Ktismatics

21 May 2011

The Stranger by Camus, 1942

Filed under: Fiction — ktismatics @ 5:51 pm

When we were nearly home I saw old Salamano on the doorstep; he seemed very excited. I noticed that his dog wasn’t with him. He was turning like a teetotum, looking in all directions, and sometimes peering into the darkness of the hall with his little bloodshot eyes. Then he’d mutter something to himself and start gazing up and down the street again. Raymond asked him what was wrong, but he didn’t answer at once. Then I heard him grunt, “The bastard! The filthy cur!” When I asked him where his dog was, he scowled at me and snapped out, “Gone!” A moment later, all of a sudden, he launched out into it. “I’d taken him to the Parade Ground as usual. There was a fair on, and you could hardly move for the crowd. I stopped at one of the booths to look at the Handcuff King. When I turned to go, the dog was gone. I’d been meaning to get a smaller collar, but I never thought the brute could slip it and get away like that.”

Raymond assured him the dog would find its way home, and told him stories of dogs that had traveled miles and miles to get back to their masters. But this seemed to make the old fellow even more worried than before. “Don’t you understand, they’ll do away with him; the police, I mean. It’s not likely anyone will take him in and look after him; with all those scabs he puts 
everybody off.” I told him that there was a pound at the police station, where stray dogs are taken. His dog was certain to be there and he could get it back on payment of a small charge. He asked me how much the charge was, but there I couldn’t help him. Then he flew into a rage again. “Is it likely I’d give money for a mutt like that? No damned fear! They can kill him, for all I care.” And he went on calling his dog the usual names. Raymond gave a laugh and turned into the hall. I followed him upstairs, and we parted on the landing. A minute or two later I heard Salamano’s footsteps and a knock on my door. When I opened it, he halted for a moment in the doorway. “Excuse me … I hope I’m not disturbing you.” I asked him in, but he shook his head. He was staring at his toe caps, and the gnarled old hands were trembling. Without meeting my eyes, he started talking. “They won’t really take him from me, will they, Monsieur Meursault? Surely they wouldn’t do a thing like that. If they do—I don’t know what will become of me.” I told him that, so far as I knew, they kept stray dogs in the pound for three days, waiting for their owners to call for them. After that they disposed of the dogs as they 
thought fit. He stared at me in silence for a moment, then said, “Good evening.” After that I heard him pacing up and down his room for quite a while. Then his bed creaked. Through the wall there came to me a little wheezing sound, and I guessed that he was weeping. For some reason, I don’t know what, I began thinking of Mother. But I had to get up early next day; so, as I wasn’t feeling hungry, I did without supper, and went straight to bed.

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