My friend Marius, as his name suggests, is an aristocrat worthy of ancient Rome. Indeed he tells me that his ancestors first traveled to Britain with the conquering legions, and much later settled in the New World. Though affable and engaging, he has an air of suave superiority, which commands respect from strangers and admiration from his intimates. I am not saying that he is a snob, but there is a STYLE, a truly classical style, about his utterance, his carriage, and his attire rarely found in this modern age. How many citizens, for example, could appear at all seasons and at any hour of day or night, immaculate in a close-fitting fur coat, without evoking mirth and derision? Yet HE carries it off-the cynosure of the neighborhood. He has also overcome one of my strongest personal prejudices: I generally loathe facial hair, but I must admit that Marius wears whiskers with distinction.
In diet he is fastidious, in drinking abstemious, seldom taking anything more potent than milk. His taste in furniture and upholstering is impeccable; and he displays a lofty contempt for whatever savours of vulgarity. I even remember him- doubtless in disgust -reducing the front page of a tabloid newspaper to ribbons. Should the radio or music sound disturb his slumbers, the mute scorn on his countenance must be seen to be believed. Not that his musical judgement is infallible; alas, when he sings, the effect is far from pleasing, and for some strange reason he shows a marked aversion to the compositions of Bach.
Elegant and sophisticated, Marius is no milk-sop. On the contrary, he is "fortis et strenuus," indisputably the best athlete and gymnast in my circle of acquaintance; I may add that he obtained life assurance for only a ninth of the usual premium. I know no other male approaching middle age who can match his physique and lithe grace. But he belongs to a handsome family; and there is a spirited representation of one of his forbears on a Roman mosaic pavement.
Although too well-bred ever to quarrel with friends, Marius brooks no opposition from enemies: "oderin dum metuant" sums up his attitude. Under strong provocation, he is quite capable of losing his temper, and then...I say it with a blush...the swearing has sometimes been heard from the other side of the street. His amorous exploits, however, are numerous and passionate but commendably discreet.
I have known Marius for several years, we are close friends; and yet he is still something of an enigma to me. He appears and disappears mysteriously: often for days at a time, I have no idea of his doings or whereabouts. All kinds of extravagant fancies possess me. I picture him employed in espionage, master of his trade, not one but two or three jumps ahead of his pursuers: or I imagine him publicly representing high authority- he once said darkly that he was related to a reigning monarch! In my wilder dreams I see Marius as a Roman visitor to Egypt might have done- a numinous, Sphinx-like figure; I can almost smell incense and hear the clash of gongs. Then suddenly he leaps through an open window, settles on my lap, and abruptly brings me back from fantasy to reality.
(In loving memory of my cat 8/97-1/13)