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Chapter 3


The mother-cat ran away at the woman’s approach. She had experienced nothing but cruelty from the two-legged sort: they had thrown stones, or water (generally cold, but, on one occasion, boiling water) at her, or tried to hit her with a stick whenever hunger had driven her into one of their houses. How could she know that there were some kind ones among them? She ran away; then walked a few steps back; once more called her lost kitten, and ran away again as she saw Heliodora’s figure before the go-down. The woman poured a little milk into her saucer, put it down on the ground, some ten yards away, and went back to examine the door: to see whether she could not find a crack that could be made larger, a loose plank, that could be pulled away — some means by which she could free the kitten. She called the mother-cat from a distance: “Puss, puss, puss . . .” and waited, without moving at all.

The mother-cat was torn between hunger and fear. Hunger won, and Heliodora saw her cautiously walk back — for the third time — and put her mouth into the good milk and start lapping it. She still remained completely immobile. The mother-cat looked up, saw there was no danger, and continued lapping. Heliodora had discovered in the door a plank that looked loose. But she did not — yet — proceed to pull it out “Let the cat finish her milk,” thought she: “the kitten can wait; it cannot run away anyhow.”

As she saw the saucer was empty, she went and refilled it. The cat again fled at her approach, but returned as soon as she had walked back to the go-down. And again she lapped the milk greedily. It was indeed a pleasure to get two saucers of milk when one had eaten nothing the whole day but a few corns of rice gathered from the dust-heaps, among kitchen ashes and rotting, foul-smelling vegetable refuse! And for the first time in her miserable life, such a pleasure was directly associated with the presence of one of “them” — one of the frightful Two-legged ones. She did not know what to make of it. Nor what to do: remain, or run away. The baby-cat was still calling her; and that tall, big creature that had brought the milk, did not look as though it would try to hit her, or throw water


at her. So she remained . . . but at a prudent distance: with Two-legged ones, one is never sure . . .

* * *

Heliodora had caught hold of the loose plank, and was jerking at it, trying to pull it out. Now and then, she held her breath, listened whether anyone was coming, or whether the people who lived opposite the go-down were opening their shutters to shout at her. It would surely not have been the first time she would have had a row with human beings on account of her sense of duty towards other creatures. She was accustomed to such incidents and fully prepared to face them. But this time, no such thing happened. And after a few jerks, the plank came out while the woman, losing hold of it, fell backwards, flat upon the ground in the middle of the lane. Her first thought, as she pulled herself together, was: “What a good thing that I had put down my milk jug! Had that fallen over, I should have had to go and fetch more milk, and in the meantime both cat and kitten would have run away. Now, the poor creatures will have a home.”

She poured a little more milk into the saucer, and laid the latter inside the go-down, at the new entrance which she had just opened. She kept her hand, absolutely immobile, above the saucer, and waited. The kitten, which she could not see, for it was pitch-dark, soon came. She heard it lapping the milk. Then, suddenly letting down her hand, she caught hold of the little creature as firmly as she could, though without hurting it. But the baby-cat, that was thoroughly afraid of “two-legged beasts” — for its mother had, in a mysterious way, warned it against the nasty tricks they can play upon one — defended itself heroically: it spat and scratched, and bit deeply into the woman’s finger. Heliodora admired the pluck of that tiny fluffy living ball, which she now held in both hands, and she stroked its fur with infinite love, and laid a kiss upon its silky round head — the first human kiss the baby-cat had ever received. The little creature was at once convinced that this was not a “two-legged beast” like most of them, but a real friend and protector of the feline race. Through the enchantment of loving caresses, this fact imposed itself, in all its overwhelming forcefulness, upon the kitten’s consciousness. And the reaction was sudden and complete; unbelievable to anyone who is not well acquainted with feline nature: a loud purr answered the woman’s touch, as the kitten curled himself up in her left hand, while she continued stroking him with her right


one. The baby-cat was totally conquered: already sure this huge two-legged creature loved him, and ready to believe in human kindness.

Heliodora looked backwards to see what the mother-cat was doing. She saw her step into the go-down and out again; she heard her mew — that same soft, subdued mew of yearning and of distress which sounded to her even more pathetic than before, now that she knew the poor beast would not find her little one. For a few seconds, she had half a mind to put the kitten down, so that his mother might carry him away. But then, as she felt the thin furry body, purring in her hand, and as she thought of the miserable life of the average Calcutta cat — one could say: of the average street cat in the East, nay, already in southern Europe, — she hesitated to do so. She stooped down, however, and, after refilling her saucer with milk for the third time, waited. She would show the kitten to his mother. Perhaps the mother would follow him, in spite of all, to his new home; who knows?

The mother-cat drank the third saucer of milk: she was hungry. Heliodora did not move, but called her from the place where she had halted: “Puss, puss, puss . . . !” And, just at that moment, the kitten, who had stretched himself upon her arm, stood up and mewed. This was not the high-pitched cry of distress that his tiny throat had been thrusting out for God alone knows how many hours, but a bold mew of satisfaction between two purrs. And the mother-cat heard it, and answered it: “Rrmiaou! rrrmiaou!” Now she knew where her kitten was. And she was beginning to feel that he was not in wicked hands. His mew was a happy one. Moreover, that two-legged creature was not like the others: it did not chase one away; it gave one milk, and allowed one to drink it in peace, remaining at a reasonable distance. Again the mother-cat looked up at her baby, and mewed. Heliodora spoke to her softly! “Come, my cat! Come, my pretty one! Puss, puss, puss . . .” And she slowly walked back home, looking round now and then.

The mother-cat was following her all right; following her own kitten, with those same subdued mews. The mews went straight to the woman’s heart. It seemed to her as though they were now addressed to her and meant: “Do give me back my little one! It is all I have in the world; all I love!” Again she was tempted to put the kitten down. But again it was clear to her that this would be thrusting him back into the untold misery of street-life in Calcutta, along with his mother. And she wanted to save both, if she could.


She soon reached the door leading into her staircase. Would the grown-up cat follow her into the house? She stepped in and looked around. The cat was there, a few yards away, gazing at her as though wishing to say: “Why won’t you give me back my kitten — my only one?” and mewing once more, calling the little creature for the last time. Heliodora felt the cat’s distress as though it had been her own. “Poor beast!” thought she, “Am I to take away all she loves? . . . But if only she would come in I should keep them both. They are twelve already; they’d be fourteen . . .”

And she put down the kitten and waited. The mother-cat, still outdoors, called for the thousandth time “Rrmiaou! Rrrmiaou!” The baby-cat took to running towards her, and she towards him. Heliodora, who was watching the minute she would cross the threshold, suddenly closed the door, and caught both cat and kitten under the hanging end of her “sari.” And paying no heed to the animals struggle to free itself — the scratches of the outstretched claws and the loud shrieks of terror — she hurried upstairs to the second floor, put down her jug (now empty) and her saucer, opened the door and slammed it shut as soon as she had stepped in. Then, she loosened her embrace. The cat sprang onto the floor of the room that was henceforth to be her home, and ran and hid herself under the book-case. Heliodora, still holding the kitten upon her arm, went into the kitchen and came back with a plate full of rice mixed with bits of fish, which she laid upon the floor. Then she let the kitten go, and from a distance, she watched him eat — and then finish the milk that was still lying at the bottom of the many cats’ large shallow plate. The mother-cat had not moved: she was no longer hungry enough to overcome her fear.

* * *

For two or three days she would not come out from her hiding place, save to eat — and that, only when the “two-legged one” was not to be seen. She would growl and spit at the other cats. And she even scratched Sadhu for having dared come too near her, be it in the most friendly mood — apparently, to rub his splendid, round glossy head against hers. Her kitten was the only one she wanted. She continued calling him in the same loving voice, with the same mews of tenderness: “Rrmiaou!, Rrrrmiaou!” And she licked him as he lay hanging at her breast, purring and, thrusting his little paws into her fur.

But as time passed, things changed. First of all, the


mother-cat’s body took shape: her neck no longer looked skinny; her bones no longer jutted out; her coat became shiny. And she had more milk. And she gradually became accustomed to the house and to the other cats. As for the kitten, he was growing into a fat, fluffy ball of fur, happy and playful, and full of affection for Heliodora, in whose lap he lay — alone or with his mother — when he was not amusing himself with Sadhu’s brushy tail, or trying to catch flies, or jumping at his own shadow on the wall.

He was an ordinary black and white kitten, rather black than white, — the cross-breed of his mother, who was all white, save for a black patch on her head, another on her back, and another on the tip of her tail, and of a tom-cat as black as night — and particularly well marked. He had a broad, round head, short, velvety ears, large, transparent green eyes that glowed against their background of black fur. Only his nose, chin, belly and front paws were white. The paws were broad in proportion to the body, as those of a strong young tom-cat should be. The whiskers were stiff and long enough to be the pride of any conceited feline. But this beautiful kitten was not conceited. He had no idea how beautiful he was. He was all love and playfulness, nothing more. Yet Heliodora, who generally did not give names to her cats (“Sadhu” already had his name when Zobeida, his first mistress, too poor to feed him properly, had handed him over to the “cat mem-sahib”) often called him “Long-whiskers.”

He was now lying in the woman’s lap, sucking his mother, stamping his front-paws in turn into her warm fur, and purring. The mother, completely relaxed, was also purring — a soft, regular purr of unmarred bliss. The other cats were dozing here and there: some upon the mattress where Heliodora was sitting, some upon the cushions, some upon the floor. Sadhu, who had been sleeping in the sunshine for quite a long time, suddenly decided that it was too hot, and went and stretched himself in a cool shady corner. Just one sunray, coming in through a crack in the shutters of the nearby window, still fell directly upon him, and made it clear that his coat, that one generally would have called “black,” was not really so, but dark, very dark brown. The tips of the soft silky hairs even appeared light reddish-brown, wherever the golden ray touched them.

As carefully as she possibly could — so as not to disturb the cats in her lap, — Heliodora pulled the curtain across the other window, the shutters of which were open, put aside the newspaper that she had been reading, and leaned against the wall. She started stroking the two heaps of


living fur — mother and kitten — that purred a little louder at the contact of her hands, and enjoyed the peace of her little room full of happy cats; also the peace of the verandah outside, full of healthy green plants, in the shade of which the cats often used to lie. The Statesman1 slipped down from the cushion upon which she had laid it, onto the floor, where one of the cats took to tearing it up. Heliodora smiled, and let him go on. “The paper can hardly be put to a better use” thought she.

It was, as always, — and as all newspapers were, in Allied-controlled countries — full of nothing but anti-Nazi propaganda. And the propaganda was, as always, an appeal to the reader’s “human feelings.” Heliodora had no “human feelings” in the ordinary sense of the word. She had been, from her very childhood, much too profoundly shocked at the behaviour of man towards animals in particular and living Nature in general, to have any sympathy for people suffering on account of their being Jews or friends of the Jews. The Jews were after all responsible for that silly exaltation of “man” — regardless of race and personality — above all creatures; for that criminal denial of the sacred unity of Life and of the laws of Life, in the name of man’s special value and so-called “dignity.” Heliodora recalled in her mind the threefold classification of beings according to the Kabbala: the “uncreated One, who creates,” i.e. God; the “created one who creates” — man; and finally, the “created beings that do not create” — the rest of whatever exists: animals, plants, minerals. “What nonsense!” thought she. “As if all human beings were capable of creation! Only a very small minority of them are. Then, why exalt ‘all men’, instead of ‘all creatures’? To infuse into them — even into the naturally better ones — the contempt of race and personality, so that the ugly Jew may alone control the mass of nondescript cross-breeds that will, in course of time, be the tangible outcome of that unnatural contempt?”

In addition to that, the fact that the Jews are expected to eat the flesh of those animals only that have been slaughtered in that most cruel manner prescribed by their religion, was in Heliodora’s eyes, the worst of all. Any slaughterhouses were an abomination to her; but “kosher” ones! — no treatment was bad enough when meted out to people who upheld or tolerated such institutions!

And that is why the propaganda, — written for the

1 A Calcutta daily paper, in English.


average “decent people,” i.e., for the average flesh-eaters, who have accepted the Christian, in other words, the Jewish, scale of values, as the basis of their outlook on life and subsequently of their ethics — had upon Heliodora exactly the contrary effect from that which its promoters had aimed at obtaining. It invariably gave her new reasons to feel proud of being a National Socialist, and to want the destruction of that so-called “civilisation,” — that dull plutocracy — for the love of which one was repeatedly told to “fight Nazism.” In this paper that sharp teeth and claws were just now tearing to bits, for sheer delight, was an article about so-called “Nazi atrocities.” Vivisection had been abolished in the Third Reich, admitted the author of that article, but . . . “only to be replaced by experimentation upon human beings,” namely, upon anti-Nazis — especially Jews, but sometimes also particularly pro-Jewish people of other stocks — “taken among the inmates of the concentration camps.” Heliodora, who had always looked upon experimentation upon unconcerned beasts — neither “for” nor “against” any cause — as the vilest of all crimes, and wanted dangerous human beings to be used in their stead, if such research work had to be done, simply thought: “I wish this is true, and not just a propaganda tale! If it is true, it is perhaps the best thing the grand Third Reich has done under the inspiration of its god-like Leader — all praise to him!” And she again stroked the mother-cat and kitten, now both asleep in her lap. A light purr answered her touch, and a faint ripple ran along the two soft, furry bodies. Heliodora, whom the newspaper article she had just read had deeply impressed, and who was gifted with a vivid power of imagination, thought of experiments performed upon such lovely creatures as those lying in her lap or around her. And she shuddered.

She recalled an episode from the days she had been a student, some years before, in a French university.

She had once entered a certain room — by mistake. A door led from there into several other rooms, communicating with one another, one at least of which was a vivisection chamber. And in front of that door, tied to the handle of it by a leash, had stood a dog — an ordinary light-brown dog, as thousands of others one can meet in the streets, all over the world. And that dog had stood up upon his hind legs and pulled upon his leash and tried to reach Heliodora as she had entered, feeling, no doubt, that she was a friend of creatures, and wanting her to stroke his head. Heliodora had known, even before asking anybody and getting a confirmation of her horrible intuition, that that dog was to be vivisected. She had not been able to


bring herself to stroke it: any such caress had appeared to her as an act of treason: a promise of human kindness to that trusting beast, that was about to experience in its own body one of the most revolting forms of human cruelty; a dirty lie. Had nobody been there, she would have untied the dog, taken it away, saved it anyhow and at any cost. But there had been several people there. There had been nothing she could have done or even said, with any hope of drawing that living creature — one among millions — away from its atrocious fate. Nothing! She had looked at the dog, and tears had filled her eyes, and a cold sensation of horror had run along her spine, and wild hatred towards mankind, — lucid, relentless, patient, immortal hatred for the whole species, save the hallowed minority who shared her feelings; hatred that she had always known, always experienced, only somewhat less intensely, and that would never slacken, never lessen, never change, in this life and all her lives to come, — had filled her breast. Knowing that all words would be lost upon the men sitting in that room, still she had not been able to leave without a sentence: a condemnation to death; a curse: “A civilisation that takes experiments upon dumb creatures as a matter of course should be wiped out! May I see it blown to pieces within my life-time!” had she proclaimed, trembling with indignation as she had made for the door. The dog, pulling hard on his leash and stretching his neck, had managed to lick her hands.

She now remembered how this episode had haunted her for weeks and weeks. And she felt relieved at the thought that, in the young, regenerated German Reich, round which, after the war, a new Europe would crystallize and take shape, such abominations no longer occurred. For the human beings who, according to the “Statesman,” were alleged to replace the four-legged mammals in the “service of Science,” she had no pity. First, even if not necessarily Jews, they were anti-Nazis, enemies of all she loved; so it served them right. And second, even if they all were not; even if there existed among them a few non-political people, interned by mistake (mistakes will happen in war time), it mattered little: non-political people are generally admirers of “Science” with a capital S; they call Pasteur, that torturer of hundreds of beasts, a “great man,” and look up to other such criminals as “benefactors of mankind”; not one of them in a million had fought all his life, as she had, against vivisection and other such crimes against Life, let alone against man-centred religions and philosophies. So, let them suffer and die for that which they admired and loved! (She was prepared to suffer and


die for what she loved and admired: for the great new Aryan Reich, with its proud life-centred doctrine that set a beautiful healthy cat or dog far above a dangerous or deficient human being of any race). She also remembered that the person at the head of the “Physiology research department” in that university where she had been a chemistry student, was a Jewess. Where would she now be? — that one under whose supervision live dogs’ skulls were taken off, and experiments performed upon the animals’ raw brains? In some camp in Germany, by this time — she hoped. Waiting to be gassed, or perhaps at this very minute in gas-chamber. And Heliodora thought, with a smile of satisfaction: “For once: ‘the right person in the right place’!”

And she continued stroking the soft, warm, furry bodies that lay peacefully in her lap, purring themselves to sleep.

* * *

This went on day after day: food — lovely food: rice mixed with fish (the only trouble was that the bits of fish were so finely mashed up with the rice that one could hardly pick them out separately, however much one tried) and milk: creamy milk that Long-whiskers and his mother had never had an opportunity of tasting before that night in front of the go-down; — blissful sleep, never more interrupted by a hard kick, or a stone, or water, thrown no one knew from where upon one’s back; and that soft, regular stroking of one’s fur by a magical hand, that sent one into the cats’ seventh Heaven; a magical hand that seemed to know all the subtleties of a cat’s nature, and never stroked one when one wanted to be left alone. And that deep, comfortable lap, into which one could jump whenever one liked and where one could remain — asleep or awake — as long as one pleased; to which one was never brought by force, and from which one was never turned away! Security and freedom at the same time. What more could a cat — in fact, any feline — desire?

So Long-whiskers grew into a splendid big tom-cat: twice as big as his mother (that had known a very hard life) and even bigger than Sadhu. And, which is more, even more beautiful than Sadhu, in spite of the latter’s half-angora fur. Long-whiskers had the short fur of the usual gutter-cat who has no angora blood at all. But that fur was extraordinarily thick, and as soft and glossy as the softest and glossiest plush. The black portions — by far the largest — shone in the sunshine, every individual hair having, if seen alone, a shimmer of rainbow shades


about it. The white parts were as spotless as snow. The round head with its dreamy greenish-yellow eyes (rather green than yellow) had become broader, with bulging cheeks: And the cat carried himself like a miniature tiger: his proud head erect or . . . stretched downwards, with the short, black, velvety ears thrown back and flattened, whenever he was watching a prey: a mouse or . . . just a cockroach! — his supple body undulating as he placed his powerful paws one before the other, regularly. Heliodora often gazed at him for a long time, feeling so happy that she had taken in the royal creature, when he had been but a miserable starving kitten, mewing desperately. Not that she considered that his evolution had in any way been her work. She knew it was Nature’s doing. And there were thousands of starving kittens that she could never reach, the sufferings and death of which she could never hear of — and not only kittens, but puppies, calves, lambs, young horses and donkeys, all sorts of young creatures — that would grow into the loveliest specimens of their kind, were they only to receive the care and affection which Long-whiskers had enjoyed, or were they at least just left alone, with enough to eat every day. She could not help feeling, however, that she had worked “in the direction of Nature’s finality,” and that was enough to make her happy. It was, it had always been her ambition to work — on the human plane and in connection with all living things — in the direction pointed out by Nature; “in the spirit of Creation,” to express it in those very words of her beloved Führer that she had quoted so many times.1

And Long-whiskers knew he was loved and admired, and he was also happy. He would come and rub his silky head against Heliodora, look up to her as she stroked it, and jump upon her lap. Or, if the lap was “occupied” — by Sadhu, or maybe by one of the other cats, now more and more numerous, — he would snarl till the occupant would at last get down and let him have the place. He did not like his feline companions — save the she-cats, of course — and especially not Sadhu. Nor did Sadhu like him: — the newcomer, the intruder who was getting so much of the love and care that he had once enjoyed alone, a long time before, when he had still been the only cat which Heliodora had.

At times, the woman, who did not want to hurt his feelings would pick up Sadhu and hold him in her arms and stroke him, with the same words of love she had always used: “My velvet! My purring fur! My black tiger!”

1 “So glaube ich heute im Sinne des allmächtigen Schöpfers zu handeln” (Mein Kampf, edit. 1935, p. 70).


And the cat could not help purring indeed, in the magic embrace of that more-than-feline creature who loved him as much as ever. But then, as he would become aware of Long-whiskers’ presence, he would suddenly struggle himself out of his mistress’ arms, jump upon the floor and go and seat himself, with perfect feline dignity, in the remotest corner of the room — as far away as possible even from the other many cats. Then, nine times out of ten, Long-whiskers would give out a particularly soft mew, and, after this notice, spring upon Heliodora’s shoulders and settle down in her arms — in Sadhu’s place — if she was willing to have him. And she was willing! Even if she was not — if she happened to have, at that moment something else to do — she soon became willing. (How could one refuse the advances of that enormous, panther-like cat, Long-whiskers, wanting to be caressed?) Admittedly, she felt sorry for poor Sadhu. But there was nothing she could do to reconcile the two felines, which she both loved.

Each one had his own beauty: the half-angora and the gutter tom-cat. In fact, all her cats — now some twenty or twenty-five of them: Long-whiskers’ mother had had two more kittens, and Heliodora had brought in a few from the streets — were gutter-cats, except Sadhu. She sometimes thought of those people who spend a lot of money on pets with a pedigree, and yet would do nothing to help a poor starving street cat or dog lying at their doorstep She despised such heartless snobs. What pedigree have they themselves, anyhow?” wondered she. “Half of them don’t even know who their great-grandfathers were! As for Eurasians and half-Jews who insist upon having only animals ‘of good breed’, well . . .” The very idea disgusted her. Moreover, the Führer had for all times to come condemned such unnatural hobbies and such a topsy-turvy world. One day, as she was precisely thinking of this, and recalling in her mind his words of wisdom,1 Long-whiskers — who was lying flat upon the floor, for he was too hot — looked up to her and started purring . . . as though he had wanted to tell her how fully he agreed with her philosophy, and above all with her belief that racial selection was a concern of the two-legged ones. But of course, it was a mere coincidence . . .

However it be, life was lovely in Heliodora’s quiet home. It was not only the good food and the woman’s caresses, and that complete freedom that the felines appreciated so

1 “Der völkischen Weltanschauung muss ea tin völkischen Staat endlich gelingen, jenes edlere Zeltalter herbeizuführen, in dam die Menschen ihre Sorge nicht mehr in der Höherzüchtung von Hunden, Pferden und Katzen erblicken sondern im Emporheben des Menschen selbst . . .” (Mein Kampf, edit. 1935, p. 449).


much. It was . . . the atmosphere. The cats, in whose confused consciousness, all these things were blended together, could naturally not separate that from the rest. But had they been able to do so — and had they been in possession of human speech — they would have called it “restful,” “serene.” Time did not “pass” in that blissful home; it glided. And one felt it glide — over play and sleep, meals, and dreamy relaxation at Heliodora’s side or in her lap. One felt it glide as the invisible caress of some mysterious great Being, in whose care one was safe. The wide world outside seethed with all manner of struggle: struggle for food; struggle to remain out of the way of dogs, and of cruel children who are worse, and occasionally, of grownup two-legged creatures; struggle to keep the kittens out of the reach of such enemies. Here, all was so peaceful and so easy. The cats that had but recently come in from the street, skin and bone, as Long-whiskers and his mother had once been, appreciated the difference. The broad verandah with its many green plants, in the shade of which one could doze or play, chase and catch an occasional beetle (or sometimes — at night — a mouse) was, for a long time at least, a sufficient field of adventure for them. Some of them, she-cats, for the most, never attempted to see the street again.

But Long-whiskers was now over a year and a half old. He had long forgotten his wretched babyhood: the pitiless struggle for mother’s milk, in which his brother and two sisters had perished — died of starvation, one after the other — while he, the strongest of the litter, had survived, God alone knew how; and the fear of a crowd of horrible creatures, four-legged and two-legged, that barked or shouted, ran after one, threw stones or water at one, and sometimes caught hold of one by one’s tail, or leg, or head. It had been a sheer miracle that he had always managed to bite and scratch himself out of their clutches, tiny as he had been then. So many poor street kittens had not been so lucky!

But that all lay far, far away within the mist of the past. And Long-whiskers had not the faintest recollection of it — save, perhaps somewhere very deep in his subconscious mind. All he was aware of was a confused but ardent longing to live exciting adventures, or what he dimly deemed to be such. Some elemental power within him was urging him to wander into the limitless world beyond Heliodora’s peaceful room and beautiful verandah: down the winding iron stairs at the other end of what appeared to him as a shady “avenue,” into the courtyard that be had never seen but from above; into the street, which he


did not remember. So, upon a moonlit night, as the urge had grown overwhelming, he got up from the mat where he had been lying for an hour or more, softly stroked by Heliodora’s loving hand. He sat for a while upon the windowsill, gazing at the full moon — so bright in the pure sky — and then jumped down. Slowly and stately, he walked through the double row of green plants, reached the stairs and . . . started going down.