Before his father, the colonel, this boy would pretend to be most friendly to me: he would call me his “dear good little Paul.” If I had dared I would have called him a liar before everybody; for when his father was not there, he 长沙桑拿酒店 would take me into a corner, and make the most hideous faces at me, and pull my poor long nose, till I cried; threatening at the same time, if I told anyone, that he would squeeze me to death in the doorway.
Was not this cowardice? but of a different kind from mine, and surely a far worse kind. “Ah! if I dared to do things, if I could only get over the nervous trembling and that stupid imagination of mine which showed me dangers in every direction!” I said this to myself as I walked slowly down stairs; I did not hurry myself, because my eyes were red, and I was anxious my mother should not see that I had been crying, for I knew it would worry her.
These are the questions I asked myself as I reached the last step:—“In a small house like this, where I know every corner, why do I fancy that somebody is always hiding to pounce 长沙桑拿洗浴按摩论坛 out upon me? why do I fancy this when I really know that there is no one and nothing to frighten me? Why do I fancy always that there are strange beasts lurking in the shadows which will jump out upon me to pinch and bite, and prick and scratch me, or perhaps, which is almost worse, place a great hairy paw upon my neck, or look at me with great dreadful eyes? Why am I so silly as to fancy all this? But now, for the future, I am resolved I will never be so foolish again.”
V. I SEE A MONSTER.
Pouf! Bang! At that moment something black, light, and at the same time enormously large, some shapeless yet undoubtedly ferocious creature, passed within a foot of my face with the speed of lightning. It touched the ground without making the least sound, seemed to roll over in the half-dark corridor, and then suddenly disappeared at the 长沙桑拿洗浴中心排名 little door leading into the garden.
I tried to scream, but my voice failed me: I trembled from head to foot; my legs gave way and I involuntarily sat down on the last step of the staircase, and covered my face with my hands, not to see again that horrible thing! Without doubt it would return. It was hiding somewhere, I was sure. What might it not do to me? I waited in an agony, my eyes firmly closed. Just then the door of the kitchen opened, and my mother, greatly surprised, asked me what I was doing there.
I told her all.
“IT WAS FRIMOUSSE, OUR GREAT CAT.”
As I did so she raised her head, saw the door of the meat-safe open, and said: “The creature that has frightened you so dreadfully was still more frightened by you! It was Frimousse, our great cat, who had come to steal some meat, which I am sorry to see she has done, and when she heard you coming she was put to flight in a great hurry. Now, see,” said my kind mother, smiling. “Satisfy yourself; the cat has carried off the piece of beef which remained from luncheon. Look, there is the empty dish! Don’t be frightened any more, my dear little boy, but now come with me: when Mrs. Puss has behaved in this naughty way, I always know where to find her. Come along, you must see her for yourself.”
I answered “Yes” to all my mother said, but in my heart I believed she was mistaken. That horrible creature that passed me was too large, too shapeless, to be our cat.
My mother, taking me by the hand, led me with her into the kitchen, and gave me a glass of sugar-and-water to help me to recover myself. She then showed me Frimousse, who had taken refuge on the roof of a little shed at the end of the garden, and the naughty cat was there eating greedily her stolen meal. While devouring the meat, she kept jerking her head first to the right, then to the left, as if she found it rather tough. At the same time she looked at us, or rather at me, with a menacing and defiant expression.
“You see now that it was naughty Frimousse,” said my mother, in her loving, caressing voice; “don’t you, my darling boy? You are quite sure now that there was nothing to frighten you, are you not?”
“Yes, mamma, I do see it: I was a silly boy,” I replied.
My reason, the fact of seeing the cat eating the stolen meat, my mother’s assertion, everything told me clearly enough that it was Frimousse that had frightened me so: still in spite of all, something within me seemed to deny the fact. Was it possible that Frimousse, our cat that I knew so well, could have appeared so enormous?
Well, it was just possible perhaps; and now I began to fancy that there was something very strange about that cat. While she was eating, what fierce looks she gave me! Certainly there seemed something unnatural and odd—dreadful too—about her. And those strange glances which she gave me! Surely it was against me that she cherished spiteful feelings! Then another idea came into my head: perhaps this cat, who gave me such vicious looks, was not a real cat? Perhaps, I thought, she has the power, at times, to take the shape of that fearful, that horrible creature which I saw on the staircase.
If I had explained these foolish thoughts to my mother, I knew beforehand how silly she would have thought me, and what she would have answered. I knew also, beforehand that her answer would not convince me. Oh! how terrible it was! Still, I preferred to say nothing, and I kept my thoughts to myself to torment me.
VII. MONTéZUMA AND CROQUEMITAINE.
I think I know partly how this unfortunate and unhealthy state of mind began with me: this painful habit of seeing something extraordinary and terrible in the most simple matters, and of peopling the house with unearthly and mischievous beings. I think it came about in this way:—
When I was quite little, I used often to be given in charge to my father’s orderly. He was a brave and honest fellow, and very fond of me. His name was Montamat, but everyone called him Montézuma. Unfortunately for me he possessed far more imagination than judgment.
Whenever I was naughty or unreasonable, he would call for Croquemitaine; and as he was a ventriloquist you may suppose it was not long before a conversation commenced with this extraordinary person, who used to reply to the questions asked of him from the dark, mysterious, and fearful regions of the kitchen chimney sometimes; or sometimes from the bottom of my porridge bowl, or again sometimes from the inside of a drawer in the table close to where my little chair was placed. As I believed most implicitly in Croquemitaine’s existence, Montézuma made me do exactly as he liked by this means. Just fancy! here was a man who appeared to me to be on the most intimate terms with a mysterious and supernatural being! A man who could summon this being
at will, and, at a single word, send him off again about his business, just at the moment when, almost mad with anguish, I feared, yet longed, to see the mysterious being appear to me.