Excerpts from “My Household of Pets.” (Translated by Susan Coolidge.)


After the death of Cagnotte {a dog] our affections turned to cats as more truly domestic animals and better friends for the fireside. We will not attempt to give a detailed history of all of them. Whole dynasties of felines, as numerous as those of the Egyptian kings, succeeded one another in our house; accident, death, escape, in turn carrying them away. All were loved, and all were regretted; but life is made up of forgettings, and the remembrance of departed cats is gradually effaced like the remembrance of men. It is a sad fact that the lives of these humble friends, our inferior brothers, are not better proportioned to those of their masters.

After briefly alluding to an old grey cat, who took our part against our own flesh and blood, and bit our mother’s ankles whenever she scolded or seemed about to punish us, we pass on to Childebrand, a cat belonging to the days of romance. From his name the reader will detect the secret desire which we felt to dispute Boileau, whom at that time we did not love, though since we have made peace with him. Does he not make Nicolas say: -

“Oh charming thought of poet, most ignorant and bland,
Among so many heroes to choose out Childebrand”?

It did not seem to us that it argued such a depth of ignorance to select a hero of whom no one knew anything. Beside Childebrand struck us as an impressive name; very long-haired, very Merovingian, Gothic and Medieval to the last degree, and much to be preferred to a Grecian name, - be it Agamemnon, Achilles, Idomeneus, Ulysses, or any other. These names, however, were the fashion of the day, especially among young people; for - to use a phrase taken from the notice of Kaulbach’s frescoes on the outside of the Pinacothek at Munich - “Never did the Hydra of wigginess dress more bristling heads than at that period;” and persons of a classical turn doubtless gave their cats such names as Hector, Ajax, or Patrocles. Our Childebrand was a magnificent cat of the house-tops, with shaven hair, striped fawn color and black like Saltabadil’s clown in “Le Roi s’Amuse.” His great green eyes of almond shape, and his velvet, striped coat, gave him a resemblance to a tiger, which we found extremely pleasing; for, as we have elsewhere said, cats are nothing more than tigers under a cloud. Childebrand has the honour to figure in some verses of ours, also intended for the discomfiture of Boileau: -

Then I for you will paint that picture of Rembrandt
Which pleases me most greatly; and meanwhile Childebrand,
According to his custom soft couched upon my knee,
Lifts up his pretty head and watches anxiously
The movement of my finger, which traces in the air
The outline of the picture to make it clear and fair.

Childebrand came in nicely as a rhyme to Rembrandt; for this fragment was a sort of confession of faith and romance to a friend, since dead, who at that time shared all our enthusiasms for Victor Hugo, Sainte-Beuve, and Alfred de Musset.

We must say of our cats as said Ruy Gomez de Silva to the impatient Don Carlos, when giving him the names and titles of his ancestors, which began with “Don Silvius, three times elected Consul of Rome,” “I have skipped some of the best - - ,” and so pass on to Madame Theophile, a reddish cat, with a white breast, pink nose, and blue eyes, who was thus named because she lived with us in an almost conjugal intimacy, sleeping on the foot of our bed, or on the arm of our writing chair; following us in our walks in the garden, assisting at our meals, and not infrequently intercepting the morsels which we were conveying from our plate to our mouth.

One day a friend, who was leaving home for a short time, left in our charge a favorite parrot. The bird, feeling lonely in a strange house, climbed by the help of his beak to the top of the perch, and sat there rolling about in a scared way his eyes, which glittered like gilt nails, and wrinkling over them the white membranes which served for eyelids. Madame Theophile had never before encountered a parrot, and the novelty awoke in her mind an evident astonishment. Motionless as an Egyptian cat embalmed in its network of bandages, she sat regarding the bird with an air of profound meditation, and putting together all the ideas of natural history which she had been able to collect during her excursions on the roofs or in the courtyard and garden. The shadows of her thoughts flitted across her changeful eyes, and it was not difficult to read the decision at which she finally arrived: “This is - decidedly it is - a green chicken!”

This conclusion reached, the cat jumped from the table which she had chosen as her observatory, and crouched in a corner of the room, her belly on the floor, her knees bent, her head lowered, her spine stiffened like that of the black panther in Gérome’s picture as it glares at the gazelles who are drinking by the lake. The parrot followed each movement of the cat with a feverish disquietude. His feathers bristled; he rattled his chain, raised one of his claws and exercised its talons, while he whetted his beak on the edge of the feeding cup. Instinct revealed to him that this was an enemy who was plotting mischief. As for the eyes of the cat, they were riveted on the bird with a fascinated intensity, and said plainly as eyes could speak, and in a language which the parrot understood only too well, “Green though he be, this chicken is without doubt good to eat.”

While we watched this scene with interest, ready to interfere whenever it should seem necessary, Madame Theophile was imperceptibly drawing nearer to her prey. Her pink nose quivered, her eyes were half shut, her elastic claws projected and then disappeared again in their velvet sheaths. Little shivers ran down her spine: she was like an epicure as he seats himself at table before a dish of truffled chicken, and smacks his lips in advance over the choice and succulent repast which he is about to enjoy. This exotic dainty tickled all her sensuous capabilities. Suddenly her back curved like a bow which is bent, and with one strong elastic bound she alighted on the perch. The parrot, seeing his danger, remarked in a deep bass voice, as low and solemn as that of M. Joseph Prudhomme, “Hast thou breakfasted, Jacquot?”

This remark created in the mind of the cat an evident dismay. She took a sudden leap backward. A blast from a trumpet, a pile of plates crashing to the floor, a pistol shot close to the ear, could not have inspired more sudden and giddy terror in an animal of her race. All her ornithological ideas were in one fell moment overturned.

“And on what? On the roast beef of the king?” continued the parrot.

The face of the cat now said, as distinctly as words, “This is not a bird. It is a gentleman! He speaks!”

“When I on wine have feasted free, the tavern turns around with me,” sang the bird in a tremendous voice; for he perceived that the alarm caused by his words was his readiest means of defence. The cat cast a questioning glance toward us, and, getting no reassurance in reply, took refuge under the bed, from which place of safety she could not be enticed for the remainder of that day.

People who are not accustomed to live with animals, or who, like Descartes, see nothing in them but irrational organisms, will no doubt suppose that these designs and reflections which we attribute to birds and beasts, are pure inventions of our fancy. In this they are mistaken: we but interpret their ideas, and faithfully translate them into human speech.

Next day Madame Theophile, regaining courage, made another attempt on the parrot, which was repulsed in the same way. After that she gave it up and accepted the bird as a man.

This sensitive and charming animal adored perfumes. Patchouli, the scent of cashmeres, threw her into ecstasies. She had also a taste for music; perched upon a pile of score, she would listen attentively and with evident pleasure to vocalists who came to test their voices at our piano and receive criticism. Sharp notes, however, made her nervous, and at the upper “la” she was apt to close the mouth of the songstress with a tap of her little paw. It was an experiment which caused us much amusement, and was unfailing. Our feline amateur never mistook the note, and never let it pass unrebuked.


Let us now come down to a more modern epoch. From a cat imported by Mademoiselle Aita de la Penuela, a young Spanish artist whose studies of white Angoras adorned and still adorn the windows of the print-shops, we obtained the tiniest possible kitten, which looked like one of those puffs of swan’s-down which people use in rice-powder boxes. On account of this immaculate whiteness, he received the name of Pierrot, which, as he grew larger, was amplified into that of Don Pierrot de Navarre, - a name infinitely more majestic and having a savour of real grandeur about it. Don Pierrot, like all animals who are petted and spoiled grew up charmingly amiable. He shared our family life with that enjoyment which cats find in being admitted to the intimacies of the fireside. Seated in his wonted place beside the fire, he seemed always to understand the conversation and to be interested in it. He followed the eyes of the talkers, emitting from time to time a little mew, as if he too had objections to make, and would like to add his opinion on the literary topics which were usually the theme of our discourse. He adored books; and whenever he found one lying open on the table he would seat himself by it, looking earnestly at the pages, and sometimes gently turning one with his claw. He usually finished by going to sleep, as soundly as though he had in reality been reading a modern novel!

When we sat down to write he always jumped upon the writing-table, and watched with a profound attention the point of the steel pen as it scattered flies’ legs over the white surface of the paper, making a little movement of his head at the beginning of each new line. Sometimes he took a fancy to join in the work, and would try to get the pen away from us, doubtless with the intention of using it in his turn; for he was aesthetic cat, like the cat Murr, described by Hoffman, and we strongly suspected him of spending nights in some hidden gutter writing his memoirs by the light of his own phosphoric eyes. Unfortunately these lucubrations, if they ever existed, are forever lost.

Don Pierrot de Navarre would never settle himself to sleep till we had come home. He always waited just inside the door, and, the moment we stepped into the antechamber, rubbed himself against our legs, arching his back, and purring in a joyous and friendly manner. Then he would walk in, preceding us like a page, and no doubt with a very little urging would have consented to carry the candlestick.

Having thus conducted us to our bedroom, he waited till we were undressed, and then, jumping into bed, embraced our neck with his little paws, rubbed his nose against ours, and licked us with a small pink tongue, rough as a file, uttering meanwhile short, inarticulate cries, which expressed as clearly as possible his joy at our return. Then, having expressed his affection by these demonstrations, and the hour for sleep being come, he would mount the headboard of the bed, and slumber there, poised like a bird on a bough. As soon as we awoke in the morning he would descend, and, stretching himself out close to us, wait quietly till it was time to get up.

Midnight, in his opinion, was the hour at which it was our duty to return to the house. Pierrot and the concierge were entirely of one mind on this point. Just then we had joined with a few friends in getting up a little club, which we called “The Society of the Four Candles,” from the fact that the room in which we met was lighted by four candles in silver candlesticks, which were placed on four corners of a table. Sometimes the talk became so engrossing that, like Cinderella, we forgot the hour, at the risk of finding our carriages changed into pumpkins and our coachmen into rats. Several times Pierrot waited for our return until two or three o’clock in the morning; then his feelings were so deeply hurt that he actually went to bed without us. This dumb protest against our innocent irregularities was so touching that afterwards we made a point of coming in punctually at midnight; but Pierrot for a long while retained a grudge against us. He wanted proof that our penitence was genuine; and not till time had convinced him of the sincerity of our regret did he again take us into favour, and resume his old position inside the door of the antechamber.

A cat’s friendship is a hard thing to conquer. Cats are philosophical animals, - sedate, quiet, fixed in their habits, true believers in decency and order, and not at all given to the bestowing of a thoughtless affection. They will be your friends if you prove worthy of friendship; but they will never be your slaves. Even in moments of tenderness a cat preserves his freedom of will, and cannot be made to comply with demands which seem to him unreasonable. But once he surrenders himself to you as a friend, what absolute confidence he gives! what fidelity of affection! He constitutes himself the companion of your solitary hours, of your melancholy, of your work. He will pass whole evenings purring on your knees, happy in your company, and forsaking that of animals of his own species. In vain do enticing mews re-echo from the roofs, calling him to join one of those cat-soirees where juicy red-herrings take the place of tea: he will not be tempted away, and shares your vigil to the end. If you put him on the floor, he jumps back to his place with a murmuring noise which is like a soft reproach. Sometimes, standing near, he looks at you with eyes so full of melting tenderness, so loving and so human, that you are half-frightened; for it seems impossible that in such a regard reason can be lacking.

Don Pierrot de Navarre had a companion of the same race, no less white than himself. All the comparisons which we have heaped together in “The symphony in white, major” cannot express the idea of this immaculate snowiness, which makes even the fur of the ermine look yellow. This second cat was named Seraphita, in honor of Balzac’s Swedenborgian romance. Never did the heroine of that marvellous legend radiate a purer whiteness, not even when, accompanied by Minna, she climbed the icy peaks of the Falberg. Seraphita was of a contemplative and dreamy disposition. She would lie for long hours on her cushion, not asleep, but following, with an intense expression of the eyes, sights which were invisible to common mortals. She liked to be caressed; but she caressed in return only a favoured few to whom her hard-won esteem was accorded. She loved luxury; and it was always upon the softest chair and the piece of stuff best calculated to show to advantage her swan-like fur that we were sure to find her. Her toilet took an enormous deal of time; every particle of her fur was made glossy each morning of her life. She washed herself with her paws; and every hair of her coat, carefully brushed with her rosy tongue, glistened like new silver. Whenever anyone stroked her, she instantly removed all trace of the contact: the least untidiness disturbed her. Her elegance and distinction were truly aristocratic: in the cat-world she must have ranked as a duchess at the very least. She doted on perfumes, plunging her head into bouquets of flowers, and nibbling with little quivers of satisfaction handkerchiefs steeped in odours. She would walk up and down the dressing-table sniffing at the essence bottles, and would willingly have allowed herself to be dipped bodily into the scented rice-powder. Such was Seraphita, and never did a cat better justify a poetical name.

About this time two of those counterfeit sailors who sell striped table-covers, handkerchiefs woven of pineapple thread, and other foreign commodities, chanced to pass through our street at Longchamps. They carried in a tiny cage two Norway rats, with the prettiest pink eyes in the world. White animals were a passion with us just then, and we carried this passion so far that even our poultry-yard was stocked with white cocks and hens. We bought the white rats, and had a large cage made for them, with interior staircases which led to different storeys, - to dining-rooms, sleeping-chambers, and gymnasiums fitted up with trapezes. In this cage they were happier and better lodged than even the rat of La Fontaine in the middle of his Dutch cheese.

[. . .] The couple multiplied rapidly, until whole families of equal whiteness ascended and descended the staircases of the cage. At last we found ourselves at the head of thirty rats, all so much at home with us that when the weather was cold they burrowed in our pockets without the least ceremony, and lay there, keeping themselves warm. [. . .]

You will doubtless wonder how our rats and cats, creatures so totally unsympathetic, - one in fact being the natural prey of the other, - managed to live together. In the most amicable way imaginable. The cats never showed their claws to the rats; the rats never exhibited the least fear or distrust of the cats. This conduct on the part of the cats was thoroughly sincere, and never once were the rats called upon to mourn the death of a comrade. Don Pierrot de Navarre showed the tenderest affection for these tiny neighbours. He would lie down by the cage for hours together, watching them at play. If by accident the door of the room was shut, he would scratch and softly mew to have it opened, that he might rejoin his little white friends, who not infrequently would come from their cage and go to sleep by his side. Seraphita, of a loftier nature than he, and not so fond of the musky odour of rats, never took part in these games; but she did the rats no harm, and suffered them to pass before her without once extending a claw.


Don Pierrot de Navarre, being a native of Havana, needed a very warm temperature. This temperature was provided for him in our rooms; but about the house lay extensive gardens, separated by wire fences which offered no difficulties to a cat, and which were planted with large trees, in whose branches innumerable birds twittered and sang. Not infrequently Pierrot, profiting by an open door, would make his escape of evenings for the enjoyment of a private hunt over the lawns and the flowerbeds wet with dew. Sometimes he had to wait till daylight before he could re-enter the house; for, though he mewed under the windows, his signal did not always rouse the sleepers within. His chest had always been delicate, and one chilly night he took a cold, which speedily developed into consumption. Poor Pierrot! he became painfully thin after a year of coughing. His fur, once so silky, lost its gloss, and reminded one of the dull, opaque whiteness of a winding-sheet. His great transparent eyes looked enormous by contrast with his poor little face. His pink nose grew pale, and he dragged his feet slowly along his favourite sunshiny wall, watching the yellow autumn leaves whirled along in spiral flights by the wind, and looking as though he were repeating to himself the elegy of Millevoye.

There is nothing in the world more touching than a sick animal. It submits to its sufferings with such a sweet, sad resignation. Everything possible was done to save Pierrot. He had a skilful doctor, who stethoscoped him and felt his pulse. Asses’ milk was ordered, and the poor thing lapped it willingly enough from his little porcelain saucer. He would lie for long hours on our knees, stretched out, and immovable as the shadow of a sphinx. We could number his vertebrae with our fingers, like the beads of a rosary. When he tried to respond to our caresses by a feeble mew, it sounded like a death-rattle. On the day of his death, as he lay panting upon his side, he raised himself with a supreme effort and crept toward us, opening wide his dilated eyes with a look which seemed to claim our help with an intense supplication. It said plainly as words could say, “Come, save me, thou who art a man!” Then he staggered; his eyes became fixed; and he fell with a cry so desperate, so lamentable, so full of anguish, that we sat transfixed with silent horror. He was buried at the bottom of the garden, under a white-rose tree which still marks the place of his grave.

Two or three years later Seraphita died also, of a mysterious disease against which all the resources of science proved unavailing. She is buried not far from Pierrot.

With them the Dynastie Blanche became extinct, but not the family. For of this couple, white as snow, were born three kittens as black as ink. Explain, who can, this mystery. The great excitement of the day was Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables.” No one spoke of anything else, and the names of its heroes and heroines were in every mouth. Naturally, therefore, the two male kittens were christened Enjolras and Gavroche, while their sister received the title of Eponine. When very young they acquired a number of pretty tricks. Among the rest they were taught to run like a dog after a ball made of rolled-up paper, and to fetch it back when thrown to a distance. Even though the ball were tossed up to the cornices of the wardrobes, hidden behind piles of sheets on a shelf, or dropped into a deep vase, they would always discover and fetch it safely in their paws. Later in life they learned to despise these frivolous amusements, and acquired that calm and dreamy philosophy which is the true characteristic of the cat nature.

When people first land in one of the Southern States of America, the negroes they see are to them simply negroes; they cannot tell one from another. So to careless eyes three black cats are three black cats, and nothing more. Observant persons, however, do not make such mistakes. The physiognomies of animals differ from each other like those of men; and we never had the least difficulty in distinguishing between these three faces, all black as the mask of Harlequin, and lighted by emerald disks with reflections of gold.

Enjolras, by far the prettiest of the three cats, could be identified by his large and lion-like head, his well-whiskered cheeks, strong shoulders, long back, and a superb tail which expanded like a plume. There was something theatrical and emphatic about him, and he was addicted to poses like a favourite actor. His slow and undulating movements were full of majesty. He could be trusted to walk over consoles loaded with treasures in china and Venice glass, so circumspectly did he order his footsteps. He was not much of a Stoic in character, and his taste for dainties would have horrified his namesake Enjolras, that sober and pure young man, who would doubtless have said to him, as the angel did to Swedenborg, “Thou eatest too much.” This gluttonous turn, which was as droll as that of a gastronomic monkey, was indulged; and Enjolras attained a size and weight most unusual in a domestic cat. The idea occurred to us to have him shaved like a poodle, in order to complete his resemblance to a lion. A mane was left to him, and one thick tuft of hair at the end of his tail. We will not swear that it was not part of the original design to furnish him with leg-of-mutton whiskers like those in the portrait of Munito. Thus accoutred, he looked, it must be confessed, less like a lion of the jungle or of the Cape than like a Japanese chimera. Never was a more absurd whim carried out upon the body of a living animal. His hair was shaved so closely that it showed the skin, which exhibited odd bluish tones, and contrasted in the most extraordinary way with the blackness of his mane.

Gavroche, as if to suit with the character of his namesake in the novel, was a cat of a crafty and furtive disposition. Smaller than Enjolras, his agility was most comical and surprising. His substitutes for the jokes and slang of the Paris gamin were capers, somersaults, and ludicrous motions. We are forced to confess that, notwithstanding these attractive qualities, Gavroche never lost an opportunity of stealing out of the parlour in order to join in the street or courtyard with vagabond cats, - “Of any sort of birth, and blood unknown to fame,” - in parties of the most unrefined sort, quite forgetting his dignity as a cat from Havana: son of the illustrious Don Pierrot de Navarre, grandee of Spain of the first rank, and of the Marquise Seraphita, whose manners were so lofty and disdainful. Sometimes by way of a treat he would conduct to his porridge-plate some comrade emaciated by famine and all skin-and-bone, whom he had picked up during his peregrinations; introducing him with all the airs of a condescending prince. The poor wretch, with drooping ears, sidelong glance, and tail between his legs, fearing that his free lunch might at any moment be interrupted by the housemaid’s broom, would gobble down double, triple, quadruple mouthfuls, and like Siete-Aguas, or Seven Waters, of the Spanish posada, make the plate in a few seconds as clean as though it had been scrubbed by a Dutch housewife to serve as a model to Mieris or Gerard Dow.

Beholding these chosen protégés of Gavroche’s, that phrase with which Gavarni illustrates one of his caricatures frequently came into our head: “Fine friends these are which you have selected to go about with!” But after all they were only a proof of Gavroche’s real goodness of heart; for he might easily have eaten up everything himself.

The cat who bore the name of the interesting Eponine was more slender and delicately made than her brothers. Her nose was slightly longer; her eyes set obliquely in the head like those of a Chinese, were of a green hue like the eyes of Pallas Athene, to which Homer invariably applies the epithet ??a???p??. Her nose of a velvety blackness, as finely grained as a Perigord truffle; her moustaches perpetually waving, made up a physiognomy full of expression. Her superb black fur was always in a quiver, and glittered with changeful lustres. Never was there a creature so sympathetic, nervous, and theatrical as Eponine. If you passed your hand over her back once or twice in the dusk little blue sparks would flash from the fur. Eponine attached herself to us as devotedly as did the Eponine of the novel to Marius; but not being pre-occupied with a Cosette, as was that dear young man, we were able to respond to the affection of this tender and devoted cat, who is still the companion of our labours and the joy of our suburban hermitage. At the sound of the door-bell she runs out, receives the visitors, shows them into the drawing-room, asks them to sit down, talks with them; yes, talks, prattling on with murmurs and little cries which are not in the least like those which cats use to one another, but which resemble the speech of men. What does she say, do you ask? She says in the most intelligible language: “Gentlemen and ladies, do not be impatient; look at the pictures, or, if you please, converse with me. Monsieur will be here soon.” When we enter she discreetly retires to an easy chair or the corner of the piano, and listens to the conversation without trying to take part in it, like a polite animal who is familiar with the habits of good society.

This charming Eponine has given so many proofs of merit, of intelligence, and superior social qualities, that by common consent she has been elevated to the dignity of a person; for there can be no doubt that her conduct is governed by a reason which is far superior to instinct. This dignity gives her the right to eat at table like a human being, and not as cats do out of a saucer set on the floor in a corner. Eponine therefore has her chair, which is regularly placed beside our own, at breakfast and dinner. In consideration of her shape and size, leave is given her to place her forepaws on the edge of the table. She has also her own plate and her own tumbler, but not a fork or spoon. She watches the dinner through all its courses from soup to dessert, waiting for her turn to be helped, and altogether comporting herself with a wisdom and decency which we wish that children would oftener imitate. At the first tinkle of the bell she makes her appearance, and when we enter the dining-room there she is, already seated on her chair with her paws crossed before her on the edge of the table; and she holds up her forehead to be kissed precisely as a nice little girl does who has been trained to show an affectionate politeness towards her parents and other elderly friends.

But there are flaws in the diamond, spots even on the sun, shadows upon perfection, and Eponine, it must be owned, has an over-passionate love for fish, - a passion which is shared by cats in general. In contradiction to the Latin proverb “Catus amat pisces, sed non vult tingere plantas,” she will dip her paw into water without the least hesitation in order to draw out a carp, a whitebait, or a trout. Fish awake in her a sort of frenzy; and like children who are in a state of excitement over the idea of dessert, she sometimes looks sulkily at the soup, when preliminary observations made in the kitchen have assured her that there is fish to come, and that the cook has no need to expiate a failure by falling on his sword, as did the noble Vatel. At such times she is left unserved, and we say to her coldly, “Mademoiselle, a person who is not hungry for soup cannot be hungry for fish,” and the dish is carried pitilessly past under her very nose. When matters reach this serious stage the dainty Eponine gobbles up her soup in all haste to the very last drop, despatches every crumb of bread or Italian paste, and then turns round and looks at us with a proud glance as one who has done her duty, and whose conscience is henceforth free from reproach. Her portion of fish is then given her. She eats it with the utmost satisfaction, and having tasted of all the other dishes, finishes her meal with a glass of water.

When a dinner-party is projected Eponine, without seeing the guests, understands perfectly well that there is to be company that evening. She takes a look at her usual place, and, if she notices a knife, fork, and spoon beside the plate, she decamps without a word and seats herself on the piano-stool, which is her chosen refuge on such occasions. I should be glad if people who deny the possession of reason to animals, would explain this fact, apparently so simple and yet containing such a world of inferences. From seeing beside her plate those utensils which man only can use, this wise and observant cat argues that, for the day, she must yield her place to a guest, and she makes haste to do so. She never deceives herself about the matter, but sometimes, when the visitor is one with whom she is on familiar terms, she will climb his knee and try to coax a few titbits out of him by her grace and caresses.

But enough of this; we must not weary our readers. Stories about cats are less popular than those about dogs. Still, we feel obliged to tell the end of Enjolras and Gavroche. In some text-books there is this sentence: “Sua eum perdidit ambitio.” One might say of Enjolras, “Sua eum perdidit pinguetudo” - he died of his own fat. He was mistaken for a hare and killed by some idiotic hunters. His murderers, however, perished within a twelvemonth, and in the most miserable manner. The death of a black cat, that most cabalistical of creatures, never goes unavenged!

Gavroche, seized with a fanatical love of liberty, or perhaps with sudden madness, leaped out of a window one day, crossed the street, climbed the high fence surrounding St. James’ Church, which stands opposite our house, and disappeared. In spite of our anxious enquiries no traces of him could ever be found. A mysterious shadow hovers over his fate. Thus of the black dynasty only Eponine remains. She is faithful still to her master, and to all intents and purposes has become an educated cat.

She has for companion a magnificent Angora, of a silver-grey coat which makes one think of clouded Chinese porcelain. His name is Zizi, which means - “Too handsome to do anything.” This beautiful creature lives in a sort of contemplative stupor like a thekiari during his period of inebriation. Looking at him one is reminded of the “Ecstasies of M. Hochener.” Zizi’s passion is music. Not content with listening to it, he is himself a performer. Occasionally at night when all are sleeping there breaks upon the silence a strange, fantastic melody which Kreisler and the musicians of the future might well envy. It is Zizi, walking up and down the keyboard of the piano and enjoying the rapture of hearing the notes sing under his feet.

It would be unfair not to give a passing mention to Cleopatra, the daughter of Eponine, who is a charming animal, but of too timid a nature to be introduced to the public. She is of a deep fawn colour, like Mummia, the shaggy companion of Atta Croll, and her dark green eyes are just like two enormous pieces of aqua-marina. She walks habitually on three paws, and holds the fourth in the air, like the figure of a classical line which has lost his marble ball.

This then is the chronicle of the Black Dynasty, - Enjolras, Gavroche, Eponine, - recalling to us the creations of a beloved master. Only, when we now glance over “Les Miserables,” it seems as though the principal characters in the romance are taken by black cats, but this fact does not in the least diminish the interest of the story for us.



You are visitor number