SO TIBERIUS ...
by ETHEL MANNIN
by ETHEL MANNIN
From Chapter One
HE did not really want her, and although he acknowledged that in her own feline way she was beautiful she did not attract him; but she was under sentence of death when he was first introduced to her, and it seemed a pity for the young and beautiful to die. He could save her; no one else, apparently, was willing to.
‘I’ll take her,’ he said, his mood half way between recklessness and despair. ‘What’s her name?’ he added.
‘Lucia, because being a female she can’t be Lucifer. In the Middle Ages she would have been a witch’s familiar. You’d better not have her. You’ll regret it. She’s pretty, but that’s all that can be said for her. She’s not lovable. She’ll take the maximum and give the minimum.’
‘That’s all right. At least she won’t lie and pretend.’
‘Susan won’t approve of your bringing her home.’
He was silent. There was no need to go into all that. He knelt down beside the chair in which the kitten sat and looked into her golden eyes; the closed pupils were thin black strokes. She regarded him with complete disinterest. He ran his hand lightly over the incredibly soft black silk of which she seemed made; with a small elusive movement she removed herself from him, then with a Brahmin fastidiousness proceeded to remove the contamination of contact with the untouchable, her small pink tongue working energetically over the silky fur. She was three months old.
From Chapter TWO
Mrs Holly was an almost professional animal-lover – though the fact did not prevent her eating certain animals, or wearing a coat made of the skins of numerous moles. She thought the lambs skipping about the fields in early spring were “sweet”, but she also liked the tender flesh of lamb, sprinkled with mint sauce, on her plate. When she passed a slaughterhouse on her way to work for the Ainsworths she always averted her head when the doors were open, to avoid the horrid sight of men in blood-stained and greasy white coats swilling down the stone floors. She disliked the sight of blood, though, oddly, found nothing repellent in a butcher’s shop. She loved cats and dogs and horses, and to a lesser degree birds. But she did not love the black kitten Mr Ainsworth brought home, because it did not behave in accordance with her dear-little-pussy-cat ideas. It struggled out of your arms if you picked it up, it moved away if you stroked it, it refused to sit in your lap and be “nursed”, and it hissed when it might have been expected to purr.
She complained of it to her employer.
‘It’s not a very affectionate cat – not like our old Sooty.’
‘She’s a devil-cat,’ Mr Ainsworth explained, adding, ‘Like her owner she doesn’t care for the human race. Why should cats feel affection for humans?’
‘We feed them, don’t we?’
‘We have civilized them and made them decadent. Their natural food is birds and mice, not boiled fish and rabbit. The cat’s place is in the jungle, not on the mat. Its first cousin is the tiger – the noblest cat of all.’
‘Tigers – ooh! Cruel things. They eat you.’
‘Not unless they’re driven to it.’
Mrs Holly persisted.
‘Blood-thirsty I call them. They go after other animals.’
‘They do their own killing, that’s all. We have ours done for us.’
‘The animals are put into the world for our use, is how I look at it.’
‘That’s what the cat feels, no doubt, when it goes after birds, and the dog when it goes after rabbits.’
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