P. G. Wodehouse: The Man Upstairs and Other Stories


'I've got an appointment at eleven,' I said.

He nodded absently, drew at his cigarette, and began:

* * * * *

I have conceived my 'atred of animals, monsieur, many years ago in Paris. Animals are to me a symbol for the lost dreams of youth, for ambitions foiled, for artistic impulses cruelly stifled. You are astonished. You ask why I say these things. I shall tell you.

I am in Paris, young, ardent, artistic. I wish to paint pictures. I 'ave the genius, the ent'usiasm. I wish to be disciple of the great Bouguereau. But no. I am dependent for support upon an uncle. He is rich. He is proprietor of the great Hotel Jules Priaulx. My name is also Priaulx. He is not sympathetic. I say, 'Uncle, I 'ave the genius, the ent'usiasm. Permit me to paint.' He shakes his head. He say, 'I will give you position in my hotel, and you shall earn your living.' What choice? I weep, but I kill my dreams, and I become cashier at my uncle's hotel at a salary of thirty-five francs a week. I, the artist, become a machine for the changing of money at dam bad salary. What would you? What choice? I am dependent. I go to the hotel, and there I learn to 'ate all animals. Cats especially.

I will tell you the reason. My uncle's hotel is fashionable hotel. Rich Americans, rich Maharajahs, rich people of every nation come to my uncle's hotel. They come, and with them they have brought their pets. Monsieur, it was the existence of a nightmare. Wherever I have looked there are animals. Listen. There is an Indian prince. He has with him two dromedaries. There is also one other Indian prince. With him is a giraffe. The giraffe drink every day one dozen best champagne to keep his coat good. I, the artist, have my bock, and my coat is not good. There is a guest with a young lion. There is a guest with an alligator. But especially there is a cat. He is fat. His name is Alexander. He belongs to an American woman. She is fat. She exhibits him to me. He is wrapped in a silk and fur creation like an opera cloak. Every day she exhibits him. It is 'Alexander this' and 'Alexander that', till I 'ate Alexander very much. I 'ate all the animals, but especially Alexander.

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