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.
And what do you do all that time?
I—well—I just wait for her.
I admire you!
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?
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.