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.
* * * * *
KIKI-THE-DEMURE, A Maltese cat.
TOBY-DOG, A French bull-dog.
SHE,} Master and Mistress (of minor importance).
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.
Are you asleep?
KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (purrs feebly)
Are you even alive? You’re so flat! You look like the empty skin of a cat.
KIKI-THE-DEMURE, (in faltering tones)
Not sick, are you?
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.
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!...