Nine hours and nine minutes ... In six minutes the train is leaving. Another minute and the ticket counter closes. Quickly I grab my ticket, get out on the platform, run to the train, I'm inside the wagon ... I walk around in the corridor, to see in which compartment I'd find the most comfortable seat ... Here. A lady by herself, and she smokes, so much the better! I come in and greet, when I hear a growl and see protruding out of a small basket next to the lady the head of a hairy little dog, full of ribbons red and blue, who begins barking at me like at an evildoer coming at night to its mistress's bedchamber.
-Bubico! says the lady ... sit down nicely, mommy!
"Just my luck, think I, may I live well! ... To hell with you cur!"
Bubico quiets down a little; barks no more; withdraws its head into the basket, where the lady covers it again with a little red wool plaid, but it keeps growling slowly ... I, very bored, stretch down on the bench in front of the lady and close my eyes. The train has set off ... Through the corridor the passengers walk and talk to one another. Bubico growls ill-temperedly.
-Tickets, gents! says the conductor, noisily entering our compartment.
Presently Bubico takes its head out high and, willing to jump out altogether, starts barking even more terribly than before. I extend my ticket to the conductor, who punches it. The conductor takes a step toward the lady, who's looking for her ticket in the handbag, as Bubico barks and yowls desperately, tugging to get out of the basket.
-Bubico! says the lady, sit nicely, mommy's dearest!
And extends the ticket. When the conductor's hand reached the lady's, Bubico seemed to go mad. But the conductor has done his job and gets out. The lady covers her darling, maternally caressing it; I stretch back down closing my eyes, while Bubico growls slowly like thunder heading away after the passing of a terrible thunderstorm. Now it can't be heard anymore. But I hear the hiss of a match; the lady is lighting herself a cigarette ... I'm still not sleepy. Why wouldn't I light one too? Oh! In the hurry of catching the train, I forgot to buy matches. No matter ... Let me ask Bubico's mommy ... I draw a cigarette out, stand up and make as if to approach the lady. Barely I make a move, and Bubico draws its head out barking at me more furiously than on the corridor ... barks and yowls and coughs and ...
-Bubico - says the lady - sit down nicely, mommy's little love!
"May you catch rabies, hellish cur!" I say in my thought. I have never seen such an abhorrent and disgusting cur ... If I could, I would break its neck.
Through Bubico's desperate howls, mommy gives me a light. I thank her and sit down in the remotest seat of the compartment, afraid I wouldn't be able to resist any longer and I'd bash its head when it comes out again.
-Nice doggie you have, I say to the lady, after a few moments of silence; but bad!
-Oh! he's not bad, says the lady, only until he learns the man; but you don't know how well-behaved and faithful he is, and smart! Well! he's like a man, brother! only he doesn't talk ...
Then to the basket, with a lot of love:
-Where is Bubico? ... There's no Bubico! ...
From the basket comes a sentimental meowing.
-Should mother give the little boy a little sugar? ... Bubico! Bubi!!
The little boy takes out its beribboned head ... Mommy disentangles it from the cloths in which it is fermenting and takes it out. I, terrified that the bastard might try to provoke me, tell the lady:
-Madam! for God's sake, hold it so it doesn't jump me! I have bad nerves, and I don't know what I could do ... from fear ...
But the lady, taking the darling in her arms and caressing it with all tenderness:
-Woe me! how do you think? ... We are behaved and well-bred boys ... We aren't churls like Bismark(1) ...
-Ha? I say.
-Bismark of Papadopolina's officer.
Giving me this explanation, the lady fetches a piece of sugar out of the handbag:
-Who likes a little sugar? ...
Bubico (sitting nicely on the bench, despite the wagon's shaking): Bow!
-Should mommy give the boy a little sugar?
Bubico: Bow! Wow!
And he grabs the little piece of sugar and begins gnawing at it ... The lady gets a bottle of milk out of another small bag, from which she pours into a glass; then:
-Who likes a little milk?
Bubico (licking its muzzle): Bow!
-Should mommy give the boy a little milk?
Bubico (impatient): Bow! Wow!
"Ah! I sigh in my heart; may the dog catcher take you, Bubico!"
But the lady draws the slanted glass to the darling's muzzle, who starts lapping, and laps, and laps, until a passenger shows at the door of our compartment looking inside. Bubico stops lapping and begins barking like a beast, with bulging eyes and biting in the air and gnashing and coughing and ...
"See you in Babes(2), hellish mongrel!" I think, and to my mind start coming all sorts of ideas, each crueler and more infamous then the next.
The passenger has withdrawn from the window. Bubico has settled down. The lady again pours milk into the glass and has some herself. I feel the black ideas flooding me, more and more irresistibly.
-By the way - I say - madam, you were talking a moment ago about Bismark ... of ...
-Of Papadopolina's officer ...
-Right! What is Bismark?
-A courtyard dog ... Almost killed my Bubico ... Papadopolina has a little dog, Zambilica, very pretty one! sits by my side; we're friends; and him (points at Bubico), terrible courtship! (To Bubico:) You womanizer! ... (To me:) That miserable servant, an imbecile! I told her, when she took him out in the morning - 'cause you don't know how clean he is! - I say: "Take care he doesn't escape and go again to Papadopolina, Bismark will tear him to bits ..." the officer's hound, who is her tenant. (Coughs meaningfully.) I don't know what I was doing around the house, until I hear yowls and screams outside ... I cry: "Bubico! Bubico! where is the boy?!" I'm running ... The imbecile was bringing him on her arms; she and Papadopolina and the officer's soldier had barely got him out of the hound's mouth. And look at him? ... thrashed around, fainted and soft like a rag. I say: "Woe is me! the boy is dying!" sprinkle him with water! pass salts by his nose! ... What I endured, only I know ... For two weeks he lay ... I even brought a doctor. But in the end, thank God! he made it ... (to Bubico:) Is the boy going to Zambilica again?
-Let Bismark eat you ... you womanizer!
And it jumps off the bench onto the wagon's floor and starts for me.
-Lady! I shout, raising my feet; I have bad nerves, let it stay off me, 'cause ...
-No, brother! says the lady, don't you see he wants to make friends? He's like this: right away he feels who loves him ...
-Ah! I say, having an infernal inspiration; ah! he feels who loves him ... wants to make friends! ... Good!
And as the doggie comes to sniff me, I take a pack of candy, which I am taking to the province, for a friend; I open it, take out a bonbon and, handing it down, gently:
-Coochie coochie coo! Bubico boy! Bubi!
Bubico, wagging its tail, comes closer with a certain shyness and doubt, then, encouraged by my gentleness, grabs the bonbon nicely and starts chomping on it.
-You see you made friends! says the lady with a lot of satisfaction for this accomodation.
Then she tells me the darling's genealogy ... Bubico is the child of Garson and Gigica, who was a sister of Papadopolina's Zambilica, which, that is to say, means Zambilica is Bubico's aunt by his mother's side ... While the lady tells me the story, I, defeating my aversion and disgust in favor of a high purpose, make use of the most demeaning methods in order to win the good graces of Zambilica's nephew. And indeed, Bubico comes ever closer, until he lets me hold him in my arms. I feel my heart beat in fear lest, by some movement, or look, I betray a grand plan I have tailored in the depths of my conscience. The lady can't be amazed enough by the friendship shown me by Bubico, while I asiduously cultivate this friendship so dear to me, with pettings and bonbons.
-Eh look! how you've become friends .... What's that, Bubico? what is it, mommy? you love the gentleman? yes?
And Bubico answers, cuddling in my arms:
-Like that? you've betrayed your mommy, have you? ... you Don Juan!
Bubico: Bow! wow!
-You must be a good man! He isn't drawn to just everybody ...
-Of course, lady; the dog feels it; he has instinct.
As I am saying these, presently the train stops in Crivina. On the platform one can hear barking and dogs quarreling. Bubico tries to pull itself out of my arms; I hold tight; it starts barking doggedly toward the wagon window. The train starts again, and Bubico, turning its head to the side where one hears the quarrel of his kin, getting more remote, still keeps barking; I pet him, to calm him down; when nothing more can be heard, he lifts his muzzle to the ceiling and begins, in my arms, howling ... in my arms!
"Ah! Bubico - I say to myself, petting him nicely - by your head! ... I'd see you gloves!"
But Bubico keeps howling.
-Lady - I say - you're not doing well to keep Bubico so close and so covered in warmth, he may get rabies ... Even so, it's too warm here.
And saying these, I get up with Bubico in my arms and draw near the wagon window. I put Bubico carefully down next to his mummy, and I lower the window, bowing down to breathe. Outside, a night as dark as my ideas.
-Well done! let the smoke get out, says the lady.
We are entering the Prahova bridge ... I turn around, take a bonbon, show it to Bubico, who joins me nicely wagging his tail.
"By the memory of Pluto and his faithful Cerberus! I say in my thought; I swear they lied, those who sung the instinct of dogs! It's a lie! Doesn't exist!"
Bubico takes my bonbon; I take him in my arms and draw near the window, lifting him next to the opening. The cool air, passing by his muzzle, gives Bubico great pleasure. He draws his tongue out and breathes profoundly.
-Don't drop him out the window! for G ...
But before mommy has time to wholly utter the creator's holy name, Bubico vanishes like a white pidgeon in the black of the night, back to Bucuresti, flying - to Zambilica, likely. I turn my face toward the lady and, showing her my empty hands, cry exasperatedly:
A scream! ... The lady has gone mad!
-Quick, lady, the alarm signal!
I take her to the signal and teach her how to pull it. Lost with pain, she executes the motion with supreme energy. The train, stop! on the spot. Colossal wobbling. General emotion among the passengers.
-Who? who pulled the signal?
-Her I say to the train's staff, pointing at the fainted lady.
The train starts moving again. In Ploiesti, the lady has woken from her torpor; crushed with misfortune, she must answer for the statement that is asked from her concerning her use of the signal. While, in the middle of the piled passengers, the lady is wailing, I draw next to her ear and, with a diabolical grin, whisper distinctly:
-Lady! I threw it out, may you eat its tail!
She faints again ... I pass like a demon through the crowd and vanish into the black night ...
(1) Bismark was well-known for his abrupt manner, e.g. wearing his riding crop and his uniform on all occasions; also for his blood and iron speech.
(2) A very cruel wish. Don't ask.
License: Creative Commons 3.0, cc-by-sa