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essential to social relations. At first, in its early youth, it possesses all the graces, all the suppleness, all the unexpectedness by which the most exacting, artistic fancy can be amused! It is adroit, it always knows where it is. Prudent unto caution, it goes everywhere, it examines without soiling, breaking nothing; it is in itself a warmth and a caress; it has not a snout, but a mouth-and what a mouth! It steals the mutton as does the dog, but, unlike the latter, makes no delight of carrion; it is discreet and of fastidious cleanliness, which might be well imitated by a number of its detractors. It washes its face, and in so doing foretells the weather into the bargain. One can entertain the idea of putting a ribbon around its neck, never a collar; it cannot be enslaved. It permits no modifications in its race; it lends itself to no combinations that industries could attempt. The cat reflects, this is obvious, contrary to the dog, a lackbrain whose rabies is his crowning idiocy. In short, the cat is a dignified, proud, disdainful animal that conceals its fonctions basses, that hides its love affairs in the shadows, almost within the clouds, upon the roofs, in the vicinity of the night-working students. It defies advances, and tolerates no insults, it abandons the house in which it is not treated according to its merits; in short, the cat is truly an aristocrat in type and origin, whereas the dog is and ever will be naught but a vulgar parvenu by dint of complaisance.
The sole argument at all plausible against the cat is that it destroys the birds, the nightingales as well as the sparrows.
If the dog does not as much it is because he is too clumsy and stupid. He runs also after the birds, but barking, the birds escape him, and he stays behind completely dumbfounded, openmouthed and with astonished tail. He makes up for it upon the partridges and rabbits, after two years' submission to the strong collar in order to learn this art, and it is not for himself, but for the hunter, that he goes in quest of game. The imbecile! He persecutes the animals, an animal himself, for the profit of the man who beats him. At least, when the cat catches a bird she has an excuse; it is to eat it herself. Why would that authorize man to slander her? Let men regard one another! They will see in their race, as in that of cats, those who have claws have no other preoccupation but to destroy those who have wings.
RIP VAN WINKLE. From "Sketch-Book." Condensed by the Editor from the First American and English Edition. By WASHINGTON IRVING.
HOEVER has made a voyage up the Hudson must remember the Kaatskill Mountains.
At the foot of these fairy mountains, the voyager may have descried the light smoke curling up from a village, whose shingle roofs gleam among the trees, just where the blue tints of the upland melt away into the fresh green of the nearer landscape. It is a little vil. lage of great antiquity, having been founded by some of the Dutch colonists, in the early times of the province, just about the beginning of the government of the good Peter Stuyvesant (may he rest in peace!).
In that same village, and in one of these very houses (which, to tell the precise truth, was sadly time-worn and weather-beaten), there lived many years since, while the country was yet a province of Great Britain, a simple good-natured fellow, of the name of Rip Van Winkle. He was moreover a kind neighbour, and an obedient henpecked husband. Indeed, to the latter circumstance might be owing that meekness of spirit which gained him such universal popularity; for those men are most apt to be obsequious and conciliating abroad, who are under the discipline of shrews at home.
The great error in Rip's composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labour. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance; for he would sit on a wet rock, with a rod as long and heavy as a Tartar's lance, and fish all day without a murmur, even though he should not be encouraged by a single nibble.
He would carry a fowling-piece on his shoulder, for hours together,
trudging through woods. and swamps, and up hill and down dale, to shoot a few squirrels or wild pigeons. In a word, Rip was ready to attend to anybody's business but his own; but as to doing family duty, and keeping his farm in order, he found it impossible.
His children, too, were as ragged and wild as if they belonged to nobody. His son Rip, an urchin begotten in his own likeness, promised to inherit the habits, with the old clothes of his father.
Rip Van Winkle, however, was one of those happy mortals, of foolish, well-oiled dispositions, who take the world easy, eat white bread or brown, whichever can be got with least thought or trouble, and would rather starve on a penny than work for a pound. If left to himself, he would have whistled life away, in perfect contentment; but his wife kept continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family.
Rip's sole domestic adherent was his dog Wolf, who was as much henpecked as his master; for Dame Van Winkle regarded them as companions in idleness, and even looked upon Wolf with an evil eye, as the cause of his master's going so often astray.
Times grew worse and worse with Rip Van Winkle, as years of matrimony rolled on: a tart temper never mellows with age, and a sharp tongue is the only edge tool that grows keener with constant use.
For a long while he used to console himself, when driven from home, by frequenting a kind of perpetual club of the sages, philosophers, and other idle personages of the village, which held its sessions on a bench before a small inn, designated by a rubicund portrait of his majesty George the Third. Here they used to sit in the shade, of a long lazy summer's day, talking listlessly over village gossip, or telling endless sleepy stories about nothing. But it would have been worth any statesman's money to have heard the profound discussions, which sometimes took place, when by chance an old newspaper fell into their hands, from some passing traveller. How solemnly they would listen to the contents, as drawled out by Derrick Van Bummel, the schoolmaster, a dapper learned little man, who was not to be daunted by the most gigantic word in the dictionary; and how sagely they would deliberate upon public events some months after they had taken place!
The opinions of this junto were completely controlled by Nicholas Vedder, a patriarch of the village, and landlord of the inn, at the door of which he took his seat from morning till night, just moving sufficiently to avoid the sun, and keep in the shade of a large tree; so that the neighbours could tell the hour by his movements as accurately as by a sun-dial.
From even this stronghold the unlucky Rip was at length routed by his termagant wife, who would sud. denly break in upon the tranquillity of the assemblage, and call the members all to nought; nor was that august personage, Nicholas Vedder himself, sacred from the daring tongue of this terrible virago, who charged him outright with encouraging her husband in habits of idleness.
Poor Rip was at last reduced almost to despair, and his only alternative to escape from the labour of the farm and the clamour of his wife, was to take gun in hand, and stroll away into the woods. Here he would sometimes seat himself at the foot of a tree, and share the contents of his wallet with Wolf, with whom he