The animal lifted its head toward its master; then it climbed upon him, mounted his shoulders, and, after a thousand caresses and a thousand pretty tricks, rolled itself around the captain's neck, like a handkerchief. Rose said nothing. She seemed vexed.
Then an infernal idea flashed into my mind.
"I will bet you," I said, suddenly,—"I will bet you, Captain, that you would not eat your ferret."
The captain looked at me with profound astonishment, and then with infinite sadness. His eyes became round, his lips quivered.
"Kléber?" he stammered; "eat Kléber?"
Evidently this question had never occurred to him, who had eaten everything. A sort of new world, strangely comestible, appeared before him.
"I will bet," I repeated, ferociously, "that you would not eat your ferret."
Bewildered, distressed, moved by a mysterious and invincible shock, the old captain had risen from his bench. He was extraordinarily agitated.
"Just say that again, and see!" he stammered.
For the third time, violently, separating each word, I said:
"I will bet that you would not eat your ferret."
"I would not eat my ferret? What's that you say? You say that I would not eat it? Yes, you say that? Well, you shall see. I tell you that I eat everything."