The Cook's Wedding and Other Stories
Who Was To Blame?
As my uncle Pyotr Demyanitch, a lean, bilious collegiate councillor, exceedingly like a
stale smoked fish with a stick through it, was getting ready to go to the high school,
where he taught Latin, he noticed that the corner of his grammar was nibbled by mice.
"I say, Praskovya," he said, going into the kitchen and addressing the cook, "how is it we
have got mice here? Upon my word! yesterday my top hat was nibbled, to-day they have
disfigured my Latin grammar . . . . At this rate they will soon begin eating my clothes!
"What can I do? I did not bring them in!" answered Praskovya.
"We must do something! You had better get a cat, hadn't you?"
"I've got a cat, but what good is it?"
And Praskovya pointed to the corner where a white kitten, thin as a match, lay curled up
asleep beside a broom.
"Why is it no good?" asked Pyotr Demyanitch.
"It's young yet, and foolish. It's not two months old yet."
"H'm. . . . Then it must be trained. It had much better be learning instead of lying there."
Saying this, Pyotr Demyanitch sighed with a careworn air and went out of the kitchen.
The kitten raised his head, looked lazily after him, and shut his eyes again.
The kitten lay awake thinking. Of what? Unacquainted with real life, having no store of
accumulated impressions, his mental processes could only be instinctive, and he could
but picture life in accordance with the conceptions that he had inherited, together with his
flesh and blood, from his ancestors, the tigers (vide Darwin). His thoughts were of the
nature of day-dreams. His feline imagination pictured something like the Arabian desert,
over which flitted shadows closely resembling Praskovya, the stove, the broom. In the
midst of the shadows there suddenly appeared a saucer of milk; the saucer began to grow
paws, it began moving and displayed a tendency to run; the kitten made a bound, and
with a thrill of blood-thirsty sensuality thrust his claws into it.
When the saucer had vanished into obscurity a piece of meat appeared, dropped by
Praskovya; the meat ran away with a cowardly squeak, but the kitten made a bound and
got his claws into it. . . . Everything that rose before the imagination of the young
dreamer had for its starting-point leaps, claws, and teeth. . . The soul of another is
darkness, and a cat's soul more than most, but how near the visions just described are to
the truth may be seen from the following fact: under the influence of his day-dreams the
kitten suddenly leaped up, looked with flashing eyes at Praskovya, ruffled up his coat,