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.”
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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-passe—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.
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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?
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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 cafe au lait for her maid—and herself. Scarcely a day passes that she does not meditate upon this admirable book: