Là-bas eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 265 pages of information about L-bas.

This beast, though affectionate and fond of being caressed, was crabbed and set in its ways.  It would tolerate no whims, no departures from the regular course of things.  It understood that there was a fixed hour for rising and for going to bed, and when it was displeased it allowed a shade of annoyance to pass into its eyes, the sense of which its master could not mistake.

If he returned before eleven at night, the cat was waiting for him in the vestibule, scratching the wood of the door, miaouing, even before Durtal was in the hall; then it rolled its languorous green-golden eyes at him, rubbed against his trouser leg, stood up on its hind feet like a tiny rearing horse and affectionately wagged its head at him as he approached.  If eleven o’clock had passed it did not run along in front of him, but would only, very grudgingly, rise when he came up, and then it would arch its back and suffer no caresses.  When he came later yet, it would not budge, and would complain and groan if he took the liberty of stroking its head or scratching its throat.

This morning it had no patience with Durtal’s laziness.  It squatted on its hunkers, and swelled up, then it approached stealthily and sat down two steps away from its master’s face, staring at him with an atrociously false eye, signifying that the time had come for him to abdicate and leave the warm place for a cold cat.

Amused by its manoeuvres, Durtal did not move, but returned its stare.  The cat was enormous, common, and yet bizarre with its rusty coat yellowish like old coke ashes and grey as the fuzz on a new broom, with little white tufts like the fleece which flies up from the burnt-out faggot.  It was a genuine gutter cat, long-legged, with a wild-beast head.  It was regularly striped with waving lines of ebony, its paws were encircled by black bracelets and its eyes lengthened by two great zigzags of ink.

“In spite of your kill-joy character and your single track mind you testy, old bachelor, you are a very nice cat,” said Durtal, in an insinuating, wheedling tone.  “Then too, for many years now, I have told you what one tells no man.  You are the drain pipe of my soul, you inattentive and indulgent confessor.  Never shocked, you vaguely approve the mental misdeeds which I confess to you.  You let me relieve myself and you don’t charge me anything for the service.  Frankly, that is what you are here for.  I spoil you with care and attentions because you are the spiritual vent of solitude and celibacy, but that doesn’t prevent you, with your spiteful way of looking at me, from being insufferable at times, as you are today, for instance!”

The cat continued to stare at him, its ears sticking straight up as if they would catch the sense of his words from the inflections of his voice.  It understood, doubtless, that Durtal was not disposed to jump out of bed, for it went back to its old place, but now turned its back full on him.

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Project Gutenberg
Là-bas from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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