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loves: you win if you guessed "pets" and "museums". Also books, art history, travel, British punk, Korean kimchi, bindis, martinis, and other things TBD. I will always make it very clear if a post is sponsored in any way. Drop me a line at thepetmuseum AT gmail.com !

Thursday, June 09, 2011

the peasant and the angora part II

And continuing with Lisi Cecilia Cipriani's memories of a perfectly harmless kitty, a simple peasant lady, and one very naughty brother:

* * *
"Moreover," Alick continued, "this creature is brother to the cat of the Queen, and you must not speak of it, or address it, as plain 'cat,' but always as Signor Gatto. You must never pass in front of it because it is an animal of royal blood, and if you ever do, they will throw you in jail at once."

Our intercourse with the servants was so restricted that they may have looked upon us with a certain awe—distance is known to lend enchantment. This may account for the undue weight my brother's words had with the credulous old woman. The respect she afterward showed the cat was a source of great amusement to us children, and none of us undeceived her. Perhaps her fellowservants were just as amused as we were and strengthened the poor old woman in her belief. It is not difficult to imagine that the men in the servants' hall thoroughly enjoyed it when she asked them whether the Signorino was right when he said that the cat was a cross between a bantam chicken and a poodle. Tuscans have a sense of humor.

One day my father asked to have dinner served earlier than usual. The cook, who sought to obey, sent Teresa to the vegetable garden to get some fresh lettuce. A little iron gate led from the garden proper, upon which the kitchen opened, to this vegetable garden, and as Teresa was coming back with a basket full of lettuce, she found that "Signor Gatto" had established himself on the threshold of the gate. She was going to brush by in a hurry, when she noticed that my father was walking up and down in the garden smoking. Then she remembered my brother's recommendations, and tried to carry them out to the letter. "Signor Gatto," she said apologetically, "excuse me. I had not seen you. Will you please let me through?"

The cat on hearing her voice filled the whole space of the little gateway, arching its back, putting up its tail and purring. Teresa most politely repeated: "Signor Gatto, will you please let me through?"

The cat continued to balance itself on the threshold, and the woman in a more imploring tone: "Signor Gatto, will you please let me through?"

By this time her voice had attracted my father's attention, and he stopped to watch her. This probably embarrassed her, and she grew excited. She pleaded more vehemently: "Signor Gatto, will you please let me through? The Signor Generale wants dinner earlier, and I am in a hurry. Signor Gatto, I beseech you! I do not want to offend you, but I really must get through. The cook will scold. Signor Gatto, I implore you! Will you please step aside. Dinner is going to be very late, and the Signor Generate will scold."

My father, who evidently could not understand the situation, and who, moreover, was absolutely lacking in a sense of humor, spoke to her with sharp impatience: "What on earth are you talking about?"

Then she was terrorized. She thought that my father had noticed how she was going to brush by the cat, and that this might land her in jail. So she began in a wailing tone: "Signor Generate, I have always said 'Signor Gatto,' and I have never stepped in front of the cat—I beg your pardon, I mean the Signor Gatto. I am a poor woman. I mean no harm. Surely you won't let me go to jail."

My father succeeded in calming Teresa's fears, and making her give a connected explanation, which proved my brother flagrantly guilty, not only of having talked with her, when it was distinctly understood that we should hold no conversation with any of the servants, but also of having invented such a colossal whopper. (The English dictionary says that this word is colloquial, but it expresses exactly what I mean.)

-- from A Tuscan Childhood, ibid., pp. 177-182


DamnCuteBunny said...

Loved this story!

curator said...

I did too! I'm glad you enjoyed.