I don't know about cats having nine lives, but Bertie seems to have at least two. He's the cat we “rescued” — got as a gift, I should say — from a departing English friend about a month ago. Yesterday we discovered a side of Bertie that we hadn't been aware of before.
In the middle of the afternoon, as the attic work crew was finishing up its work for the day and the week, somebody rang the bell down at the front gate. It was M., the woman from across the street. She and her husband, B., live up in Blois but have a weekend/summer house here in the hamlet.
M. is one of the neighbors who was clearly not pleased when we announced that we had adopted a cat. “Yet another cat in the neighborhood!” she exclaimed rather shrilly, I thought. “If you knew how many crottes” — that's French for poo or poop — “I have to dig out of my flower beds, you'd understand.”
The next day, she went so far as to bring us some crottes de chat, in a little tray, for our inspection. I assured her that Bertie did his crottes in a litter box in the garage. I know, because I clean it out daily. I didn't really need to see the poops that M. brought for us to admire, or commiserate over.
Another neighbor has at least two, and maybe three cats, you see. And those cats must be pooping in M.'s garden. It's not anything new, because the neighbor's cats have been around for the seven years we've lived here. A few days ago, when I mentioned to that particular neighbor, C., that some in the hamlet really don't like cats, she basically said « Tant pis ! » — Tough!
And she said, as I've heard her say before, « On est quand même à la campagne ici. » — we live out in the country, and everybody might as well get used to it. I think she's right. I'm sure the cats help keep down the rodent population.
So M. was at the front gate yesterday. She's been a good friend to us, and it was a friendly visit. She wanted to get a first look at the attic work, I think. I invited her in to see the new stair, and then I invited her to walk up and see the room. She did, and she was surprised at how spacious the attic is. « C'est énorme ! », she said, « et très clair. Quel changement pour vous ! »
After looking around for a couple of minutes and chatting with her, I decided to bring up the subject of the cat. “Oh, he's something else! ” she said. “He sits on our window sill and watches us through the glass.” She laughed.
“The cleaning lady says he comes right in the house with her when she arrives. The other day, she found the cat upstairs, sitting on a bed under a Velux window.” Another chuckle.
“The cleaning lady said she was afraid she might lock the cat in by accident when she finishes work, and she was worried about that,” M. went on. “I told her not to fret, because the cat's owners have the key. If the cat doesn't come home in the evening, they can come over and look for him — they have the key.” That's us. We do have their key, and they have ours.
I again reassured M. that Bertie is most likely not one of the cats pooping in her flowers. And I was glad to learn that Bertie has made some new friends in the hamlet. His secret life is no secret any more.