Story for the Day: Mr Vostibbens, the Teahouse Cat - Part 2

Bartleby enjoys animals upon the whole, but as a subject to be studied and catalogued. Mr Vostibbens, the teahouse cat, is a confusing subject, however.
Join our Patreon page, and receive the novella about Mr Vostibbens at the end of the month.

Bartleby’s nostrils flared. “There will be no napping on my lap!” he demanded, in a fever of rage. “A beast has no business sleeping on anybody! You cannot simply lounge across my legs! And
you are not sleeping besides. This is all a ruse, a game to make me coddle you!”
“It’s all because you keep saying how you don’t like him, professor,” the publican chimed from the end of the counter, as he wiped down a glass. “Cats like people who don’t like them because they know they don’t like them.”
Bartleby gave the publican a fierce look. “Did I say I don’t like cats?”
“No, but you’re acting like--”
“Did I say I don’t like cats?” the old man repeated, his whiskers birsing.
The publican glanced about and looked ashamed. “…No.”
 “There. I never said I disliked cats or animals in general. I like animals-- to study and observe them, of course, and add their behaviours to my studies on the natural world. They make up a great part of many important sciences, and therefore of course I like them. I do not like them on me, that is all. They are wild things and are not meant to be croosled and dandled about by officious women. They are meant to roam free, where they can feed and hydrate themselves. Making them reliant upon us is ruining their natural instincts. This cat has had all his basic impulses stripped from him. He is useless now as a princock.”
The publican raised a brow and looked suspicious. “Mr Vostibbens doesn’t like to hear that kind of talk about himself, professor.”
“I do not care what he likes. He is a parading pavisande who ought to have his claws clipped—and how can you know what he likes? He is a cat! He cannot talk to you and tell you his desires! He does not like anything that any other cat does not like. He does not like you or me anymore than he likes licking his hind quarters in public!”
The publican flurned and seemed offended. “…He likes his smoked salmon.”
“Of course he likes salmon—he is an obligate carnivore! He requires meat to live—he must like it or he will die—no! Don’t lick me, you vile fissiped!” the old man cried, pulling his hand away from the cat’s mouth.
The publican chuckled to himself and returned to the patrons at the counter, and Bartleby, aghast that his lap companion should be so bold, tapered his gaze and stabbed his finger at the cat’s nose.
“You listen here, Mr Vostibbens. If you want to stay where you are, there is to be no artifice or chicanery—don’t touch your nose to my finger. I don’t mean to cat-greet you, I mean to chastise you.”
The cat, feeling all this attention to be his due, licked the old man’s finger and gave it a slight nibble.
Bartleby gasped and gaped in horror. “How dare you try to eat me, you felid monstrosity! You are fortunate you did not draw any blood—am I bleeding? No, I am not bleeding— but there is a red mark—just there, done by you-- but if I had bled, I would have you minced and embalmed to keep you from doing the same to anybody else. If you want to stay in society, you must behave yourself. Keep your fangs in your mouth, and keep your tongue to clean your tackle, and that is all. No, don’t try to bite me again, you lace-clad mongrel!” He snuffed and flouted at the cat. “That is the end—I have done with you. I was willing to allow you to stay, now that you have already ruined my robes—absolutely ruined them, which your mistress will be hearing about—but you continue to be vicious and disobedient. Off, off! Go jump on the lap of some other old ramshackle who does not care that you lick your victims with the same instrument you use to wipe yourself.”
Enjoying the old man’s attention, and having no idea of his harangues, the cat leaned down and pressed its nose into his palm.   
“No! Do not push your muzzle against me! I refuse to pet you after all this wild behaviour—absolutely refuse.”
The old man humphed and folded his arms, and immune to his dour humour, the cat turned over itself and invited Bartleby to rub his abdomen.
“No,” the old man sulked. “If you believe I’m going to be inveigled into tummy-rubbing, you are sorely and bitterly mistaken.”
The cat canted its head, and lifting its legs in the air, it chirruped and nestled its face against the old man’s leg.
“Stop that! stop that this moment, you vile, atrocious…”
His voice trailed, and he looked down: the cat was coiled around itself and gawping up at him with an innocent aspect. Pet me… was the prevailing cogitation, and Bartleby, feeling his resolution beginning to fail him, lifted his hand and let it hover over the cat’s stomach. A moment’s weakness assailed him, and his hand descended, his heart suddenly anxious to touch the ruffled tufts that his mind had long repelled. Pet me… was the pervading notion, but as Bartleby was about to yield, he stopped, drew his hand away, and flouted.
 “Aha! I caught myself. You see? I will not succumb to your wiles. I suppose you think you’re being appropriate, displaying yourself so shamelessly.”
The cat curled the other way round, and blinked up at the old man.
“Curl every which way you please, I still won’t pet you,” he humphed, turning aside.
A paw reached up and latched onto Bartleby’s finger, and before the old man could move away, the cat lead his hand to its abdomen, and all Bartleby’s claims to indifference here dissipated. His fingertips browsed the white wisps of fur, and his heart softened. The wikes around his mouth deepened, the crowsfoot around his eye lengthened, and with a few strokes, the old man was almost smiling.  
 “You are a great little flocculent fussock,” said Bartleby, in a audible hush. He drew his fingers through the cat’s fur, and hummed to himself. “Somebody has taken the brush to you, I see,” said he, coiling the fur around his finger. “Your mats and knots have all been combed out. You are ripe for skinning now, with your pelage well primed.”
The cat gave a slight meow and rolled over itself, and Bartleby, his heart worked on, succumbed to smile.
“Oh, wretched, wretched cat,” said the old man, without any apparent seriousness. “You are positively populating me with your hair. Stay still if you want me to pet you. Do not fling yourself about and then expect me to follow.”
The cat rolled onto its stomach and closed its eyes, purring in violent vibrations as Bartleby scratched its head.
“Oh…” Bartleby began, preparing an avowal he had no intention of meaning, but the sight of the cat laying its chin upon his lap and the feeling of overbearing affection silenced him. “Oh…” he whinged, feeling himself defrauded of his usual dissent. His surrender made him hate himself, but it was a pleasant loathing, one that he might keep to himself for as long as Mr Vostibbens chose to stay with him.