When the cat of Mr. Prudent sensed that it came his last hour, because it's natural for its kind to end with dignity, he hid himself inside a hole and since then he was never seen again.
Mr. Prudent had no tears to cry over his cat. The very last one (the one that is shed with such difficulty) he had given it in another occasion.
From there on, for any harm that would come his way, one thing only he could do. To think about it, to measure it up and to judge it, as if it happened to a stranger.
Well, when he found out from the children in the neighborhood that his cat had died, he did something analogous to the dignity of his beloved animal. He thought for one last time of his cat.
and then - since for a long time it became a nightmare to him the memory of the velvet touch feeling of his fur and of his purring - he forgot about him.
Yes, he totally wrote him off. He had taken his decision. He will forget, he said, the last one he had lost. He will erase all the others as well! The cat was the last one.
This is how it ended the story of the affection, of the sorrows and of the passions of Mr. Prudent with an angry movement of his logic. He remained alone.
All the life that’s remains in him now it shall be his only. - From the sip of water that I will be drinking from now on, he said, no one is going to get anything!
So Mr. Prudent took his passports and he rushed to enjoy the rest of himself in the «international nations», as he used to say, the tempestuous lands, where anyone can find himself alone within thousands of other selves who’ve broken free.
Now he understands these travelers, who go silent on the trains and on the boats, determined not to give to the others not a single word, nor a smile, because they find this as well to be a waste of their personal property.
Now he can feel the pleasure of these boring people, who travel and hold tight within themselves with avarice the sorrows and the uglinesses, so long as they belong to them!
Those who remain motionless in the armchairs of the hotels, and who become, because of their countenance, antipathetical and they insult each other in languages that they don't know, the scarecrows of the trains and of the boats, merely protecting themselves, from each other.
With so much pleasure during his journey he now hears himself being addressed by the room attendants as the «eleven», the «twentythree», the «eightytwo»! Triumphantly he would lock his door. Proudly he would remain silent.
The slight shaking of the head, that he did in order to greet, when entering the dining room, he considered it a sacrifice. It was a rapture in the castle of himself.
To the unsuspecting stranger, that sometimes would talk to him, he would respond with a gesture or with monosyllables. Another rupture.
For these minor retreats he would regret afterwards and would try to amend them with an eternal silence.
- Don't look at me, my friend, he used to say to himself responding to the looks of the people. You won’t get a word out of me. There’s not enough for you. Enough! Enough! I am myself! I am the eleven! The twentythree! The eightytwo!
And then he thought of everyone, all those who didn't let him live his own life... It was an endless line of people.
It was his wife. He spent the greatest part of himself, in order to take care of her little weaknesses, that presented themselves upon him with great expectations, and in order to take care of her rheumatisms.
They were his fleeting acquaintances, and even among them some of them - his luck had to do with it after all - they claimed demands and cost him of infinite amount of care. To get rid of them too, he had to leave behind a piece of his own skin.
Each of his people, of his friends, of his acquaintances had for Mr. Prudent their disproof ready in their pockets. Some of them betrayed him early, some others later on.
Finally his cat, after he betrayed him as well - what else is death? -, gave him the opportunity to make his historical move and to live on his own.
While he was enjoying the triumph of his own individual Mr. Prudent, while voyaging by train between two of his international nations,
at some frontier, at the edge of a grey sea, that had neither blue color to stir emotion, nor fine masts, nor farewells, he entered suddenly in his vagon a porter with two suitcases.
What? Another passenger is coming! Ah! Isn’t his companion lucky. Not a wave! Not a word! Mr. Prudent locked immediatelly himself up like a medieval fortress.
«Don't even try, Sir», he thought to himself, «to speak to me of your hopes, your denials, your gains, your illnesses, your happinesses.
And, pinned at his seat, holding a book by Baedeker - his favourite book, that didn't ask him to become emotional for no foreign affairs -, he kept looking at the door, to see who is the deceived poor guy, who comes with the certainty of having found a pleasant fellow passenger!
Two girls, an old lady, a man, a white-haired old man, they entered. They all threw at him a glance. After they looked at him, they secured one seat. One of them therefore would travel.
After they threw on this seat overcoats, blankets, books, little bugs and in the rack they placed two suitcases, they took again the person who would travel and they went out to wait for the departure.
Mr. Prudent had no curiosity to find out who they were sending off. Indifferent, with his finger inside the book of Baedeker, he came to the window of the wagon.
From there he saw how these five, slowly walking through the length of the station, had now lost the vivacity that they had shown inside the wagon and had started making moves in a quite awkward way. The girls took a sort of stiffness common only in old photographs.
The men had the attitude of people who were trying to convince the old lady that, what was about to happen in a while, will not have such great importance and that someone must look straight to the bad moments with calm logic.
But suddenly rang the bell of the train. And then they decided among them the separation. The respectful woman hesitated, whether she should acknowledge this moment, whether she should give herself up to it.
She stood for a little while, as if she wanted to resist. Then she threw herself to the youngest of the girls kissing her on the waves of her hair, on her neck and on her eyes, in real despair.
The two men renounced immediately the pride posture of their gender. Their knees started shaking, the handkerchief found its way to their eyes.
After the youngest girl, the woman embraced in her arms the oldest one, then the one man and the other. And again she started kissing the youngest.
And out of fear that she might not have the time to leave to everyone her mark forever - cause it seems she would travel so far away, so that another encounter she would not have anymore in this life with them -, she would touch now the neck of one of them, then the hair and the forehead of another
and she would try with the touch of her hand to keep as if with a photograph the feeling that gives the skin of her beloved persons.
Thumps of chests, yelling of bearers, creaks of wagons, outcries of people all of them fell upon this sacred moment with the insistence that the crude and the tangible ones have to keep crushing every weakness of ours, that dares to present itself at such times.
The entire station was one song, one «come on», one «have to», one «tomorrow»! Only these five were struggling against their own soul.
And neither the risk of departing the train, nor the panting of the station hurried them to decide to let go one from the other.
From the window she got time to wave a little her hands to those left behind..., to see for the last time those four handkerchiefs..., that waved with mania..., until everything was lost from sight...
As the train started to speed and the two passengers found themselves alone in the wagon, Mr. Prudent started fearing that in his hermetically closed existense a breach had occured, such that did not allow him to remain at this moment all alone, as he had decided to do.
The old lady, fallen across the corner, had just now started to feel the separation. She was crying.
She had turned into a little fountain, like the ones flowing beneath a dark rock opening underneath the leaves. And almost Mr. Prudent felt some jealousy.
Long time had passed since he shed his last tear. He had no other. And now he sees an old lady who, at such an age, she still has to give! And so plenty!
But, what is this thing that opens fountains like this? Isn't pain therefore scared neither of the pantings at the train stations, nor of the decision taken by the people who denied him and wish to destroy him, such as, for example, Mr. Prudent himself?
The old lady sought to trick herself. She opened a book... In vain. She couldn't see a thing. She turned to another page. She closed it.
Then she opened a bag and started taking out of it little things, that had not at this moment absolutely no use: a pair of scissors, a wallet, two letters, a case.
She ran them through her fingers many times, you would think she was begging them to become useful in some way. But they could not, it seems, trick her. She put them back inside the bag.
Then she turned her glance outside the window. Green landscapes without meaning, trees upright, dense, monotonous, tens of thousands, all the same. Incomprehensible volume is the creation to the man, when it cannot offer him any help!
A small town passed by - but the sight of the tranquility of its houses and of the chimneys that were smoking brought back in her mind the separation and it opened once more the fountain in her blue eyes.
This time she cried a lot, until, finally, her eyes went dry and she remained looking at the open book - without reading a single line.
Like the waterlogged people sometimes realize the danger too late, the moment in which they cannot do anything and they surrunder,
similarly at a late stage Mr. Prudent felt that the drama of this unknown old lady had now been passed on to him.
Like a tricky flooding it was growing in his interior world. All her sorrow had spread up in his own soul as if it was his.
Mr. Prudent discovered inside himself an intrusion that he hadn’t expected. They had never met before. They will never meet another time in the future each other. One would never sacrifice for the other even the slightest bit of his comfort.
And yet though the closed iron doors, the lifted bridges, the towers and the loopholes of the person of Mr. Prudent it managed to enter the unhappiness of the unknown woman and filled up the whole void of his soul.
And while he feels embarrassed with himself - how he had promised to protect him and how he left him to his destiny! -, on the other hand he admires human grief, that will not be contained within the borders of a lonely soul. Allways keeps seeking for the other soul.
And he imagines the soul of man Mr. Prudent being similar to those trees, that within the ground are ever searching with thousands of thin roots to find water and penetrate the walls of the wells to drink...
He sees how uninterested it is to his plans, to his anger and to his decision, the power that transfers the adventures from one soul to another, the empathy.
The old lady, with red eyes from crying, was meditating, motionless at her seat, sunk in this lethargy that follows the great turmoil.
She had understood something. Someboby had relieved her. Who? She did not know. She felt however, with the sensitivity of someone in sorrow, that her drama had passed on to the consciousness of another human being on earth.
So, while she had her eyes closed from the lethargy, she felt as if she had been caressed by a slight springtime air. In a little while she rose from this earth.
The stars approached each other, allegedly. And she would pass from star to star just with the littlest of help given to her by others, slightly holding her wrinkled hand.
And the angels, without moving much their big white wings, they were holding them almost motionless and they were floating one on a rosy cloud and another on a light blue cloud.
And, within all this silence, it was heard the divine harmony of their psalms, coming from many voices, but serious and tranquil, like a peaceful stream of sounds, that was becoming, one might say, the same substance with the silence and the same substance with the light.
And when the old lady opened her eyes and found herself again in the same seat of the wagon, with the same traveller before her, she didn't ask neither why, nor how this had happened. She just felt that in this heavenly journey she had been led by another human soul.
Someone had sympathized her. She did not know who... Perhaps someone of the people running amidst the chaos of the station... Someone unknown must have grubbed her sobs during the separation scene...
Perhaps some woman. Some worker... Some unhappy person... Who knows those things? We never know where they fall the drops of our tears and when they become lilies for us.
He had not been discovered therefore Mr. Prudent. At the eyes of the old lady he appeared as some indifferent traveler, hurrying somewhere to arrive. So well he managed to keep before her his composed attitude.
The old lady saw her unknown fellow traveler disembarking on a station and disappearing among the crowd. She will never suspect that it was him who had led her between the stars!
Mr. Prudent got off in a city full of strangers, lonely people, hotel numbers, eleven, twenty three, eighty two... They overlook everything, they hush, they drink up their gulp.
But he was no longer one of them! He never was! His paradoxical adventure let him know that he had fooled himself.
No! He cannot drink up his whole gulp! There is still in his existence room for countless of sorrows... He is made for the others! It is impossible to lock himself up within himself!
What he had suffered until now it was right for him to suffer! And those misfortunes awaiting for him, again he shall deserve! Everything is written.
Did he have therefore to travel to the distant seas in order to find this out? He went to the «international nations» all alone in order to find along the way again his own soul?