Page:Court Royal.djvu/424

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mended it with strips of adhesive paper from a sheet of postage stamps. One strip was loose, and the indriving draught fluttered it and made a sound like the purring of a cat. Then the Jew left the shop and fastened the door behind him, and explored his little sanctum. That door had been left ajar, and it was quite possible that the cat had entered. He sought it in every corner, under the presses, under the bed, behind the sedans. He could see nothing of it. He listened; he could not hear it. Yet the cat must be in the house somewhere, and when he was quiet, and fallen asleep, he would be startled by the gleam of the moony eyes, and a crash; the cat had upset and broken some valuable porcelain. He shut his bedroom door; he shut the passage door, and was again in the kitchen, and there, on the table in the same place as before, as though it had remained there undisturbed, was the black cat, watching him out of its lambent eyes.

‘I’ll have a watch-dog. If I have to pay fifteen shillings for one I will have one, if only to keep cats away.’

Lazarus was sly. He put the stick behind his back, and turned it in his hand so as to hold the slight end. Then he came towards the table step by step; he would not rouse the suspicions of the creature. He put the candle on the floor.

‘Pretty! pretty!’ said the Jew in a caressing tone. ‘Will I hurt my beauty? Oh no! it is not in the heart of old Lazarus to do you harm. Do you want milk? There is some in the jug in the larder. What do you say to a herring’s head? There are some in the sink. May I chuck you under the chin? May I scratch your back, you beauty?’

But the creature did not suffer him to approach without rising, setting up its back, and charging its tail and hair with electricity so that they bristled like the hairs of a flue-brush. The expression of its eyes was threatening. It half opened its mouth and showed the long white teeth that armed the gums. Lazarus was afraid the cat would leap at his face, and he put up his arm to protect his eyes, thought better of his attempt, and backed, still watching the cat, into the outer kitchen.

‘The black imp!’ he muttered. ‘I must make a way for it to escape.’ Then he unbolted the back door into the yard, and left it ajar.

Having done this he returned to the kitchen. The cat was no longer on the table, no longer visible. Whither it had gone he could not guess. He was afraid to search, lest it