Tuesday, January 1, 2008


Crime and Punishment
     It cannot be denied: she has made a mess. Now she crouches in the darkest corner with a felonious and tenacious expression; her eyes glimmer greenly and her tail twitches, for she knows what is coming. All at once everything falls away which has made her into a gentle, domesticated cat; this is an evil and wild jungle creature, a beast full of fear and hatred, which follows you with burning eyes as an ancient enemy. She hisses like a serpent, when you approach her, her green little eyes scintillating with ferocious hatred, horror, rancor and villainy: pff chch chch, don’t touch me!
     Nothing doing, feline, among us people guilt must be expiated; there is Law and Order, that a cat that has sinned sticks to the spot of the deed and there! There! There! You’ve gotten yours, you rogue. Eyes downcast, the sinner frantically shrinks and recoils from the tragic torrent of punishment. Enough! And the poor creature winds like a snake from the spot of the deed.
     But before the judge can even stand up, she is already sitting in the middle of the room, a satisfied and graceful cat, as though nothing had happened at all, industriously licking a spot of ruffled fur on her back. She looks at her tormentor a little warily, but her eyes are already yellow again. “Look at what a nice kitty I am; open the door for me, I want to go into the kitchen.”
     Whereupon she goes out, clearly giving the impression that she is in no hurry at all.

     He was a little dog like a glove, with frog’s eyes and on spindly little legs which he always raised up daintily, as though they might freeze. Nothing entered into his old, wretched head except his name Pucinek and the knowledge that wetting the floor was a thing that was punished.
     Then the heavens opened to the clatter of thunder and a heavy, roaring, soaking downpour came down in huge sheets, the sandy courtyard of the manor then transformed into a yellow lake, which tore into the park like a flash in deep rills, gouging deep tracks as it went.
     At that moment the little dog tottered down the stairs; when he saw the heaven-sent inundation under him he started to tremble and bowed his skinny flanks in submission like a penitent and avowed sinner:
     “Master, master, punish me: it was I who wet the floor so.”

A Matter of Honor
     He was doomed by his overwhelming inferiority; of course, a wolfhound is tougher and stronger than a shaggy miniature pinscher; he was just a pile of fur on the ground into which the wolfhound sunk his horrible fangs.
     The mistress of the house dragged him out of that raging pile by his collar; he let himself be dragged, but glared back at his enemy: You coward, you cur! If they weren’t holding me back…
     Now he lies on the carpet, licking his bloody wounds; and when the mistress looks at him, we wags his stump of a tail victoriously: You should see the other guy, right?

The Forsaken One
     Three nights it rained, and three nights the gray striped tomcat did not come. She waited pressed against the wall until her paws were frozen; then in the day she complained in a deep and broken alto when she thought no one could hear. If you wanted to pet her, she crawled fussily under a chair: Pardonnez-moi, I don’t feel up to it today.
     But the third day after a night like that she hurls herself into your arms, nuzzling passionately: Pet me, serve me, entertain me! There is my ear, my chin, my neck! More! More! I love no one on earth more than you!
     And she purrs, purrs noisily and convulsively until she drools.

     Music broke out on the street, the trumpets rang out, and bum! and bum! The drum rolled like a strong fellow beating the way of some great parade. Yes, it was some sort of celebration; behind the brass band was a decorated cart, on which were banners and girls and outcry, tra-la-la and cymbals; revel, people, in this whole cartload of music, but I looked, and I do not know why, at the horse who was pulling them all, and I was greatly surprised. I at least expected the horse to be smiling.
     Quite the contrary, he was not smiling; he looked so serious and official that it made everything worse. It looked as though he were indicating that he dissented from this bubbly joy. He looked wistful, as though he were pulling a funeral car instead of a pile of madmen. It seemed as though he were deliberating over something.
     “I am doing serious and important work.”

LN, 19 July 1925

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