhaps a merciful dream will take me back to the

house I’ve left, to the flowered cushion He gave me…. Home! sweet

home! Rugs of bright colors for the delight of my eyes, a palm with

nice shoots for me to eat, deep arm-chairs, under which I hide my woolen

ball as a future surprise for myself–ah, and the cork hanging by a

string to the door-latch! The tables covered with bibelots! I thread my

way in and out among them and occasionally it amuses me to break some

brittle thing. The dining-room is a temple! The vestibule, full of

mystery; there unseen, I can watch those who come and go … Oh narrow

back-stairway, where the step of the milkman rings out for me like a

morning angelus–farewell! farewell! my destiny carries me on, and who

knows if ever … But this is too sad! All the pretty things I’ve been

saying have really begun to make me feel badly!!

 

(He begins a minute and mournful toilet. The train stops. A conductor

on the platform cries, “Aw-ll-a-borr-a-borr!!”)

 

TOBY-DOG

 

There it is again! An acci–Oh bother, I’ve had enough of that!

 

HE, (anxiously)

 

We’re going to change trains in ten minutes. How about the cat? He’ll

never allow us to shut him up …

 

SHE

 

We’ll see … Suppose we put some meat in his basket?

 

HE

 

Or perhaps petting would …

 

(They approach the redoubtable KIKI and both speak together.)

 

HE

 

Kiki, my beautiful Kiki, come jump on my knee, or on my shoulder. You

like that as a rule. You’ll doze there and then I’ll put you gently into

the basket. After all, it’s open-work and has a comfortable cushion to

protect you from the rough wicker. Come, my dear….

 

SHE

 

Listen, Kiki. You must learn to act properly and to take life as it is.

You can’t stay there like that. We’re going to change trains and a

horrible guard will appear and say insulting things of you and your

race. Besides you’d better obey, because if you don’t, I–I’ll give you

a good whipping.

 

(But before she can lift her hand against his sacred fur, Kiki gets up,

stretches himself, arches his back, yawns,–to show the rosy lining of

his mouth, and then walks to the open basket where he lies down with an

admirable air of quiet insolence. He and She exchange eloquent

glances.)

 

DINNER IS LATE

 

A parlor, in the country, at the close of a long summer’s day.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE and TOBY-DOG doze; ears twitching and eyelids

obstinately shut. Now KIKI’S lids part in a narrow slit, and disclose

eyes the color of purple grapes. He yawns, with the ferocious

expression of a small dragon.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (haughtily)

 

You’re snoring!

 

TOBY-DOG, (who was not really asleep)

 

I’m not; it’s you.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Impossible! I don’t snore, I purr.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Same thing.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (not condescending to a discussion)

 

Thank heaven, it isn’t! (A silence.)

 

I’m hungry. One doesn’t hear the noise of plates in the next room. Isn’t

it dinner time?

 

TOBY-DOG, (gets up, slowly stretches his forepaws and yawns, darting

forth a heraldic tongue with curly end) I don’t know … I’m hungry.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Where is She? How is it you’re not at her heels?

 

TOBY-DOG, (embarrassed, nibbling his nails)

 

She’s in the garden I believe, picking up plums.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Those yellow balls that rain about one’s ears? I know them. You’ve seen

her then? I bet She scolded you … What have you been doing now?

 

TOBY-DOG, (self-conscious, turning away his wrinkled, toad-like face)

 

She told me to return to the house because–because I too, was eating

plums.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

She did well! You have depraved tastes–the tastes of men.

 

TOBY-DOG, (offended)

 

Say–no one ever sees me eating bad fish! And never, never will I

understand how you can go into such fits over a dead frog, or that herb.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Valerian.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

That’s it, I guess … An herb–is medicine, isn’t it?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Medicine, indeed! Valerian … but no you, can’t understand … I’ve

seen Her laugh and go on, as I do over the valerian, after having

emptied a glass of fetid wine that jumped dangerously too. As for the

dead frog–so dead that it seems a bit of dry Russia leather in the form

of a frog–it’s a sachet, impregnated with rare musk, with which I wish

to scent my fur.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Oh, you talk very well–but She always scolds and says that you smell

bad after it, and He says the same thing.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

They’re nothing but Two-Paws, both of them. You, poor thing, belittle

yourself by seeking to imitate them. You stand on your hind legs, wear a

coat when it rains, eat plums–for shame!–and those big green balls,

the malicious trees let fall sometimes, when I’m passing underneath.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Apples?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Very likely. She picks one up and throws it down the path, crying:

“Apple, Toby, apple,” and you rush after, in unseemly fashion, gasping

for breath, looking like a fool, your tongue and your eyes sticking

out….

 

TOBY-DOG, (scowling, head resting on his paws)

 

One takes one’s pleasures where one finds them.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (yawning, shows his pointed teeth and his palate of

pink velvet)

 

I’m hungry. Dinner is surely late tonight. Suppose you look for Her?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I daren’t. She forbade it. She is down there in the hollow, with a big

basket. The dew is falling and wetting her feet and the sun’s going

away. But you know how She is. She sits on the damp ground, looking

ahead of her, as if She were asleep–or lies flat on her stomach,

whistling and watching an ant in the grass … She tears up a handful of

wild thyme and smells it, or calls the tomtits and the jays–who never

come to her by any chance. She takes a heavy watering pot and–ugh! it

gives me the shivers–pours thousands of icy, silvery threads over the

roses or into the hollows of those little stone troughs, ‘way back in

the woods. I always look in to see the head of a brindle-bull who comes

to meet me and to drink up the pictures of the leaves, but She pulls me

back by the collar with: “Toby, Toby, that water is for the birds.”

… Then She takes out her knife and opens nuts, fifty, a hundred

nuts, and forgets the time … There’s no end to the things She does.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (slyly)

 

And what do you do all that time?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I–well–I just wait for her.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I admire you!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Once in a while, squatting down, She eagerly scratches the earth, toils

and sweats over it; then I jump ’round her, delighted to see her at

something so useful and so familiar. But her feeble scent deceives her.

I never smell mole, or shrew-mouse-of-the-rosy-paws, in the holes

She digs. And how explain her utter lack of purpose? Presently,

falling back on her haunches, She brandishes a hairy-rooted herb and

cries: “I have it, the jade!” I lie in the damp grass and tremble, or

dig my nose (She calls it my snout) into the earth to get the

complicated odors of it. … When there are three or four scents all

blended, all mixed together, can you distinguish that of the mole from

that of the hare which passed quickly, or the bird which rested there?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Certainly I can. My nose is highly educated. It’s small, regular, wide

between my eyes, delicate at the chamois-skin end of my nostrils; the

lightest touch of a blade of grass, the shadow of smoke tickles and

makes it sneeze. It doesn’t bother about distinguishing the scent of

moles from that of–hares, did you say? But it delights in the trace

left by a cat in a hedge … I’ve a charming nose. She calls it, “his

pretty little nose of cotton velvet.” Since my eyes opened on this world

I’ve not known the day that someone has not uttered a truthful flattery

on the subject of my nose. Now yours–is a rough-grained truffle. What

makes you move it so ridiculously? At this very moment.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I’m hungry and I don’t hear the plates.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

… your truffle of a nose works up and down and makes another wrinkle

in your irregular mug.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

She always says, “his square muzzle, his wrinkled truffle,” so tenderly

and so lovingly!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

… And you think of nothing but eating.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

It’s your empty stomach that scolds and complains and wants to quarrel

with me.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I’ve a charming stomach.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

But no, it’s your nose that’s charming. You just said so.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

My stomach too. There’s none more fastidious, more whimsical, stronger

and at the same time more delicate. It digests the bones of sole, but

meat that’s the least bit tainted literally turns it.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Literally’s the word. You have active indigestion.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Yes, the whole house is affected by it. From the very first qualms I’m

in terrible distress; the earth gives way under me, my eyes dilate, I

hurriedly swallow quantities of salty saliva; involuntary, ventriloquial

cries escape me, my sides bulge out–

 

TOBY-DOG, (disgusted)

 

I say, if it’s all the same to you, tell me the rest after dinner.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I’m hungry. Where can He be?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

He’s there, in his study, scratching paper.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

He’s always doing that. It’s a game. Two-Paws play at the same thing for

hours and hours. I’ve often tried to scratch paper gently, as He does,

but the pleasure doesn’t last long. I prefer newspapers torn into shreds

that rustle and fly … There is a little pot of dark-violet, muddy

water on his table. I never sniff it without horror, since the day a

rather foolish curiosity made me dip my paw into it. This very paw, so

strong and aristocratic, (the tufts of useless hair you see between my

toes proclaim the purity of my race) this very paw bore a bluish stain

for eight days and the degrading odor of rusty steel clung to it a long

time after …

 

TOBY-DOG

 

What’s the little pot for?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

He drinks from it doubtless.

 

(Silence.)

 

TOBY-DOG

 

She’s not back yet! Heaven grant She isn’t lost, as I was one day in the

streets of Paris!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I’m hungry!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I’m hungry! What are we going to eat this evening?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I saw a chicken. It made a silly noise and dropped red blood on the

kitchen floor, soiling it far more than I ever did, or you either–yet

no one whipped it. But Emily put it in the fire, to teach it a lesson. I

licked up some of the blood …

 

TOBY-DOG, (yawns)

 

Chicken … it makes my mouth water. She’ll say: “Here Toby, bones!” and

throw me the carcass.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

How badly you speak! He says: “Little chicken bones, Kiki, little

chicken bones!”

 

TOBY-DOG, (surprised)

 

But no really it’s, “Here, Toby, bones!” that She says.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

He speaks better than She does.

 

TOBY-DOG, (incompetent)

 

Ah?… Tell me, do birds taste anything like chicken?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (whose eyes light up suddenly)

 

No … they’re far better, they’re alive. Ha, the quivering bird, the

warm feathers, the delicious little brain … you feel it all crackling

between your teeth!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Oh, you make me sick! It always worries me to see tiny animals like that

flutter about … and birds are dear, good little things.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (dryly)

 

Don’t you believe it, they’re only good to eat. They’re noisy, stupid

creatures, infatuated with themselves, made to be eaten. … You know

the two jays?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Not very well.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

They live in the little wood. When I walk by they laugh

a sardonic “tiac, tiac,” because I wear a bell at my neck. In vain do I

hold my head very stiffly and put my paws down very gently, my bell

tinkles and the two creatures scream from the top of the fir-tree. Just

let me get hold of them, one of these days!…

 

(He lays back his ears and raises the hair along his back.)

 

TOBY-DOG, (pensive)

 

Positively, Cat, there are times when I don’t know

you. We are talking quietly and suddenly you bristle like a

bottle-brush; or we happen to be playing amicably together and I bark

behind your back–bow, wow-wow!–just for fun; then,–one doesn’t know

why, perhaps because my nose has grazed the long hairs on your legs

you’re so proud of–you become all at once a savage beast, spitting

fire, and charging at me like a strange dog. Don’t you think that shows

a bad character?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (mysterious, eyes half-closed)

 

Not at all. It’s character, simply. A Cat’s character. In such moments

of irritability, I’m keenly alive to the humiliation of my present

state, and that of my race.

 

I can remember a time when priests in long, linen tunics, bending low,

spoke to us and humbly tried to comprehend our chanted utterance. Know,

dog, that it is not we who have changed! It may be, there are days

when I’m more myself, when everything offends me, and justly; a brusque

gesture, a vulgar laugh, the banging of a door, your odor, your

inconceivable impudence when you touch me, or encircle me, jumping and

yelping …

 

TOBY-DOG, (patiently, to himself)

 

He’s having one of his attacks.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (with a start)

 

Did you hear?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Yes, the kitchen door, and the door into the dining-room … and now the

drawer where the spoons are kept. At last! At last! aaah! (He yawns.)

I can’t stand this any longer. Where is She? I don’t hear the gravel

creaking … night’s coming on!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (ironically)

 

Go find her.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

And how about Him? He usually worries, and comes in asking, “Where is

She?” But He’s scratching still. He must have drunk up all the

violet-colored water in the muddy little pot by this time. (TOBY

_carefully stretches his legs.) Ah! I feel lively … and empty. We’re

going to eat soon! Just smell the good kitchen-smells that come under

the door!… Let’s play!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

No.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Run, I’ll chase, without touching you.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

No.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Why not?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I don’t want to.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Oh! but you’re tiresome! Watch me jump and arch my neck like a little

horse and try to catch my stubby tail. Now I turn ’round and

’round–and–heavens! the whole room spins!–It’s–st–opping–now.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Insufferable creature!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Insufferable yourself! Look out, I’m going to run at you as She does,

when She’s merry, crying “Ha, cat!”

 

(KIKI-THE-DEMURE, _without rising, puts up a paw bristling with claws

and spotted underneath with rose color and black; it looks like a thorny

flower_.)

 

If you dare!…

 

TOBY-DOG, (in a frenzy)  I do dare! Bow-wow-wow! Ha, cat! ha, cat!

 

(KIKI-THE-DEMURE, _exasperated, gives a spring and hangs on the

table-cloth, slowly dragging it down. A lamp and various things fall to

the ground. Terrified silence. The two animals, crouching under an

arm-chair, await punishment.)

 

HE appears at the study door, holding a pen, like a bit, between his

teeth.

 

Thunder and blitzen! What is it now? This cursed menagerie has

overturned everything! Where’s your Mistress? What a place this is to be

sure! Dinner never on time!… (etc., etc., etc….)

 

(The two guilty ones, who well know the harmlessness of such outbursts,

laugh quietly to themselves and lying flat as bed-room slippers, look at

one another through the fringes of the chair. The garden gate opens_.

 

SHE comes in carrying a basket, full of fragrant plums; her hands are

sticky from their sugariness, her hair tumbled. SHE stands horrified,

before the disaster.)

 

SHE

 

Oh! They’ve been fighting again, have they? (Without conviction.) Dear

me, what nasty creatures! I’ll give them away! I’ll sell them!!–I’ll

kill them!!! (But the cat and dog, groveling in exaggerated humility,

crawl up to her, and speak together.)

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Purr-rr-rr!…There you are!…It’s very late …Toby attacked me; it’s

he who’s broken everything. I believe he went mad from hunger…. You

smell good, of grass and the twilight. You sat down on some wild thyme.

Come!…Tell your Master to carry me on his shoulder–the meat will be

overdone, I’m afraid. You’ll carve the chicken very quickly, won’t you,

and you’ll keep the browned skin for me? If you wish I’ll stretch out my

paw like a spoon, which knows how to take up the littlest morsels, and

carry them to my mouth with that human gesture that makes you laugh

so–you and He…. Come!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Hiii … hiii … there you are at last! I’m so unhappy when

you’re away. You banished me … you didn’t love me … The lamp fell

down all by itself … Come! I’m awfully hungry, but I’ll gladly go

without dinner, if you’ll promise to take me with you always wherever

you go … yes, even out in the twilight, though it makes me sad, I’ll

willingly follow you there … my nose close, close to the hem of your

dress….

 

SHE, (disarmed and quite indifferent to the cataclysm)

 

Do look how pretty they are!

 

SHE IS ILL

 

 A bed-room in the country-house; autumnal sunshine filters in through

closed blinds. SHE lies on a couch, apparently asleep, dressed in a

white woolen gown. KIKI-THE-DEMURE makes his toilet on a narrow

console-table_. TOBY-DOG, on the carpet, in a sphinx-like attitude,

watches HER and at the same time, is attentive to the words of his

master, who is leaving the room on tip-toe.

 

HE, (in a very low voice to the two animals)

 

Sh! Don’t wake her. Be good. I’m going downstairs, to write.

 

(He closes the door noiselessly after him.) 

 

TOBY-DOG, (to

KIKI-THE-DEMURE)

 

What did He say?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I don’t know. Something vague. Directions, like: stay there, good-by.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

He said, “Sh!” I’m not making any noise.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (ironically)

 

They’re astonishing! They say “no noise,” and thereupon walk off with a

step a deaf rat could hear two miles away.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Some truth in that. (He looks at the sleeping figure on the

couch.) Her face still looks very small. She’s asleep. If you jump down

from that table don’t land with a big thump.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (stiffly)

 

Ah, you’re teaching me to jump now, are you? Oh, worthy counselor!

(quoting) Put a beggar in your barn and he’ll make himself your heir.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

What’s that?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Nothing. An Oriental proverb. If I wished, dog, to disturb the silence

of this room I’d be clever enough to choose a rickety chair; its feet

would pound out a regular tic-toc, tic-toc, tic-toc, in time with my

tongue as I washed myself. It’s a means I’ve invented to gain my

liberty. Tic-toc, tic-toc, says the chair. She happens to be reading or

writing, is easily irritated, and cries, “Be quiet, Kiki!” But I go on

unconscious of any wrong-doing; tic-toc, tic-toc. She jumps up

distracted and opens the door wide for me: slowly, like one exiled, I

cross its threshold and once outside, laugh to find myself so superior

to them all.

 

TOBY-DOG, (who hasn’t been listening, yawns)

 

What a sad week, eh? I don’t know what it is to take a walk any more. I

haven’t taken any pleasure in eating either, since She fell from her

horse.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Heavens, one can love people and care for one’s stomach too.

 

TOBY-DOG, (with ardor)

 

Not I! When She screamed and fell from her horse, I felt the heart

crack inside me.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

That affair couldn’t have ended otherwise. One doesn’t go climbing up on

a horse! People don’t do such things! I see nothing but extravagance

around me. To begin with, a horse is a fearful monstrosity.

 

TOBY-DOG, (indignantly)

 

Did one ever hear the like!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (peremptoril)

 

I happen to have had the opportunity of making a very close study of

one….

 

TOBY-DOG, (aside)

 

He makes me laugh!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

… It was the farmer’s horse that grazed in the meadow. My life, for a

whole month, was embittered by that roving mountain. Lying under the

hedge, I could see his heavy feet disfiguring the ground. I breathed

his vulgar odor and heard his strident cry shaking the air. Once when he

was eating the lower twigs of the hedge, I saw myself–the whole of

me–reflected in one of his eyes! I fled … and from that day my hatred

was so strong that I wildly hoped to annihilate the monster. I’ll go up

to him, thought I, I’ll plant myself firmly in front of him, and the

desire of his death will be so strong in my eyes, that perhaps, he’ll

die when he meets my look …

 

TOBY-DOG, (diverted)

 

And then?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (continuing)

 

I carried out my plan. But the horse I had waited for in fear and

trembling, just blew through his nostrils a long jet of foul-smelling

vapor, and I fell back in atrocious convulsions.

 

TOBY-DOG, (Inwardly writhing with laughter)

 

You don’t exaggerate?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (serious)

 

Never! And She must needs go climbing on a horse’s back, holding fast to

four cords, one leg this side and the other that. … Strange

aberration!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

We don’t think alike, Cat. For me, the horse is, after man, the most

beautiful thing in the world.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (_vexed_)  And where do I come in?

 

TOBY-DOG, (evasive and courteous)

 

Oh, you’re a _Cat_. But a horse, and with Her on his back! What a

beautiful picture they make, high up in the blue air! To gaze on it, I

have to throw my head ‘way back on my thick neck. The horse lends her

his speed. Now at last, She can race with me when I go off on a mad run.

Sometimes I’m ahead, ears floating back and tongue hanging out like a

little flag–the angular shadow of the horse on the road in front. If I

follow her, a fragrant dust blows back at me. It smells of warm leather,

moist beast, and a little of her own perfume too. The road runs under

me, like a ribbon that someone is pulling. Oh, what joy it is to be so

little and so swift, running along in the shadow of a great galloping

horse! When we halt, I pant like a motor, between the legs of my friend,

who snorts and in the kindliest way puts down his fettered mouth and

sprinkles me …

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I know, I know! The horse “with long mane ashake; hoofs, heavy with

tumult; eyes, glimmering white.” …You are the last of the

Romanticists.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I’m not the last of the Romanticists. I’m a little bull-dog that came

into the world one evening, almost under the feet of a chestnut mare.

She didn’t lie down all night long, she was so afraid of crushing my

mother and her puppies. A little bull-dog like me is almost the child of

a horse. I lay in the warm straw against her warm flanks, I drank out of

the stable pails. I used to get up when I heard the sound of hoofs

coming in and I took an interest in the washing of the carriages, until

the day She came and picked me out–me, the best-looking, the most

snub-nosed, the stockiest of the litter. (Sighing.) And there She

lies, so dreadfully quiet! It makes me sad to see her with that little

cloth still ’round her ankle. You remember when He picked her up in his

arms? He held her–and She’s a lot bigger than I am–just as if She were

a little dog that he was going to drown….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (_bitterly_)

 

I remember. I was at the top of the stairs irritated by the noise, but

curious. He came up and pushed me aside with his foot, as he would have

done if a piece of furniture had happened to be in his way.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Is that why you stayed away from this room–her room–for three whole

days?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (hesitating)

 

Yes … and for another reason too.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

What reason?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Because of the fever.

 

TOBY-DOG, (carried away by his love)

 

Her fever smells better than other peoples’ good health!

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (shrugging his shoulders)

 

And they talk of a dog’s scent! Truly the convictions of Two-Paws are

based upon childish fables. You know of course that fever–

 

TOBY-DOG, (in a low tone)

 

Makes one afraid, yes.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (in a low tone)

 

Makes one afraid, gives one cold shivers down one’s back, distaste for

everything and uneasiness all over. One hesitates on the threshold of a

room where there is fever, searching fearfully some hidden thing…. She

was in bed and burning hot. I looked at her a long time, ready to run,

saying to myself: “Who can be with her there–behind the curtains–who

is it stifles and torments her and makes her moan in her sleep?”

TOBY-DOG, (frightened retrospectively)

 

There wasn’t anyone, was there?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

No one but He–and the fever. He, the most intelligent of Two-Paws, was

leaning over her listening to her breathing, dimly aware of an invisible

presence. I overcame my aversion and looked at her. I was melancholy and

jealous. He must love her, thought I, to go so near and defend her, to

kiss her, imbued as She is with the evil charm. Would He hold me to his

heart, if I–

 

TOBY-DOG, (imperatively)

 

‘Sh!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

What?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

She stirred.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

No.

 

TOBY-DOG, (alert, looking at her)

 

No … She didn’t stir, but her thoughts did. I felt them. Continue.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (who has recovered his equanimity)

 

I don’t know now what we were talking about.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

The fev–

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (quickly)

 

Enough. Don’t recall it. Fever is the beginning of the thing one never

speaks of.

 

TOBY-DOG, (shivering)

 

Yes, I know…. I don’t like an animal that can’t move. You know what I

mean …

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (laughing cruelly)

 

Nor do I. I can only eat live birds, and as for the tiny mice, I prefer

to swallow them, squeak and all….

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Why does it amuse you to horrify me? You’ve a certain vanity that I

can’t understand. It consists in exaggerating cruelties that are already

real enough. You call me the last of the Romanticists, aren’t you the

first of the Sadics?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Oh dog, poisoned with literature! An eternal misunderstanding separates

  1. “I’m a little bull-dog,” you replied just now, with that stupid

sincerity which disarms me. Let me say to you in my turn, “I am a Cat.”

The name is sufficient dispensation. There is in me a hatred of pain and

ugliness, an overmastering detestation of all that offends my sight, or

my reason. When the concierge’s cat dragged around his wounded paw, I

threw myself upon him, fired by a righteous anger, and until he stopped

his whining I–

 

TOBY-DOG, (supplicatingly)

 

Don’t tell me!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (getting angry)

 

Understand then, once and for

all–if the pale recital of what I did upsets you–that I wished to

abolish, to annihilate in that bleeding animal the suggestion of my own

inevitable death …

 

(They are quiet for a little while.)

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (shuddering)

 

This confinement does us no good. I would gladly go out into the soft

sunshine and do “the bayadeer’s dance,” as He calls it, on the dry

gravel among the leaves, which look like fried potatoes. Everything is

yellow out-of-doors. My green eyes would reflect the golden sun and the

flaming woods and so turn yellow too…. Now I’ll think only of what is

joyous and yellow, the beautiful, cold Autumn, the rosy dawn that leaves

its colors in the foliage of the cherry-tree … Come, let’s prove the

strength of our legs and enjoy to the full the consciousness that youth

has only just begun for us … Who knows, death may never come …

 

(He jumps down from the console-table, without making the least

noise.)

 

TOBY-DOG, (stopping him)

 

What are you going to do?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Scratch at the door, and strike up the “Hymn of the Sequestered Cat.”

 

TOBY-DOG, (indicating the figure on the couch)

 

And doubtless waken Her?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (stubbornly)

 

I’ll sing in a very small voice.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

And you’ll scratch with your tiniest claws, I suppose? Stay here

quietly, He commanded it when He went away.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (loftily)

 

Does He command me? He beseeches me, and that’s my only reason for

obeying him.

 

(He sits down again, apparently resigned, and yawns slowly.)

 

TOBY-DOG, (yawning)

 

You make me yawn.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

On the contrary, it’s you who bore me. (Temptingly.) You’re thinking

what a good thing freedom is, aren’t you?… A hen has probably escaped

from the chicken yard–what sport you’re missing!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

You really think so?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I said: probably…. Have you finished exploring that rabbit’s hole?

 

TOBY-DOG, (disturbed)

 

No … it’s so very deep! I almost buried myself, hollowing it out

yesterday. The earth that stuck to my muzzle had some of the animal’s

fur in it….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (more and more satanic)

 

I suppose you’ll finish that to-morrow … or some other day. TOBY-DOG,

(sadly)

 

Why not say next year, while you’re about it?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

What’s the matter with you? Your shiny black lip hangs down an ell, and

your froggy eyes glitter with tears. Are you crying?

 

TOBY-DOG, (sniffling)

 

No …

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Poor, sensitive heart, console yourself. You’ll have your pleasures and

your friends again. At this very moment the farmer’s dog is crunching

bones in the kitchen … to beguile the long wait for you.

 

TOBY-DOG, (overcome)

 

Oh! oh! the farmer’s dog!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

She’s not alone either; that great dane, the watch-dog, keeps her

company.

 

TOBY-DOG, (rebellious)

 

That’s not true!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Go see.

 

TOBY-DOG, (after one bound toward the door) 

 

No, that would make noise.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

You’re right, it would.

 

(A mournful silence follows. TOBY curls himself up like a turban and

closes his eyes, because he feels like crying. His breath comes in

little sobs.)

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (absently, in a low, monotonous chant.)

 

The dog … the little dog … the bones, the little dog … the rabbit

… the great dane, the rabbit’s hole …the little dog, the mutton

bones …the rabbit’s skin …

 

TOBY-DOG, at first endures the torture heroically; then his nerves

betray him and lifting his head he howls–the long plaint of the

abandoned dog_.

 

Wooo–oo–oooooo!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (from the top of the console-table)

 

Will you be quiet!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Wooooooooo!!–oo–oooo–oo!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (aside)

 

That’s it! That’s it!

 

(SHE wakes bewildered, still captive of her dreams, while the Cat

listens patiently to the approaching step on the stairs, which means

liberty for him and punishment for TOBY-DOG.)

 

 

 

THE FIRST FIRE

 

 

Because it is raining and an October wind chases wet leaves through the

air, She has lit the first fire of the season in the great

chimney-place. KIKI-THE-DEMURE and TOBY-DOG, in ecstasy, side by

side on a corner of the warm hearth-stone, contemplate the flame with

dazzled eyes and address their meditations to it.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (looking very like a cushion; no paws visible)

 

Oh Fire, how splendid you are! You have come back more beautiful than my

memory of you! You are hotter and nearer than the sun! The pupils of my

eyes contract in your light, their lids half close, modestly hiding the

joy I feel at seeing you again, and my inscrutable countenance shows but

the semblance of a thought painted there in fawn color and black….

Your crackling drowns the soft sound of my purr. Don’t snap too much. Be

merciful, O inconstant Fire! Don’t sputter sparks on my fur. Allow me to

adore you without fear …

 

TOBY-DOG, (half baked; eyes blood-shot; tongue pendant)

 

Fire! Divine Fire! Here you are again! I am still very young, but I

remember how awe-struck I was the first time Her hand woke you in this

same chimney-place. The sight of a god as mysterious as you are was most

impressive to a baby-dog just out of the maternal stable. Oh Fire, I’ve

not quite gotten over my fear! Hiii!… You spit at me, something red

that smarts … I’m afraid … Well, it’s gone now. How beautiful you

are, Fire! Out from your ruddy center shoot tatters and shreds of gold,

sudden spurts of blue, and smoke that twists upwards and draws queer

shapes of beasts … Oh, but I’m hot! Gently, gently, sovereign Fire,

see how my truffle of a nose is drying up and cracking, and my ears–are

they not ablaze? I adjure thee with suppliant paw. I groan … ah … I

can endure it no longer!… (He turns away.) Nothing is ever perfect.

The east wind coming under the door nips my hind-legs. Well, it can’t be

helped! I’ll freeze behind if I must, provided I can adore you face to

face.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I am a Cat and therefore aware of all that you bring in your train, O

Fire! I foresee winter; its coming both troubles and pleases me. I’ve

already begun to thicken and embellish my fur-coat in its honor, the

darker stripes are becoming black, my white tippet swells into a

dazzling boa, and the fur on my belly surpasses in beauty anything that

has ever been seen. What shall I say of my tail, broad as a club, with

alternate rings of fawn-color and black, or of the sensitive, priceless

aigrettes which spring from my ears? My ear-rings She calls them….

What cat could resist me! Ah! the January nights, the serenades under a

frosty moon, the dignified wait on the pinnacle of a roof, the encounter

with a rival cat on the narrow top of a wall!… But I feel quite sure

of my superior strength. I’ll swish my tail, put back my ears, sniff

tragically as one does before vomiting, and then lift up my voice–its

modulations are infinite. I’ll make it strong enough to waken all the

sleeping Two-Paws. I’ll vociferate, I’ll whimper, pacing up and down the

garden, my body distended, my legs bent outward, feigning madness to

terrify the tom-cats!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I know something of the changes and pleasures you foretell, Fire–for

I’m a Dog. Already, it is raining in the garden. I suppose it’s raining

on the road too, and in the woods. The falling drops are not warm, as

they were in the summer storms when my truffle, gray with dust,

delighted in the damp smell that came from the west. The sky is troubled

and the wind has grown strong enough to blow my ears out straight, like

little flags. A sharp cry, such as I make when I beg, comes under the

door. You’ll be shining here every day, Fire; but I’ll have to suffer

for the right to worship you. For She’ll continue to wander about, her

head covered with the pointed hood which changes her so, that it

frightens me. She’ll put on wooden shoes too, and carelessly crush the

puddles, the little heaps of mud, and the weeping mosses. I’ll follow

her, since I’ve promised to do so my life long (and also because I

can’t help it), I’ll follow her, a forlorn and piteous object, shining

wet, my belly covered with mud, until, through very excess of misery

I’ll forget, and ramble in the coppice, interested in every undulation

of the grass, eager to revive the drowned scents in it…. She’ll become

communicative when she sees me hurrying along and we’ll talk: “Ha,

Toby-Dog,” she’ll say, “ha! ha! a bird! There on the branch! Look! you

booby! Now he’s gone.” She’ll condole with me then, until I’m on the

verge of tears. “Oh, my little black boy, my sympathetic cylinder, my

batrachian love, how cold you are, how wet, how sad, how you suffer,

oooo!” And before I’m able to judge of the sincerity of her pity, the

tears will overflow, my throat contract, and we’ll wail in unison….

 

Ah, but what delirious joy when the capricious wooden shoes turn again

toward the house, hurrying to rejoin Him whom we’ve left scratching

paper! They don’t go half fast enough for me then! I jump ’round her,

barking with delight to see the hill diminishing, our climb at an end,

to smell the good stable smell and that of burning wood as we near the

house. At last you shine forth, O Fire, O Sun, through the misty window

pane!… I shall hardly have crossed the threshold when an overpowering

sleepiness will dash me to the floor in front of you–you, who will

reduce the mud on my belly to fine powder and change the water of the

roads to smoky vapor.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE 

 

A delightful glow penetrates my coat to the silky

down, the impalpable colorless threads which protect my delicate skin. I

feel myself swelling like a cloud. I must quite fill the room. My

whiskers seem charged with electricity–a sign that I will sleep–but

for the time being, the contemplation of your splendor and thoughts of

the coming season keep me awake. It’s raining. I shall not go out. I’ll

wait for the sun, or the dry wind, or better still, the frost. Ah, how

the biting cold stimulates me! It lashes my lungs with handfuls of

needles, and makes a bonbon glace of my charming nose. The rollicking

frost-sprite will blow his madness into me. She’ll laugh and He too,

leaving his scratching-paper, to see me vie with the leaves in bounds,

leaps and wild whirlings, resembling a floating flurry of gray smoke

rather than a Cat. To the top of a tree! Down again! Then seven turns

after my tail! A perilous backward leap! A vertical jump, with aerial

_danse du ventre_! Girations, sneezes, careering from the real to the

dream, until in terror of myself, I come to a sudden stop…. Everything

turns before my eyes. I’m the center of a strange, spinning world … In

my bewilderment (half-feigned) I’ll make a little moo, like a cow, which

will bring them both running to me,–She laughing, and He fearing

something wrong. That will suffice to sober me, and with a bold front

and noble mien, I’ll regain this cushion near your altar, O Fire!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

This hearth-stone burns the horny pads of my feet. What shall I do?

Move away? never! I’ll toast to death rather than give up this

redoubtable bliss. Heaven prevent Her coming, now! I’ve reason to fear

the lash of the whip, and the magic words which mean exile: “Toby!

that’s stupid! I forbid you to roast yourself. You’ll have sore eyes,

and catch cold when you go out.” That’s what She says, while I regard

her with a stupid look of utter devotion. But She’s never duped by it. I

hear noises upstairs, her step coming and going … I wonder is her

vagabond fancy wearied at last? This morning She whistled to me and in

my haste to obey her, I rolled to the bottom of the stairs–being low

and thick-set, with short legs, no nose, and almost no tail to balance

  1. Well, we set off. The last apples were rocking to-and-fro on swaying

branches. My happy voice, a joyful shout from her now and then, the vain

crowing of the cocks, the creaking of wagons on the road–all these

sounds floated on a bluish, cottony, suffocating fog. She took me far,

and many marvelous things happened on our way. We met terrible giant

dogs. My proud bearing seemed to exasperate them, but I kept them back

with a single look (besides, a closed iron gate rendered them

powerless). I chased a rabbit into the thicket, though She cried loudly:

“I forbid you to touch the little animal!” … My mother certainly gave

me swift legs but they’re short, and the white end of the little beast

kept far ahead. A bush covered with red berries detained us a very long

time. She sees no objection to eating strange things and I can

truthfully say that I always taste everything She offers me, for I’ve

great faith in her. But this morning–“Eat, Toby, nice berries. Eat!

here are some rose-hips. Oh stupid! how can you not dote upon their

delicious flavor? I assure you these are comfits of Mother Nature’s

making.” In deference to her, I chewed a reddish ball; there were some

rough hairs on it–put there doubtless by her teasing hand–and what was

bound to happen, did happen … Khaha! My throat rejected the nasty

“rosehip.” …

 

But listen, Fire, what I saw after that, passes _my_ understanding. It

was in a wood where stiff leaves rustled. Had She carried you under her

cloak, or do gods like you come at her bidding? I saw her hands pile up

the wood, arrange flat stones in some mysterious fashion, and then,

Fire, I saw the sparks flash and your joyous soul palpitate, grow big,

soar naked and rose-colored, veil itself in smoke, snap noisily (for

yours is a belligerent soul), agonize–and disappear…. The world is

full of incomprehensible things…. Last of all, on our way back, I

discovered near the park gate–saw it before She did–one of those

invincible beasts called hedge-hogs, the mere sight of which brings us

dogs to bay. What madness to realize that an animal is hiding under that

pin-cushion and laughing at me, and that I can do nothing, _nothing_! I

implored her–She can do nearly everything–to pluck him for me. She

began by turning him over with a little stick, as if he were a horse

chestnut. “Astonishing,” said She, “I can’t find the top of him!” Then

She took one of his spines between two fingers and carried him home that

way–I dancing behind her–and put him in her work basket. After a while

the horrid beast unrolled himself, stuck out a pig-like nose, opened two

shiny rat’s eyes and raised himself, holding fast by his little paws,

which were exactly like a mole’s. “How pretty he is,” She cried, “a real

little black pig.” I stood near the table groaning with covetousness,

but She didn’t pluck him for me, not then, or ever, and perhaps the cook

ate him…. This cat’s a dissembler. Maybe he … But away with care!

I’m too excitable! I mustn’t let myself think of these things. Life is

beautiful, O Fire, since you illumine it … I’m going to sleep …

Watch over my unconscious body … I’m going … to sleep….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

One would think me asleep because the narrow slit made by my parted

eyelids, seems but the continuation of that velvety line, that bold

crayon-stroke, a sort of Oriental make-up, uniting my eyelids and my

ears. But I’m awake, keeping watch like a yogi, in a state of blissful

ankylosis, conscious of all that’s going on around me…. My privileged

eyes, Fire, do but behold you better when they’re closed and I can count

the various essences you mingle in a sparkling bouquet. Here in a flame

of mauve-color and blue, glows the soul of a branch of arbor-vitae.

Yesterday it waved a plume-like shadow on the garden walk … To-day,

with its delicate twigs, it is but a writhing skeleton. She cut it with

one stroke of the pruning scissors. Why? That it might breathe out its

fervent blue and mauve-colored soul? For like me, She delights in your

dance, Fire, and chastises you when you’re quiet, with a stern pair of

tongs. Sitting there with her head bent and her arms hanging along her

sides, what does She read, I wonder, in that fiery rose which is the

labyrinthian heart of you?… She knows a great deal certainly, but not

as much as a Cat.

 

That thick tear on the log represents the anguish of a very old

fir-tree, killed by the assiduous ivy. Just a short time ago I saw it

struck down, lying on the grass, its foliage looking like a beautiful

head of reddish hair. I saw the axe that felled it, too. Its trunk weeps

tears of resin, which trail along in drivel, then change to heavy,

creeping flame. But the dry red locks break into lines of living fire,

whistle and shoot innumerable jets of many colors underneath a broad

gold wave that rolls voluptuously….

 

Ah, love … hunting … fighting…. It’s your light, Fire, that

discovers these passions in the depths of my being. It’s time the little

winged creatures searching withered berries came near. I’ll have them

soon! I’ll watch, motionless in the brushwood, wildly wishing that the

earth itself might hide me, the muscles of my legs twitching with desire

to make the spring, my chin trembling…. Then, if I don’t betray my

hiding-place by an irrepressible quavering, frightening them away in one

great commotion of wings and rustling branches!… But no, I’m master of

myself. One bound at exactly the right moment and my feeble prey is

panting under me. Oh, the ridiculous effort of a weak animal–its tiny

ineffectual claws and pointed wings beating against my face! My jaws

will open to the splitting point and my perfect nose wrinkle

ferociously, for the joy of holding a living, terrified body. I’ll know

the intoxication of battle! I’ll prance victoriously, shaking my head to

torment the bird a little, for it faints away too soon between my teeth!

Terrible to see I’ll gallop towards the house, singing in a strangled

voice, without loosening my grip, for He must stop his scratching to

admire me, and She must give chase with distracted cries: “Wicked,

savage cat! Drop that bird! drop that bird!! Oh, I beg of you! It hurts

me so….” Ha! She never can have hunted….

 

I intend to astonish the world, Fire, during Winter’s reign. The Cat

that lives at the farm (She says the farmer’s cat, while we say the

Cat’s farmer), the fellow that’s so badly dressed, disfigured by the

nose of a weasel, and seems to walk on stilts, his legs are so

long–well, he sharpens his claws and regards me the while. Patience!

He’s strong, brutal, irresolute, and utterly lacks distinction. The

slamming of a door terrifies him; he puts back his ears and flies,

panic-stricken. Still, I’ve seen him kill a good-sized hen, without

making any fuss about it. For a glance of the young cat’s deceitful

eyes, or right of precedence on the garden wall, for a word of double

meaning, for nothing, but the fun of the thing–I’ll take my chances

with him! He’ll learn that a mysterious silence can demoralize the enemy

quite as effectively as murderous cries. The low garden wall seems to me

a convenient place. Let him try his hoarse miauling in all possible

keys! May his unsightly face, and more hideous body dislocate itself in

a deceitful ataxia (for they’re still at these old tricks)! I’ll be

proof against it all, and merely flash the green magnetism of my

magnificent eyes upon him. His brows will fall under their persistent

insult, a shudder will run along his spine, he’ll do a few steps of our

ancient war dance–forward, back, forward again. But I’ll

stand–motionless as the statue of a Cat. The green witchcraft of my

gaze will strike terror and madness into my rival and soon I’ll see him

writhe, utter false cries, and, as a last resource, try to balance

himself on the nape of his neck, like a forked pear tree, only to roll

over shamefully into the potato field….

 

All that will come to pass, Fire, exactly as I’ve told it. To-day the

future dawns in your new flame…. I’m growing drowsy…. My purr and

your crackling are ceasing together…. I see you still and already I

catch glimpses of my dreams…. The silky sound of the rain against the

window is soft as a caress, and the water-pipe on the roof sobs low like

a pigeon….

 

Don’t go out during my nap, Fire. Remember, you’re the guardian of my

august repose–that delicate death, known as a Cat’s sleep….

 

 

 

THE STORM

 

 

A suffocating summer’s day in the country. The blinds of the house are

half closed. Not a sound is heard from within; not a murmur from the

parched garden, where even the sensitive leaves of the mimosa hang

motionless.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE  and TOBY-DOG begin to feel uncomfortably conscious of the coming storm, which is yet but a slate-blue plinth thickly painted at the bottom of the dull blue sky-wall.

 

TOBY-DOG, (restlessly lying first on one side, then on the other)

 

No use! I can’t be comfortable. What does this heat mean anyway? I must be

sick. It began at breakfast; I didn’t like the meat and sniffed

disdainfully at my dog-biscuit. Something awful is going to happen. I

haven’t done anything wrong that I know of–my conscience is clear–and

yet, I’m suffering. There lies my chum, shivering and unable to sleep. I

know by his quick breathing that he feels just as I do…. I say, Cat?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (irritably, in a low tone)

 

Be quiet!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

What? You’re listening to some noise?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

No! Heavens, no! Don’t mention noise. The mere sound of your voice

makes the skin on my back go in waves like the sea.

 

TOBY-DOG, (frightened)

 

Are you going to die?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I hope not. I’ve a sick headache. Can’t you see the arteries throbbing

under the almost hairless skin of my temples–the transparent, bluish

skin that denotes a thoroughbred? It’s atrocious! The veins on my

forehead are like writhing vipers, and I don’t know _what_ gnome forges

in my brain! Oh, be quiet! Or at least speak so low that the coursing

of my agitated blood may drown the sound of your voice….

 

TOBY-DOG

 

But it’s this very silence that oppresses me. I tremble and don’t know

why. I long for the familiar voice of the wind in the chimney, the

slamming of doors, the whispering of the garden, the poplars’ ceaseless

rustle–it always sounds like a trickling spring–

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

The uproar will come, soon enough.

 

TOBY-DOG  Do you think so? I wish He’d scratch paper. It’s an idle

habit but an honored one. And see how listless She is, there in her

wicker chair. Their silence frightens me more than anything. She seems

asleep, but I can see her eyelashes move and the tips of her fingers,

too. She’s forgetting to play with the little balls of thread and

doesn’t sing, or whistle. She suffers just as we do…. Do you think

this can be the end of the world, Cat?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

No. It’s a storm. Heavens! how uncomfortable I am! If I could only get

out of my skin, cast off this fleece which is smothering me, fling

myself naked as a skinned mouse into a fresher atmosphere! Oh Dog, you

cannot see the sparks that make every separate hair on my body crackle,

but I feel them. Don’t come near! A blue flame is going to shoot out of

me….

 

TOBY-DOG, (shuddering)

 

Things are coming to an awful pass! (He drags himself to the porch.)

What have they done to the out-of-doors? Look! the trees are all blue

and the grass glistens like a sheet of water. What mournful sunlight! It

shines white on the slate roofs, and the little houses over there on the

hill look like brand new tombstones. A heavy odor, like bitter almond,

creeps from the white bell-shaped blossoms of the daturas, and makes me

feel sick and faint. Far away, some smoke, heavy as the perfume of the

daturas, goes slowly up in a straight line and falls again–like a

broken aigrette…. But come and see for yourself!

 

(KIKI-THE-DEMURE walks falteringly to the porch.)

 

TOBY-DOG

 

My word, you’re changed too, Cat! You look as if you were starving,

your face is so drawn. Your fur is plastered down in some places and

sticking up in others; gives you the expression of a weasel that had

tumbled into oil.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Don’t let that worry you! I’ll regain my dignity–if ever another day

dawns for us. To-day, I drag myself around unwashed, uncombed, like a

woman out of love with love, and life….

 

TOBY-DOG

 

You say such distressing things. I think I’ll whine and call for help.

Perhaps I’d better go to Her, and look in her face for the comfort you

refuse me. But She seems asleep now, in that wicker chair, and how can I

read my fate in her eyes, when their lids are down. I’ll lick her hand

very respectfully and ever so lightly! That will wake her and oh, may

her first caress drive away the evil charm!

 

(He licks the hand hanging at the side of the chair.)

 

SHE, (with a scream)  Heavens! how you frightened me! Was there ever

such a ninny as this Dog? There!…

 

(SHE administers a smart rap on the nose. TOBY’S nerves give way and

he howls loud and long.)

 

SHE

 

Quiet! Not a word I say! Out of my sight! I don’t know what’s the

matter, but I hate you! And that Cat sitting there, looking at me, like

a bump on a log!…

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (bristling)

 

If She dares to touch me, I’ll devour her!

 

(Just at this dangerous crisis a low rumbling is heard, distant and

then near. Impossible to tell whether it comes from the horizon, or

arises in the house itself. All three lose interest in the quarrel.

 

TOBY-DOG and KIKI-THE-DEMURE slink away, as if responding to a

signal, and seek shelter, one under the bookcase and the other under an

armchair_. SHE turns anxiously to the leaden-hued garden, and the great

violet bank of cloud, which of a sudden is riven by a blinding streak of

blue fire.)

 

SHE, TOBY-DOG, KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (all together)

 

Oh!

 

(A sudden crash shakes the windows, and instantly a great rush of wind

envelopes the house, with a noise as of flapping canvas:–all the garden

prostrates itself.)

 

SHE, (in anguish)

 

Heavens! The apples!

 

TOBY-DOG, (invisible)

 

I’ll let them cut my ears into strips rather than leave this

hiding-place!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (invisible)

 

I can’t help hearing, and it’s as if I saw everything that’s going on.

She hastens to close the windows. Someone is running on the stairs.

Another awful flame–and everything is falling in! Silence now…. I

wonder are they all dead? I’ll look through the fringes of the chair,

though it’s risking my life to do so. Ah, hailstones making holes in

the leaves! Here comes the rain, in silvery drops, wide apart, and so

heavy that the gravel wrinkles up when they fall.

 

SHE, (heart-broken)

 

I can hear the peaches falling, and the green nuts too!

 

(All three are silent. Rain; quivering streaks of lightning; hissing in

the pine-trees. The wind howls. A lull.)

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I’m not quite so afraid as I was. The sound of the rain relaxes my tired

nerves. I seem to feel its streaming warmth on my ears and the back of

my neck. Now the hubbub is further off! I can hear myself breathe. The

light coming under this bookcase, is brighter than it was. What is She

doing? I daren’t go out yet. If only the Cat would move! (He sticks

out his head, like a wary turtle. A flash of lightning makes him draw it

back again.) Ha! It’s beginning all over again. Rain by the bucketfuls

against the window-panes. Something in the chimney is trying to imitate

that far-away rumbling. Everything’s falling to pieces … and _She_

gave me a rap on the nose!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Drop by drop, a little brownish river is filtering under the loose

window-sash. It’s stretching out and out on the floor, winding its way

over to me. I’m so hot and thirsty, I’d like to lap up some of it. My

joints ache and my ears are tired of standing up like weather-cocks at

every crash. My jaws are still clenched with nervous fear. The seat of

this chair is too low; it annoys me, rubbing against the fur on my back.

However, it’s some comfort to be able to _think_ of such things–thanks

to the peace that’s descended on the house. The rain is falling quietly

and the wind has gone down, but the memory of the din still hums in my

ears. What can He be doing? The storm distresses him too. Why didn’t He

come forward to calm the raging elements? There She is, opening the

porch door. Isn’t it too soon?… No, for the hens are cackling like old

maids as they hop over the puddles. We’re going to have fine weather.

Oh, the adorable smell of wet leaves and earth refreshed! It’s so new,

so pure, I seem to breathe for the first time!

 

(He creeps stealthily to the porch.)

 

TOBY-DOG, (suddenly)

 

Um! How good! That smells like a walk! Things change so quickly one

hasn’t time to think. She’s opened the door? Let’s run! (He dashes

out.) Well! well! the garden has got back its own color again! A

warmish vapor moistens my rough-grained nose. I’m filled with the desire

to jump and run. The grass is reeking, shining wet. Horned snails are

feeling around in the pink gravel with the tips of their eyes, and

speckled black and white slugs embroider the wall with a silver ribbon.

Oh! what a beautiful green and gold beastie running out there in the

wet! Shall I catch it? Shall I scratch its metallic shell, until it

breaks with a little crackling sound? No. I’d rather stay near Her.

She’s leaning against the door, taking deep breaths and smiling quietly

to herself. I’m so happy! Something inside me feels grateful to the

whole world. The light is beautiful, and I’m quite sure that there’ll

never, never be another storm.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

I shan’t wait any longer; I’m going out. I’ll find dry places between

the puddles for my dainty paws to step on. An imperceptible thrill runs

through the streaming garden, making the jewels hung all about, tremble

and sparkle…. The slanting rays of the setting sun find their

reflection in my eyes which are spangled with green and gold. Down near

the horizon, where the sky is still unsettled, a glittering sword leaps

up and puts to flight the dark, fuming cloud-horses, that have been

galloping over our heads. Now the odor of the daturas rises and perfumes

all the air, mingled with that of lemon leaves, bruised by the hail.

The roses are crowned with midges. Oh sudden springtime! An involuntary

smile stretches the corners of my mouth. I’m going to play at tickling

my nostrils with the point of a sweet-smelling blade of grass, carefully

stretching my neck to avoid the falling drops. But I want Him to follow

and admire me. Will He not come out and enjoy himself with us?

 

(A voice is heard humming the motif of the Regensbogen: sol, si, re,

sol, la, si,–all flats. A door opens and closes again_. HE _appears

under the dripping foliage of vines and jasmine, framing the veranda,

and at the same moment, a rainbow is seen in the sky.)

 

 

A CALLER

 

 

(A winter’s afternoon, in Paris. The studio; a fire crackles gently in

the tower-shaped stove. TOBY-DOG and KIKI-THE-DEMURE, one on the

floor, the other on his own particular cushion, proceed with the minute

toilet which follows a long siesta. Peace reigns.)

 

TOBY-DOG

 

My nails grow faster here than in the country.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

It’s the contrary, with mine.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Really!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (bitterly)

 

Not to be wondered at! She clips them for the sake of the hangings …

Well! (Magniloquently), what can’t be cured must be endured.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

What are you going to do to-day?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Why … nothing.

 

TOBY-DOG, (ironically)

 

For a change I suppose.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE Pardon, to avoid change. What is this rage for change

that takes possession of you all? Change means destruction. Only that

which remains stationary is eternal.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I’m eternal then, these three hours past.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

But you’ve been out with Her, haven’t you? You came in like a whirlwind;

bells rang, clothes were shaken out, you were sneezing and laughing and

aureoled with icy air…. The end of her nose felt so cold when She

kissed me on the forehead. She always kisses me there, just over the

dark stripes forming the classic M, which She assures me stands for

miaou and for Minet, my name in French.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Yes … we had a fine run on the banks of the fortifications, and then

we went into a shop.

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

Is that amusing?

 

TOBY-DOG  Not often. There are a great many people crowded together.

I’m immediately seized with the fear of losing Her, and I stick close to

her heels, no matter what comes. Strange feet push and knock me about

and step on my paws. I yelp but the skirts all around stifle my

voice…. When we’re out of it, we both look as if we’d been

shipwrecked….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

May the gods preserve _me_ from anything of the sort! Here, the moments

have glided peacefully by. When She’s not in this house, there’s

nothing to hinder me; I employ the time as my system of hygiene

dictates. After my breakfast of rosy liver and milk, my kittenhood seems

to come back to me; I’m filled with a foolish gayety. I go over to him.

He’s rumpling big, blackish papers and welcomes me with a quiet smile;

we loll on the same divan, and revel in a few idle moments together.

Sometimes, with imperious paw, I tear the paper He holds like a screen

between us. It always seems to me the most desirable–the one that

crackles best. He cries out, and I throw myself on my back and wriggle

with joy in a sort of horizontal dance, He calls “the dance of the

bayadeer.” Then somehow, everything dwindles before my eyes, grows dim,

and far away; I want to rise and go back to my cushion, but dreams

already separate me from the world … Ah! blessed hour when you and She

disappear, when the house is at rest and takes a long breath. Soon I’m

in the depths of a dark, sweet sleep; my ears alone keep watch and turn

like sensitive antennas towards vague sounds of doors and bells …

 

(At this moment someone rings. TOBY-DOG and KIKI-THE-DEMURE start and change their positions. The Cat, sitting, encircles himself with his

fluffy tail. The Dog, in a sphinx-like attitude, lifts his head

boldly.)

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE

 

What’s that?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

A tradesman?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (shrugging his shoulders)

 

That’s not the kitchen bell. Perhaps it’s caller.

 

TOBY-DOG, (with a bound)

 

What luck! They’ll have tea and cakes! Come on!! Sugar, sugar! Little

cakes! Little cakes!!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (gloomily)

 

To see ladies who shriek, and put gloved hands on my back–hands covered

with dead skin?… ugh!

 

(Feminine voices are heard–Hers among them–and the clear tinkling of

a little bell; then the door opens and a very diminutive toy terrier

enters, alone. She’s black and tan, seems in love with herself, and

comes forward with a mincing step.)

 

THE LITTLE DOG, (voice way up in her head)

 

I’m the darling little dog, so pretty!

 

(TOBY is struck dumb with admiration and astonishment. KIKI,

indignant, has jumped on top of the piano and remains an unseen and

hostile spectator.)

 

THE LITTLE DOG, (astonished at not hearing the chorus of admiration

that everywhere greets her, is reciting–)

 

I’m the darling little dog, so pretty! I weigh only one pound, eleven

ounces, my collar is of gold, my ears of black satin, lined with shiny

rubber, my nails are polished like the beaks of little birds. (_Catching

sight of TOBY-DOG.) Oh!–someone–(silence). He’s rather

good-looking.

 

(They ogle and strut.)

 

TOBY-DOG

 

How tiny she is!

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

Sir–don’t come near me.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Why not?

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

I don’t know. My mistress knows. She’s not here. She stayed in the other

room.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

How old are you?

THE LITTLE DOG  Eleven months, (reciting) I’m eleven months old. At

the dog show, my mother took first prize for beauty. I weigh only one

pound eleven ounces and–

 

TOBY-DOG

 

You’ve said that already. What makes you so little?

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (from the piano)

 

She’s ugly, and has an evil odor. Her paws are deformed, she can’t stand

still an instant, and this dog takes pains to make himself fascinating!

 

THE LITTLE DOG, (very coquettish and talkative) It’s my lineage, of

course. One can hold me in a muff. You’ve seen my new collar? It’s

gold….

 

TOBY-DOG

 

And what’s that hanging from it?

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

My mother’s medal, Sir. I always wear it. I come from the Palais de

Glace_, where I made quite a hit. Imagine! I wanted to bite a gentleman

who was speaking to my mistress. How they laughed!

 

(She wriggles and chirps.)

 

TOBY-DOG, (aside)

 

What an odd creature! Is she really  a dog? (Sniffs.) Yes … smells

of rice powder, but it’s a dog just the same. (Aloud.) Sit down a

moment, it makes me quite dizzy to see you moving about so.

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

Certainly. (She lies down, like a miniature greyhound, crossing her

fore-paws to show the slimness of her toes.) You were here all alone?

 

TOBY-DOG, (looking toward the piano)

 

Yes, no other dog. Why?

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

There’s a strange odor.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

The Cat, doubtless.

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

The Cat? What’s a Cat? I’ve never seen one. Do they leave you in the

room all alone?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

It happens so now and then.

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

And you don’t bark?  I cry as soon as I’m left alone. I’m bored,

afraid, feel sick, and chew up the cushions.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

And then you’re whipped.

 

THE LITTLE DOG, (insulted)

 

I’m–what did you say? You’re losing your senses, I imagine. (_Suddenly

amiable again_.) That would be a pity. You have lovely eyes.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Haven’t I? They show well, don’t they? They’re large, and then they

stick out. She says I have eyes like a lobster’s, and sometimes She says

“his beautiful seal’s eyes, his frog-like eyes of gold.”

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

Who’s She?

 

TOBY-DOG, (simple)

 

She.

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

I don’t understand all you say, but I find you so very sympathetic!

What are you doing this evening?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Why … I dine.

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

Naturally! I wanted to know whether they receive here this evening, or

do you go out?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

No, I’ve been out already.

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

Driving?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Walking–of course.

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

Why, of course? I hardly stir except in a carriage. Show me the

underside of your paws. Horrors! One would say ’twas the stone they

sharpen knives on! Look at mine. Satin on top, velvet underneath.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I’d like to see you in the country, on the cobble-stones.

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

I’ve been there, Sir. I was in the country last summer and there weren’t

any cobble-stones.

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Then it wasn’t the country. You don’t know what country means.

 

THE LITTLE DOG, (vexed)

 

Indeed I do, Sir! It’s fine sand, and velvety lawns that are swept every

morning; it’s a reclining chair on the grass, great, fresh cushions of

cretonne, foamy milk, naps in the shade, and charming little red apples

to play with.

 

TOBY-DOG, (shaking his head)

 

No. It’s the road covered with white powder that makes the eyelids smart

and the paws burn, the tough, shriveled, sweet-smelling grass, where I

scratch my nose and my gums; it’s the fearful night–for I’m the only

one to guard them, He and She. I lie in my basket, but the beating of my

poor overdriven heart keeps me awake. I hear a dog crying to me from far

off, that the Bad Man has passed on the road. Is he coming in my

direction? Will I be obliged in another minute, my eyes bloodshot and

tongue dry as chalk, to throw myself upon him and devour his shadowy

face?…

 

THE LITTLE DOG, (trembling and in ecstasy)

 

Go on! Go on! Oh! how frightened I am!…

 

TOBY-DOG, (modestly) 

 

Don’t be afraid–it has never happened. All

that is the country, yes, and the interminable hill, in the shadow of

the carriage, when thirst, hunger, heat and fatigue, render the soul

submissive and hopeless …

 

THE LITTLE DOG, (quite worked up)

 

And then?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Oh, nothing. One arrives at the house, after all, and the pail of dark

water, one drinks without taking breath, (“his tongue,” She says, “his

big tongue is parted in the center, like an iris-petal”) while sore

eyelids and dusty lashes are splashed with cooling drops…. The country

is all that and many things besides….

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (on the piano, musingly)

 

All that, yes …and the habits of the year before that one finds again,

molded to one’s shape, like a cushion marked with the imprint of a long

sleep …the long nights of freedom, when the lone owlet, with his sad

little laugh, makes his way through the air as quietly as I do on the

ground, and silvery gray rats cling to the vines, eating grapes and

keeping their eyes on me at the same time. It’s the sun-cure on the hot

stone-wall, from which I arise wan and shrunken, baked through and

through, but svelte enough to make the youngest tomcat envious. (Coming

back to the present with a murderous look at THE LITTLE DOG.) Death to

you, ill-smelling beast, for having evoked these by-gone joys! Aren’t

you going to disappear, that I may come down from this cold pedestal,

where my paws are growing numb?

 

TOBY-DOG, (enthusiastically to THE LITTLE DOG)

 

But let us forget all that! With you there, I can think of nothing but

you. I feel that I love you!

 

THE LITTLE DOG, (lowering her eyes)

 

Do you mean …really?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Of course I do!

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

So soon!

 

TOBY-DOG

 

We’ve already wasted a great deal of time.

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

But … we’ve been chatting. I’ve enjoyed it very much … and I fail to

understand why the society of young dogs like you, is forbidden me …

 

TOBY-DOG

 

Allow me to make love to you.

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

What’s that?

 

TOBY-DOG

 

I’ll show you. First I hold myself very erect, stiffen my legs, walk

’round you, barking low and melodiously. My tail wriggles, my ears …

 

THE LITTLE DOG

 

Don’t come near me. I feel quite upset. (Escaping.)  You

unmannerly fellow!

 

KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (standing up)

 

These preludes are indeed a sad parody on our wild love-making …

(aloud, very angry) I should think–

 

THE LITTLE DOG looks to see where the dreadful voice is coming from,

and espies a strange striped monster with eyes afire, and eyebrows and

whiskers bristling ferociously. She dashes towards the door crying,

 

Help, help! There’s a tiger on the piano!…

 

And falls into the arms of her mistress, who has come upon the scene

and proceeds to console her with great volubility; Fifi! my Zezette! My

darling! there, there, goo, goo, goo, goo, you poor helpless little

doggie! What did they do to her? Ooooo!–Ooo! Was it the naughty

bow-bow? etc., etc., etc_.

 

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