Madame de la Grenouillère inhabited a magnificent mansion situated on the corner of the streets Saint-Thomas-du-Louvre and Orties-Saint-Louis; there she led a very retired life, on almost intimate terms with her two principal domestics,—Madame Michel, her maid and companion, and M. Lustucru, the steward. These servants being elderly persons, the Countess, who was possessed of a pleasant humor,
had christened them Mother Michel and Father Lustucru. The features of Mother Michel bore the imprint of her amiable disposition; she was as open and candid as Father Lustucru was sly and dissimulating. The plausible air of the steward might deceive persons without much experience; but close observers could easily discover the most perverse inclinations under his false mask of good nature. There was duplicity in his great blue eyes, anger concentrated in his nostrils, something wily in the end of his tapering nose, and malice in the shape of his lips. However, this man had never, in appearance, at least, done anything to forfeit his honor; he had been able to guard an outside air of honesty, hiding very carefully the blackness of his nature. His wickedness was like a mine to which one has However, this man had never, in appearance, at least, done anything to forfeit his honor; he had been able to guard an outside air of honesty, hiding very carefully the blackness of his nature. His wickedness was like a mine to which one has not yet applied the match,—it waited only for an occasion to flash out.
Lustucru detested animals, but, in order to flatter the taste of his mistress, he pretended to idolize them. On seeing Mother Michel bearing in her arms the rescued cat, he said to himself: "What, another beast! As if there were not enough of us in the house!" He could not help throwing a glance of antipathy at the new-comer; then, curbing himself quickly, he cried, with an affected admiration,— "Oh, the beautiful cat! the pretty cat! that cat hasn’t his equal!"—and he caressed it in the most perfidious fashion. "Truly?" said Madame de la Grenouillère; "you do not find him too homely?"
Too homely! But, then, he has charming eyes. But, if he was frightful, your interesting yourself in him would change him." "He displeased me at first." "The beings who displease at first are those one loves the most after awhile," replied Father Lustucru, sententiously. They proceeded at once to make the toilet of the cat, who, in spite of his instinctive horror of water, submitted with touching resignation to being washed; he seemed to understand that it improved his personal appearance. After giving him a dish of broken meat, which he ate with great relish, they arranged the hours for his meals, the employment of his days, and the place where he was to sleep.