SHORT STORIES AND SELECTIONS
FOR USE IN THE SECONDARY SCHOOLS
COMPILED AND ANNOTATED, WITH QUESTIONS FOR STUDY BY EMILIE KIP BAKER
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A LEAF IN THE STORM, by Louise de la Ramee, from A Leaf in the Storm and Other Stories
CATS, by Maurice Hewlett, from Earthwork out of Tuscany
AN ADVENTURE, by Honore de Balzac, from A Passion in the Desert
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE MUSIC, by Axel Munthe, from Vagaries
OUT OF DOORS, by Richard Jefferies, from Saint Guido
THE TABOO, by Herman Melville, from Typee
SCHOOL DAYS AT THE CONVENT, by George Sand, from The Story of My Life (adapted)
IN BRITTANY, by Louisa Alcott, from Aunt Jo's Scrap Bag
THE ADIRONDACKS, by John Burroughs, from Wake Robin
AN ASCENT OF KILAUEA, by Lady Brassey, from Around the World in the Yacht Sunbeam
THE FETISH, by George Eliot, from The Mill on the Floss
SALMON FISHING IN IRELAND, by James A. Froude, from A Fortnight in Kerry
ACROSS RUNNING WATER, by Fiona Macleod, from Sea Magic and Running Water
THE PINE-TREE SHILLINGS, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, from Grandfather's Chair
THE WHITE TRAIL, by Stewart Edward White, from The Silent Places
A DISSERTATION ON ROAST PIG, by Charles Lamb, from Essays of Elia
THE LAST CLASS, by Alphonse Daudet, from Monday Tales
AN ARAB FISHERMAN, by Albert Edwards, from The Barbary Coast
THE ARCHERY CONTEST, by Walter Scott, from Ivanhoe
BABY SYLVESTER, by Bret Harte, from Bret Harte's Writings
THE ADDRESS AT GETTYSBURG, by Abraham Lincoln, from Lincoln's Speeches
THE SECOND INAUGURAL ADDRESS, by Abraham Lincoln, from Lincoln's Speeches
AN APPRECIATION OF LINCOLN, by John Hay, from Life of Lincoln
THE ELEPHANTS THAT STRUCK, by Samuel White Baker, from Eight Years in Ceylon
THE LUCK OF ROARING CAMP, by Bret Harte
THE STORY OF MUHAMMAD DIN, by Rudyard Kipling, from Plain Tales from the Hills
A CHILD, by John Galsworthy, from Commentary
TOO DEAR FOR THE WHISTLE, by Benjamin Franklin, from The Autobiography
A LODGING FOR THE NIGHT, by Robert Louis Stevenson, from The New Arabian Nights
A BAD FIVE MINUTES IN THE ALPS, by Leslie Stephen, from Freethinking and Plainspeaking (adapted)
THE GOLD TRAIL, by Stewart Edward White, from Gold
TWENTY YEARS OF ARCTIC STRUGGLE, by J. Kennedy McLean, from Heroes of the Farthest North and South (adapted)
THE SPEECH IN MANCHESTER, by Henry Ward Beecher, from Addresses and Sermons
A GREEN DONKEY DRIVER, by Robert Louis Stevenson, from Travels with a Donkey
A NIGHT IN THE PINES, by Robert Louis Stevenson, from Travels with a Donkey
LIFE IN OLD NEW YORK, by Washington Irving, from Knickerbocker's History of New York
THE BAZAAR IN MOROCCO, by Pierre Loti, from Into Morocco
A BATTLE OF THE ANTS, by Henry D. Thoreau, from Walden (adapted)
AN AFRICAN PET, by Paul B. du Chaillu, from The African Forest and Jungle
ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE, by Lloyd Morgan, from Animal Sketches (adapted)
BUCK'S TRIAL OF STRENGTH, by Jack London, from The Call of the Wild
ON THE SOLANDER WHALING GROUND, by Frank Bullen, from Idylls of the Sea
AN EPISODE OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION, by Charles Dickens, from A Tale of Two Cities
THE COMMANDER OF THE FAITHFUL, by Pierre Loti, from Into Morocco (adapted)
WALT WHITMAN, by John Burroughs, from Whitman—A Study (adapted)
HEROISM IN HOUSEKEEPING, by Jane Welsh Carlyle, from Letters
A YOUTHFUL ACTOR, by Thomas Bailey Aldrich, from The Story of a Bad Boy
WAR, by Thomas Carlyle, from Sartor Resartus
COON-HUNTING, by Ernest Ingersoll, from Wild Neighbors (adapted)
SIGHT IN SAVAGES, by W. H. Hudson, from Idle Days in Patagonia
THE VILLAGE SCHOOLMASTER, by Washington Irving, from The Sketch Book
The testimony of librarians as to the kind of books people are reading nowadays is somewhat discouraging to the book-lover who has been brought up in the old traditions. We are told that Scott and Thackeray and George Eliot cannot compete with the year's "best sellers," and that the old classics are read only by the few who have a cultivated taste and a trained intelligence.
The interest of novelty, the dislike of mental effort, the temptation to read merely for a mild sensation,—all these undoubtedly tend to keep down the level of literary taste. To many readers of good average ability, neither the esthetic nor the purely intellectual makes a strong appeal. Even minds of fine quality often find a welcome diversion in trivial reading. In fact, to expect every one and at all times to have his mind keyed up to the higher levels is neither sincere nor reasonable. And yet, making due allowance for intellectual limitations, for the busy and distracting conditions of modern life, and for the real need of light reading at times when recreation is of more value than instruction, it would seem that a fair proportion of our reading could and should be on a higher plane.
To put it on this high plane is one of the fixed objects of the school. For this end the schools have given English an important place, have broadened the list of recommended books year by year, and have sought to improve the method of teaching literature. Especially have they hoped to create in the pupil the habit of reading good books and of discovering new material on his own initiative. Thus far their success has fallen much below their hopes, as the testimony of librarians, adduced above, plainly indicates.
There is one significant fact which both librarians and teachers have observed. The average reader, child or adult, seldom knows how or where to find things to read. He is lost in a library, whether among the book-shelves or at a card-catalogue. He is like a traveler who is ignorant of the geography of the country and cannot use the compass. And worse still, he has not the explorer's instinct. If he possessed this, he would somehow find his way himself,—a thing which occasionally happens when the reader has more than usual ability. Between the covers of those books, turning to him their uncommunicative backs, behind those labels—to him so unexpressive—there may be passages, whole chapters or more, that would give him entertainment, if he only knew!
To introduce him to an author may be to give him a new friend. Introductions need not imply long and intimate companionship. This author may hold him for half an hour, and never again; that one may claim his attention for a day; and another may come to rank as one of his old friends. In each case the acquaintance may depend upon the fact of an introduction, and not upon the reader's own initiative in discovery. More than the acquaintances thus made, is the sense of at-homeness among books which they gradually bring about. We all know that feeling of the unreality of a book of which we have merely heard the title, and how soon we forget it. A book that we have seen and handled, however, and especially one which we have read or from which we have seen a passage quoted in another volume, is somehow real,—an entity. Through continued experiences of this sort we come to feel really acquainted with books, to know where to find the things we are looking for, to judge and appreciate,—in brief, to feel at home among them.
It is as a series of such introductions to the larger world of literature that this volume has been compiled. Some of the selections are from books whose titles are already familiar to high school students; many others are from sources that few pupils will know. All of them, it is confidently believed, are within the interest and comprehension of boys and girls of high school age. The notes and questions at the end of each selection will, it is hoped, be of some help to the students in getting at the author's meaning, and in suggesting interesting topics for discussion. If, after finishing the Short Stories and Selections, a few more students will have formed the habit of good reading and will feel, not merely willing, but eager, to enlarge their acquaintance among good books, this volume has accomplished its purpose.
EMILIE K. BAKER
SHORT STORIES AND SELECTIONS
A LEAF IN THE STORM
Bernadou clung to his home with a dogged devotion. He would not go from it to fight unless compelled, but for it he would have fought like a lion. His love for his country was only an indefinite shadowy existence that was not clear to him; he could not save a land that he had never seen, a capital that was only to him as an empty name; nor could he comprehend the danger that his nation ran; nor could he desire to go forth and spend his lifeblood in defence of things unknown to him. He was only a peasant, and he could not read nor greatly understand. But affection for his birthplace was a passion with him,—mute indeed, but deep-seated as an oak. For his birthplace he would have struggled as a man can struggle only when supreme love as well as duty nerves his arm. Neither he nor Reine Allix could see that a man's duty might lie from home, but in that home both were alike ready to dare anything and to suffer everything. It was a narrow form of patriotism, yet it had nobleness, endurance, and patience in it; in song it has been oftentimes deified as heroism, but in modern warfare it is punished as the blackest crime.
So Bernadou tarried in his cottage till he should be called, keeping watch by night over the safety of his village and by day doing all he could to aid the deserted wives and mothers of the place by tilling their ground for them and by tending such poor cattle as were left in their desolate fields. He and Margot and Reine Allix, between them, fed many mouths that would otherwise have been closed in death by famine, and denied themselves all except the barest and most meagre subsistence, that they might give away the little they possessed.
And all this while the war went on, but seemed far from them, so seldom did any tidings of it pierce the seclusion in which they dwelt. By and by, as the autumn went on, they learned a little more. Fugitives coming to the smithy for a horse's shoe; women fleeing to their old village homes from their light, gay life in the city; mandates from the government of defence sent to every hamlet in the country; stray news-sheets brought in by carriers or hawkers and hucksters,—all these by degrees told them of the peril of their country,—vaguely, indeed, and seldom truthfully, but so that by mutilated rumors they came at last to know the awful facts of the fate of Sedan, the fall of the Empire, the siege of Paris. It did not alter their daily lives: it was still too far off and too impalpable. But a foreboding, a dread, an unspeakable woe settled down on them. Already their lands and cattle had been harassed to yield provision for the army and large towns; already their best horses had been taken for the siege-trains and the forage-wagons; already their ploughshares were perforce idle, and their children cried because of the scarcity of nourishment; already the iron of war had entered into their souls.
The little street at evening was mournful and very silent: the few who talked spoke in whispers, lest a spy should hear them, and the young ones had no strength to play: they wanted food.
Bernadou, now that all means of defence was gone from him, and the only thing left to him to deal with was his own life, had become quiet and silent and passionless, as was his habit. He would have fought like a mastiff for his home, but this they had forbidden him to do, and he was passive and without hope. He closed his door, and sat down with his hand in that of Reine Allix and his arm around his wife. "There is nothing to do but wait" he said sadly. The day seemed very long in coming.
The firing (which had come nearer each day) ceased for a while; then its roll commenced afresh, and grew still nearer to the village. Then again all was still.
At noon a shepherd staggered into the place, pale, bleeding, bruised, covered with mire. The Prussians, he told them, had forced him to be their guide, had knotted him tight to a trooper's saddle, and had dragged him with them until he was half dead with fatigue and pain. At night he had broken from them and had fled: they were close at hand, he said, and had burned the town from end to end because a man had fired at them from a house-top. That was all he knew. Bernadou, who had gone out to hear his news, returned into the house and sat down and hid his face within his hands.
It grew dark. The autumn day died. The sullen clouds dropped scattered rain. The red leaves were blown in millions by the wind. The little houses on either side the road were dark, for the dwellers in them dared not show any light that might be a star to allure to them the footsteps of their foes. Bernadou sat with his arms on the table, and his head resting on them. Margot nursed her son: Reine Allix prayed.
Suddenly in the street without there was the sound of many feet of horses and of men, the shouting of angry voices, the splashing of quick steps in the watery ways, the screams of women, the flash of steel through the gloom. Bernadou sprang to his feet, his face pale, his blue eyes dark as night. "They are come!" he said under his breath. It was not fear that he felt, nor horror: it was rather a passion of love for his birthplace and his nation,—a passion of longing to struggle and to die for both. And he had no weapon!
He drew his house-door open with a steady hand, and stood on his own threshold and faced these, his enemies. The street was full of them,—some mounted, some on foots crowds of them swarmed in the woods on the roads. They had settled on the village as vultures on a dead lamb's body. It was a little, lowly place: it might well have been left in peace. It had had no more share in the war than a child still unborn, but it came in the victor's way, and his mailed heel crushed it as he passed. They had heard that arms were hidden and francs-tireurs sheltered there, and they had swooped down on it and held it hard and fast. Some were told off to search the chapel; some to ransack the dwellings; some to seize such food and bring such cattle as there might be left; some to seek out the devious paths that crossed and recrossed the field; and yet there still remained in the little street hundreds of armed men, force enough to awe a citadel or storm a breach.
The people did not attempt to resist. They stood passive, dry-eyed in misery, looking on whilst the little treasures of their household lives were swept away forever, and ignorant what fate by fire or iron might be their portion ere the night was done. They saw the corn that was their winter store to save their offspring from famine poured out like ditch-water. They saw oats and wheat flung down to be trodden into a slough of mud and filth. They saw the walnut presses in their kitchens broken open, and their old heirlooms of silver, centuries old, borne away as booty. They saw the oak cupboard in their wives' bedchambers ransacked, and the homespun linen and the quaint bits of plate that had formed their nuptial dowers cast aside in derision or trampled into a battered heap. They saw the pet lamb of their infants, the silver earrings of their brides, the brave tankards they had drunk their marriage wine in, the tame bird that flew to their whistle, all seized for food or spoil. They saw all this, and had to stand by with mute tongues and passive hands, lest any glance of wrath or gesture of revenge should bring the leaden bullets in their children's throats or the yellow flame amidst their homesteads. Greater agony the world cannot hold.
—LOUISE DE LA RAMEE (Ouida).
[Footnote: This extract is taken from a story by the same title. The chief characters are the peasant Bernadou, his wife Margot, and his old grandmother Reine Allix. The scene is laid during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. The great defeat of the French at Sedan, and the surrender of Paris from starvation after a long siege brought the war to an end. The victorious Prussians took from France an indemnity of five billion francs ($1,000,000,000), and two of their richest provinces, Alsace and Lorraine.
What words in the first sentence show that it is not the beginning of the story? Note the repeated use of antithesis (contrast) in the first paragraph. By what details do you learn the state of the country? How did the war affect even the people remote from the battlefields? How are the terror and suffering of the people indicated? Notice the effectiveness of the author's use of details. Have you read any prose or poetry in which war is made to seem glorious? How does it seem here? Does the author make the scene of the arrival of the Prussians vivid? How is this done? Note the dramatic contrast between the arrival of the Prussians and the actions of the peasants. How has the author drawn the character of Bernadou? By what details does the author give special poignancy to the pathos of her account? What is the significance of the title "A Leaf in the Storm"?]
There was once a man in Italy—so the story runs—who said that animals were sacred because God had made them. People didn't believe him for a long time; they came, you see, of a race which had found it amusing to kill such things, and killed a great many of them too, until it struck them one fine day that killing men was better sport still, and watching men kill each other the best sport of all because it was the least trouble. Animals said they, why, how can they be sacred; things that you call beef and mutton when they have left off being oxen and sheep, and sell for so much a pound? They scoffed at this mad neighbour, looked at each other waggishly and shrugged their shoulders as he passed along the street. Well! then, all of a sudden, as you may say, one morning he walked into the town—Gubbio it was—with a wolf pacing at his heels—a certain wolf which had been the terror of the country-side and eaten I don't know how many children and goats. He walked up the main street till he got to the open Piazza in front of the great church. And the long grey wolf padded beside him with a limp tongue lolling out between the ragged palings which stood him for teeth. In the middle of the Piazza was a fountain, and above the fountain a tall stone crucifix. Our friend mounted the steps of the cross in the alert way he had (like a little bird, the story says) and the wolf, after lapping apologetically in the basin, followed him up three steps at a time. Then with one arm around the shaft to steady himself, he made a fine sermon to the neighbours crowding in the Square, and the wolf stood with his fore-paws on the edge of the fountain and helped him. The sermon was all about wolves (naturally) and the best way of treating them. I fancy the people came to agree with it in time; anyhow when the man died they made a saint of him and built three churches, one over another, to contain his body. And I believe it is entirely his fault that there are a hundred-and-three cats in the convent-garden of San Lorenzo in Florence. For what are you to do? Animals are sacred, says Saint Francis. Animals are sacred, but cats have kittens; and so it comes about that the people who agree with Saint Francis have to suffer for the people who don't.
The Canons of San Lorenzo agree with Saint Francis, and it seems to me that they must suffer a good deal. The convent is large; it has a great mildewed cloister with a covered-in walk all around it built on arches. In the middle is a green garth [Footnote: Garth: an inclosure, a yard.] with cypresses and yews dotted about; and when you look up you see the blue sky cut square, and the hot tiles of a huge dome staring up into it. Round the cloister walk are discreet brown doors, and by the side of each door a brass plate tells you the name and titles of the Canon who lives behind it. It is on the principle of Dean's yard at Westminster; only here there are more Canons—and more cats.
The Canons live under the cloister; the cats live on the green garth, and sometimes die there. I did not see much of the Canons; but the cats seemed to me very sad—depressed, nostalgic even, might describe them, if there had not been something more languid, something faded and spiritless about their habit. It was not that they quarrelled. I heard none of those long-drawn wails, gloomy yet mellow soliloquies, with which our cats usher in the crescent moon or hymn her when she swims at the full: there lacked even that comely resignation we may see on any sunny window-ledge at home;—the rounded back and neatly ordered tail, the immaculate fore-paws peering sedately below the snowy chest, the squeezed-up eyes which so resolutely shut off a bleak and (so to say) unenlightened world. That is pensiveness, sedate chastened melancholy; but it is soothing, it speaks a philosophy, and a certain balancing of pleasures and pains. In San Lorenzo cloister, when I looked in one hot noon seeking a refuge from the glare and white dust of the city, I was conscious of a something sinister that forbade such an even existence for the smoothest tempered cat. There were too many of them for companionship and perhaps too few for the humour of the thing to strike them: in and out the chilly shades they stalked gloomily, hither and thither like lank and unquiet ghosts of starved cats. They were of all colours—gay orange-tawny, tortoise shell with the becoming white patch over one eye, delicate tints of grey and fawn and lavender, brindle, glossy sable; and yet the gloom and dampness of the place seemed to mildew them all so that their brightness was glaring and their softest gradations took on a shade as of rusty mourning. No cat could be expected to do herself justice.
To and fro they paced, balancing sometimes with hysterical precision [Footnote: Hysterical precision. What does this mean?] on the ledge of the parapet, passing each other at whisker's length, but cutting each other dead. [Footnote: Cutting each other dead. Have you ever thought of the quaint absurdity of this figurative expression?] Not a cat had a look or a sniff for his fellow; not a cat so much as guessed at another's existence. Among those hundred-and-three restless Spirits there was not a cat that did not affect to believe that a hundred-and-two were away! It was horrible, the inhumanity of it. Here were these shreds and waifs, these "unnecessary litters" of Florentine households, herded together in the only asylum (short of the Arno [Footnote: Arno: the river that flows through Florence.]) open to them, driven in like dead leaves in November, flitting dismally round and round for a span, and watching each other die without a mew or a lick! Saint Francis was not the wise man I had thought him. [Footnote: St. Francis not the wise man, etc. Why not?]
It was about two o'clock in the afternoon. I had watched these beasts at their feverish exercises for nearly an hour before I perceived that they were gradually hemming me in. They seemed to be forming up, in ranks, on the garth. Only a ditch separated us—I was in the cloister-walk, a hundred-and-three gaunt, expectant, desperate cats facing me. Their famished pale eyes pierced me through and through; and two-hundred- and-two hungry eyes (four cats supported life on one apiece) is more than I can stand, though I am a married man with a family. These brutes thought I was going to feed them! I was preparing weakly for flight when I heard steps in the gateway; a woman came in with a black bag. She must be going to deposit a cat on Jean-Jacques [Footnote: Jean Jacques Rousseau: a French philosophical writer of the last part of the eighteenth century. His chief works are "Emile," "Social Contract," "Confessions."] ingenious plan of avoiding domestic trouble; it was surely impossible she wanted to borrow one! Neither: she came confidently in, beaming on our mad fellowship with a pleasant smile of preparation. The cats knew her better than I did. Their suspense was really shocking to witness. While she was rolling her sleeves up and tying on her apron—she was poor, evidently, but very neat and wholesome in her black dress and the decent cap which crowned her hair—while she unpacked the contents of the bag—two newspaper parcels full of rather distressing viands, scissors, and a pair of gloves which had done duty more than once,—while all these preparations were soberly fulfilling, the agitation of the hundred-and-three was desperate indeed. The air grew thick, it quivered with the lashing of tails; hoarse mews echoed along the stone walls, paws were raised and let fall with the rhythmical patter of raindrops. A furtive beast played the thief: he was one of the one-eyed fraternity, red with mange. Somehow he slipped in between us; we discovered him crouched by the newspaper raking over the contents. This was no time for ceremony; he got a prompt cuff over the head and slunk away shivering and shaking his ears. And then the distribution began. Now, your cat, at the best of times, is squeamish about his food; he stands no tricks. He is a slow eater, though he can secure his dinner with the best of us. A vicious snatch, like a snake, and he has it. Then he spreads himself out to dispose of the prey—feet tucked well in, head low, tail laid close along, eyes shut fast. That is how a cat of breeding loves to dine. Alas! many a day of intolerable prowling, many a black vigil, had taken the polish off the hundred-and-three. As a matter of fact they behaved abominably; they leaped at the scraps, they clawed at them in the air, they bolted them whole with staring eyes and portentous gulpings, they growled all the while with the smothered ferocity of thunder in the hills. No waiting of turns, no licking of lips and moustaches to get the lingering flavors, no dalliance. They were as restless and suspicious here as everywhere; their feast was the horrid hasty orgy of ghouls in a church-yard. But an even distribution was made: I don't think any one got more than his share. Of course there were underhand attempts in plenty and, at least once, open violence—a sudden rush from opposite sides, a growling and spitting like sparks from a smithy; and then, with ears laid flat, two ill-favoured beasts clawed blindly at each other, and a sly and tigerish brindle made away with the morsel. My woman took the thing very coolly I thought, served them all alike, and didn't resent (as I should have done) the unfortunate want of delicacy there was about these vagrants. A cat that takes your food and growls at you for the favor, a cat that would eat you if he dared, is a pretty revelation. Ca donne furieusement a penser. [Footnote: Ca donne furieusement a penser: "That makes one think very hard."] It gives you a suspicion of just how far the polish we most of us smirk over will go. My cats at San Lorenzo knew some few moments of peace between two and three in the afternoon. That would have been the time to get up a testimonial to the kind soul who fed them. Try them at five and they would ignore you. But try them next morning!
My knowledge of the Italian tongue, in those days, was severely limited to the necessaries of existence; to try me on a fancy subject, like cats, was to strike me dumb. But at this stage of our intercourse (hitherto confined to smiles and eye-service) it became so evident my companion had something to say that I must perforce take my hat off and stand attentive. She pointed to the middle of the garth, and there, under the boughs of a shrub, I saw the hundred-and-fourth cat, sorriest of them all. It was a newcomer she told me, and shy. Shy it certainly was, poor wretch; it glowered upon me from under the branches like a bad conscience. Shyness could not hide hunger—I never saw hungrier eyes than hers—but it could hold it in check: the silkiest speech could not tempt her out, and when we threw pieces she only winced! What was to be done next was my work. Plain duty called me to scale the ditch with some of those dripping, slippery, nameless cates [Footnote: Cates: viands; things to eat. Why "slippery"? Nameless. What are they called in the third sentence from the end of the paragraph?] in my fingers and to approach the stranger where she lurked bodeful under her tree. My passage toward her lay over the rank vegetation of the garth, in whose coarse herbage here and there I stumbled upon a limp white form stretched out—a waif the less in the world! I don't say it was a happy passage for me: it was made to the visible consternation of her I wished to befriend. Her piteous yellow eyes searched mine for sympathy; she wanted to tell me something and I wouldn't understand! As I neared her she shivered and mewed twice. Then she limped painfully off—poor soul, she had but three feet!—to another tree, leaving behind her, unwillingly enough, a much-licked dead kitten. That was what she wanted to tell, then. As I was there, I deposited the garbage by the side of the little corpse, knowing she would resume her watch, and retired. My friend who had put up her parcels was prepared to go. She thanked me with a smile as she went out, looking carefully round lest she had missed out some other night-birds.
One of the Canons had come out of his door and was leaning against the lintel, thoughtfully rubbing his chin. He was a spare dry man who seemed to have measured life and found it childish business. He jerked his head toward the gateway as he glanced at me. "That is a good woman," he said in French, "she lendeth unto the Lord.... Yes," he went on, nodding his head slowly backwards and forwards, "lends Him something every day." The cats were sitting in the shady cloister-garth licking their whiskers: one was actually cleaning his paw. I went out into the sun thinking of Saint Francis and his wolf.
[Footnote: St. Francis was born in 1182 in the little town of Assissi, Italy. He came of a rich and noble family, and was taken into business partnership with his father, a wealthy merchant, at the age of fourteen. In his twenty-fourth year he suddenly abandoned his friends and work, and took up a life of penance and utter poverty. His austerities, his sincerity, and his simple eloquence attracted much attention, and he soon had many followers. Later on he founded the Franciscan Order of monks, and did much missionary work by traveling in the East. He died at Assissi in 1226.]
[Footnote: What reference in the first sentence to the sports in the arena of Rome?
Notice how many times the author refers to the number of cats. Why?
Is the description of the scene objective or subjective? Cf. "A Leaf in the Storm."
Notice the suggestiveness of the adjectives as in the reference to "Discrete brown doors" on page 7.
How do these cats differ from cats as you know them? What qualities have they that you recognize? Where does the author indicate that he is about to begin a story? Does the author win your sympathy for the cats? How? In what does the humor of the story lie? What is the climax of the story? What do you think of the priest and his comment? Does the whole sketch interest you because it describes a strange scene, or because it raises the question of the humanity of keeping alive one hundred and three cats?]
During the expedition to Upper Egypt under General Desaix, a Provencal [Footnote: Provencal. Provence was an ancient government of southeastern France. It became part of the crown lands in 1481 under Louis XI. The term Provencals is used loosely to include dwellers in the south of France.] soldier, who had fallen into the clutches of the Maugrabins, was marched by these marauders, these tireless Arabs, into the deserts lying beyond the cataracts of the Nile.
So as to put a sufficient distance between themselves and the French army, to insure their greater safety, the Maugrabins [Footnote: Maugrabins: a savage tribe of northern Africa.] made forced marches and rested only during the night. They then encamped around a well shaded by palm-trees, under which they had previously concealed a store of provisions. Never dreaming that their prisoner would think of escaping, they satisfied themselves by merely tying his hands, then lay down to sleep, after having regaled themselves with a few dates and given provender to their horses.
When the courageous Provencal noted that they slept soundly and could no longer watch his movements, he made use of his teeth to steal a scimitar, [Footnote: Scimitar: a short Turkish sword, carbine: a short light rifle.] steadied the blade between his knees, cut through the thongs which bound his hands; in an instant he was free. He at once seized a carbine and a long dirk, [Footnote: Dirk: a dagger.] then took the precaution of providing himself with a stock of dried dates, a small bag of oats, some powder and bullets, and hung a scimitar around his waist, mounted one of the horses and spurred on in the direction in which he supposed the French army to be. So impatient was he to see a bivouac [Footnote: Bivouac: an encampment without tents.] again that he pressed on the already tired courser at such a speed that its flanks were lacerated with the spurs, and soon the poor animal, utterly exhausted, fell dead, leaving the Frenchman alone in the midst of the desert.
After walking for a long time in the sand, with all the courage and firmness of an escaped convict, the soldier was obliged to stop, as the day had already come to an end. Despite the beauty of an Oriental night, with its exquisite sky, he felt that he could not, though he fain would, continue on his weary way. Fortunately he had come to a small eminence, on the summit of which grew a few palm-trees whose verdure shot into the air and could be seen from afar; this had brought hope and consolation to his heart.
(Here follows a description of the cave which the soldier finds in the rocks.)
His fatigue was so great that he threw himself down on a block of granite, capriciously fashioned [Footnote: Capriciously fashioned. Explain this term.] by nature into the semblance of a camp-bed, and, without taking any precaution for defense, was soon fast in sleep. In the middle of the night his sleep was disturbed by an extraordinary sound. He sat up; the profound silence that reigned around enabled him to distinguish the alternating rhythm of a respiration whose savage energy it was impossible could be that of a human being.
A terrible terror, increased yet more by the silence, the darkness, his racing fancy, froze his heart within him. He felt his hair rise on end, as his eyes, dilated to their utmost, perceived through the gloom two faint amber lights. At first he attributed these lights to the delusion of his vision, but presently the vivid brilliance of the night aided him to gradually distinguish the objects around him in the cave, when he saw, within the space of two feet of him, a huge animal lying at rest. Was it a lion? Was it a tiger? Was it a crocodile?
The Provencal was not sufficiently well educated to know under what sub-species his enemy should be classed; his fear was but the greater because his ignorance led him to imagine every terror at once. He endured most cruel tortures as he noted every variation of the breathing which was so near him; he dared not make the slightest movement.
An odor, pungent like that of a fox, but more penetrating as it were, more profound, filled the cavern. When the Provencal became sensible of this, his terror reached the climax, for now he could no longer doubt the proximity of a terrible companion, whose royal lair [Footnote: Royal lair. Why royal?] he had utilized as a bivouac.
Presently the reflection of the moon as it slowly descended to the horizon, lighted up the den, rendering gradually visible the gleaming, resplendent, and spotted skin of a panther.
This lion of Egypt lay asleep curled up like a great dog, the peaceful possessor of a kennel at the door of some sumptuous hotel; its eyes opened for a moment, then closed again; its face was turned towards the Frenchman. A thousand confused thoughts passed through the mind of the tiger's prisoner. Should he, as he at first thought of doing, kill it with a shot from his carbine? But he saw plainly that there was not room enough in which to take proper aim; the muzzle would have extended beyond the animal—the bullet would miss the mark. And what if it were to wake!—this fear kept him motionless and rigid.
He heard the pulsing of his heart beating in the so dread silence and he cursed the too violent pulsations which his surging blood brought on, lest they should awaken from sleep the dreadful creature; that slumber which gave him time to think and plan over his escape.
Twice did he place his hand upon his scimitar, intending to cut off his enemy's head; but the difficulty of severing the close haired skin caused him to renounce this daring attempt. To miss was certain death. He preferred the chance of a fair fight, and made up his mind to await the daylight. The dawn did not give him long to wait. It came.
He could now examine the panther at his ease; its muzzle was smeared with blood.
"It's had a good dinner," he said, without troubling himself to speculate whether the feast might have been of human flesh or not. "It won't be hungry when it wakes."
It was a female. The fur on her thighs was glistening white. Many small spots like velvet formed beautiful bracelets round her paws; her sinuous tail was also white, ending in black rings. The back of her dress was yellow, like unburnished gold, very lissome, [Footnote: Lissome: supple, nimble.] and soft, and had the characteristic blotches in the shape of pretty rosettes, which distinguish the panther from every other species felis. [Footnote: Species felis. Latin "felis," a cat.]
This formidable hostess lay tranquilly snoring in an attitude as graceful and easy as that of a cat on the cushion of an ottoman. Her bloody paws, nervous and well armed, were stretched out before her head, which rested on the back of them, while from her muzzle radiated her straight, slender whiskers, like threads of silver.
If he had seen her lying thus, imprisoned in a cage, the Provencal would doubtless have admired the grace of the creature and the vivid contrasts of color which gave her robe an imperial splendour; but just then his sight was jaundiced [Footnote: Jaundiced. Explain this term.] by sinister forebodings.
The presence of the panther, even asleep, had the same effect upon him as the magnetic eyes of a snake are said to have on the nightingale.
The soldier's courage oozed away in the presence of this silent danger, though he was a man who gathered courage at the mouth of a cannon belching forth shot and shell. And yet a bold thought brought daylight to his soul and sealed up the source from whence issued the cold sweat which gathered on his brow. Like men driven to bay, who defy death and offer their bodies to the smiter, so he, seeing in this merely a tragic episode, resolved to play his part with honor to the last.
"The day before yesterday," said he, "the Arabs might have killed me."
So considering himself as already dead, he waited bravely, but with anxious curiosity, the awakening of his enemy.
When the sun appeared the panther suddenly opened her eyes; then she stretched out her paws with energy, as if to get rid of cramp. Presently she yawned and showed the frightful armament of her teeth, and the pointed tongue rough as a rasp.
"She is dainty as a woman," thought the Frenchman, seeing her rolling and turning herself about so softly and coquettishly. She licked off the blood from her paws and muzzle, and scratched her head with reiterated grace of movement.
"Good, make your little toilet" said the Frenchman to himself; he recovered his gayety with his courage. "We are presently about to give each other good-morning," and he felt for the short poniard that he had abstracted from the Maugrabins. At this instant the panther turned her head toward him and gazed fixedly at him, without otherwise moving.
The rigidity of her metallic eyes and their insupportable lustre made him shudder. The beast approached him; he looked at her caressingly, staring into those bright eyes in an effort to magnetize her—to soothe her. He let her come quite close to him before stirring; then with a gentle movement, he passed his hand over her whole body, from the head to the tail, scratching the flexible vertebrae, [Footnote: Vertebrae: the bones of the spinal column.] which divided the yellow back of the panther. The animal slightly moved her tail voluptuously, and her eyes grew soft and gentle; and when for the third time the Frenchman had accomplished this interested flattery, she gave vent to those purrings like as cats express their pleasure; but it issued from a throat so deep, so powerful, that it resounded through the cave like the last chords of an organ rolling along the vaulted roof of a church. The Provencal seeing the value of his caresses, redoubled them until they completely soothed and lulled this imperious creature.
When he felt assured that he had extinguished the ferocity of his capricious companion, whose hunger had so luckily been appeased the day before, he got up to leave the grotto. The panther let him go out, but when he reached the summit of the little knoll she sprang up and bounded after him with the lightness of a sparrow hopping from twig to twig on a tree, and rubbed against his legs, arching her back after the manner of a domestic cat. Then regarding her guest with eyes whose glare had somewhat softened, she gave vent to that wild cry which naturalists compare to the grating of a saw.
"Madame is exacting," said the Frenchman, smiling.
He was bold enough to play with her ears; he stroked her body and scratched her head good and hard with his nails. He was encouraged with his success, and tickled her skull with the point of his dagger, watching for an opportune moment to kill her, but the hardness of the bone made him tremble, dreading failure.
The sultana of the desert [Footnote: Why does the author call the tiger the sultana of the desert?] showed herself gracious to her slave; she lifted her head, stretched out her neck, and betrayed her delight by the tranquillity of her relaxed attitude. It suddenly occurred to the soldier that, to slay this savage princess with one blow, he must stab deep in the throat.
He raised the blade, when the panther, satisfied, no doubt, threw herself gracefully at his feet and glanced up at him with a look in which, despite her natural ferocity, a glimmer of goodwill was apparent. The poor Provencal, thus frustrated for the nonce, [Footnote: For the nonce: for the present.] ate his dates as he leaned against one of the palm-trees, casting an interrogating glance from time to time across the desert in quest of some deliverer, and on his terrible companion, watching the chance of her uncertain clemency.
The panther looked at the place where the date-stones fell; and each time he threw one, she examined the Frenchman with an eye of commercial distrust. [Footnote: An eye of commercial distrust. Explain this term.] However, the examination seemed to be favorable to him, for, when he had eaten his frugal meal, she licked his boots with her powerful, rough tongue, cleaning off the dust, which was caked in the wrinkles, in a marvellous manner.
"Ah! but how when she is really hungry?" thought the Provencal. In spite of the shudder caused by this thought, his attention was curiously drawn to the symmetrical proportions of the animal, which was certainly one of the most splendid specimens of its race. He began to measure them with his eye. She was three feet in height at the shoulders and four feet in length, not counting her tail; this powerful weapon was nearly three feet long, and rounded like a cudgel. The head, large as that of a lioness, was distinguished by an intelligent, crafty expression. The cold cruelty of the tiger dominated, and yet it bore a vague resemblance to the face of a woman. [Footnote: Face of a woman. The creature, part tiger and part woman, suggests what famous monument?] Indeed, the countenance of this solitary queen had something of the gayety of a Nero [Footnote: Nero: a Roman Emperor notorious for his cruelty.] in his cups; her thirst for blood was slaked, now she wished for amusement.
The soldier tried if he might walk up and down, the panther left him freedom, contenting herself with following him with her eyes, less like a faithful dog watching his master's movements with affectionate solicitude, than a huge Angora cat uneasy and suspicious of every movement.
When he looked around, he saw, by the spring, the carcass of his horse; the panther had dragged the remains all that distance, and had eaten about two-thirds of it already. The sight reassured the Frenchman, it made it easy to explain the panther's absence and the forbearance she had shown him while he slept.
This first good-luck emboldened the soldier to think of the future. He conceived the wild idea of continuing on good terms with his companion and to share her home, to try every means to tame her, and endeavoring to turn her good graces to his account.
With these thoughts he returned to her side, and had the unspeakable joy of seeing her wag her tail with an almost imperceptible motion as he approached. He sat down beside her, fearlessly, and they began to play together. He took her paws and muzzle, twisted her ears, and stroked her warm, delicate flanks. She allowed him to do whatever he liked, and, when he began to stroke the fur on her feet, she carefully drew in her murderously savage claws, which were sharp and curved like a Damascus sword. [Footnote: Damascus sword: A Damascus blade was famed for its excellence.]
The Frenchman kept one hand on his poniard, and thought to watch his chance to plunge it into the belly of the too confiding animal; but he was fearful lest he might be strangled in her last convulsive struggles; beside this, he felt in his heart a sort of remorse which bade him respect this hitherto inoffensive creature that had done him no hurt. He seemed to have found a friend in the boundless desert, and, half-unconsciously, his mind reverted to his old sweetheart whom he had, in derision, nicknamed "Mignonne."
This recollection of his youthful days suggested the idea of making the panther answer to this name, now that he began to admire with less fear her graceful swiftness, agility, and softness. Toward the close of the day he had so familiarized himself with his perilous position that he was half in love with his dangerous situation and its painfulness. At last his companion had grown so far tamed that she had caught the habit of looking up at him whenever he called in a falsetto voice, "Mignonne."
From that time the desert was inhabited for him. It contained a being to whom he could talk and whose ferocity was now lulled into gentleness, although he could not explain to himself this strange friendship. Anxious as he was to keep awake and on guard, as it were, he gradually succumbed to his excessive fatigue of body and mind; he threw himself on the floor of the cave and slept soundly.
On awakening Mignonne was absent; he climbed the hillock and afar off saw her returning in the long bounds characteristic of those animals who cannot run owing to the extreme flexibility of the vertebral column.
Mignonne arrived with bloody jaws; she received the wonted caresses, the tribute her slave hastened to pay, and showed by her purring how transported she was. Her eyes, full of languor, rested more kindly on the Provencal than on the previous day, and he addressed her as he would have done a domestic animal.
"Ah! mademoiselle, you're a nice girl, ain't you? Just see now! we like to be petted, don't we? Are you not ashamed of yourself? So you've been eating some Arab or other, eh? Well, that doesn't matter. They're animals, the same as you are; but don't take to crunching up a Frenchman, bear that in mind, or I shall not love you any longer."
She played like a dog with its master, allowing herself to be rolled over, knocked about, stroked, and the rest, alternately; at times she would coax him to play by putting her paw upon his knee and making a pretty gesture of solicitation.
One day, under a bright midday sun, a great bird hovered in the sky. The Provencal left his panther to gaze at this new guest; but after pausing for a moment the deserted sultana uttered a deep growl.
"God take me! I do believe that she is jealous," he cried, seeing the rigid look appearing again in the metallic eyes. "The soul of Virginie has passed into her body, that's sure!"
The eagle disappeared in the ether, and the soldier admired her again, recalled by the panther's evident displeasure, her rounded flanks, and the perfect grace of her attitude. There was youth and grace in her form. The blonde fur of her robe shaded, with delicate gradations, to the dead-white tones of her furry thighs; the vivid sunshine brought out in its fulness the brilliancy of this living gold and its variegated brown spots with indescribable lustre.
The Provencal and the panther looked at each other with a look pregnant with meaning. She trembled with delight (the coquettish creature) when she felt her friend scratch the strong bones of her skull with his nails. Her eyes glittered like lightning-flashes—then she closed them tightly.
"She has a soul!" cried he, looking at the stillness of this queen of the sands, golden like them, white as their waving light, solitary and burning as themselves.
(Here the narrative breaks off somewhat abruptly and continues in the first person—that of the soldier.)
"Suddenly she turned on me in a fury, seizing my thigh with her sharp teeth, and yet (I thought of this afterwards) not cruelly. I imagined that she intended devouring me, and I plunged my poniard in her throat. She rolled over with a cry that rent my soul; she looked at me in her death-struggle, but without anger. I would have given the whole world—my cross, which I had not yet gained, all, everything—to restore her life to her. It was as if I had assassinated a real human being, a friend. When the soldiers who had seen my flag came to my rescue they found me in tears.
"Ah! well, monsieur, I went through the wars in Germany, Spain, Russia, and France; I have marched my carcass well-nigh the world over, but I have seen nothing comparable to the desert."
—HONORE DE BALZAC (adapted).
[Footnote: Note the detailed description. Does it add to the reality of the scene? Does the author succeed in making the panther appeal to our sympathy? Does the story seem plausible or merely fantastic? Where do you find surprises in the story that add to its interest?]
FOR THOSE WHO LOVE MUSIC
I had engaged him by the year. Twice a week he came and went through his whole repertoire, and lately, out of sympathy for me, he would play the Miserere of the Trovatore, [Footnote: Miserere of the Trovatore. Trovatore is an opera by Verdi.] which was his show piece, twice over. He stood there in the middle of the street looking steadfastly up at my windows while he played, and when he had finished he would take off his hat with an "Addio, Signor!" [Footnote: Addio Signer: "Good-by, Sir."]
It is well known that the barrel-organ, like the violin, gets a fuller and more sympathetic tone the older it is. The old artist had an excellent instrument, not of the modern noisy type which imitates a whole orchestra with flutes and bells and beats of drums, but a melancholy old-fashioned barrel-organ [Footnote: A melancholy barrel organ. What does the author mean by this?] which knew how to lend a dreamy mystery to the gayest allegretto, [Footnote: Allegretto: lively, a musical term to denote the tempo of a composition.] and in whose proudest tempo di Marcia [Footnote: Tempo di Marcia: marching time.] there sounded an unmistakable undertone of resignation. And in the tenderer pieces of the repertoire, where the melody, muffled and staggering like a cracked old human voice, groped its way amongst the rusty pipes of the treble, then there was a trembling in the bass like suppressed sobs. Now and then the voice of the tired organ failed it completely, and then the old man would resignedly turn the handle during some bars of rest more touching in their eloquent silence than any music.
True, the instrument was itself very expressive, but the old man had surely his share in the sensation of melancholy which came over me whenever I heard his music. He had his beat in the poor quarter behind the Jardin des Plantes, [Footnote: Jardin des Plantes: the botanical garden.] and many times during my solitary rambles up there had I stopped and taken my place among the scanty audience of ragged street boys which surrounded him.
It was not difficult to see that times were hard—the old man's clothes were doubtful, and the pallor of poverty lay over his withered features, where I read the story of a long life of failure. He came from the mountains around Monte Cassino, [Footnote: Monte Cassino: a monastery on a hill near Cassino, Italy, about forty-five miles from Naples.] so he informed me, but where the monkey hailed from I never quite got to know.
Thus we met from time to time during my rambles in the poor quarters. Had I a moment to spare I stopped for a while to listen to a tune or two, as I saw that it gratified the old man, and since I always carried a lump of sugar in my pocket for any dog acquaintance I might possibly meet, I soon made friends with the monkey also. The relations between the little monkey and her impressario [Footnote: Impressario: the conductor of an opera or a concert.] were unusually cordial, and this notwithstanding that she had completely failed to fulfil the expectations which had been founded upon her—she had never been able to learn a single trick, the old man told me. Thus all attempts at education had long ago been abandoned, and she sat there huddled together on her barrel-organ and did nothing at all. Her face was sad, like that of most animals, and her thoughts were far away. But now and then she woke up from her dreams, and her eyes could then take a suspicious, almost malignant expression, as they lit upon some of the street boys who crowded round her tribune [Footnote: Round her tribune: a curious use of this word, which means a pulpit or bench from which speeches were made.] and tried to pull her tail, which stuck out from her little gold-laced garibaldi. [Footnote: Garibaldi: a jacket which took its name from its likeness in shape to the red shirt worn by the Italian patriot Garibaldi.] To me she was always very amiable; confidently she laid her wrinkled hand in mine and absently she accepted the little attentions I was able to offer her. She was very fond of sweetmeats, and burnt almonds were, in her opinion, the most delectable thing in the world.
Since the old man had once recognized his musical friend on a balcony of the Hotel de L'Avenir, [Footnote: Hotel de L'Avenir: literally, "Hotel of the Future."] he often came and played under my windows. Later on he became engaged, as already said, to come regularly and play twice a week,—it may, perhaps, appear superfluous for one who was studying medicine, but the old man's terms were so small, and you know I have always been so fond of music. Besides it was the only recreation at hand—I was working to take my degree in the spring.
So passed the autumn, and the hard times came. The rich tried on the new winter fashions, and the poor shivered with the cold. It became more and more difficult for well-gloved hands to leave the warm muff or the fur-lined coat to take out a copper for the beggar, and more and more desperate became the struggle for bread amongst the problematical existences [Footnote: The problematical existences. Explain this expression.] of the street.
Now and then I came across my friend, and we always had, as before, a kind word for one another. He was now, wrapped up in an old Abruzzi cloak, [Footnote: Abruzzi cloak. Abruzzi is a division of western Italy including three provinces.] and I noticed that the greater the cold became the faster did he turn the handle to keep himself warm; and towards December the Miserere itself was performed in allegretto.
The monkey had now become civilian, and wrapped up her little thin body in a long ulster such as Englishmen wear; but she was fearfully cold notwithstanding, and, forgetful of all etiquette, more and more often she jumped from the barrel-organ and crept in under the old man's cloak.
And while they were suffering out there in the cold I sat at home in my cosy, warm room, and instead of helping them, I forgot all about them, more and more taken up as I was with my coming examination, with no thought but for myself. And then one day I suddenly left my lodgings and removed to the Hotel Dieu to take the place of a comrade, and weeks passed before I put my foot out of the hospital.
I remember it so well, it was on New Year's Day we met each other again. I was crossing the Place de Notre Dame, [Footnote: Place de Notre Dame. The square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.] mass was just over, and the people were streaming out of the old cathedral. As usual, a row of beggars was standing before the door, imploring the charity of the church-goers. At the farther end, and at some distance from the others, an old man stood with bent head and outstretched hat, and with painful surprise I recognized my friend in his threadbare old coat without the Abruzzi cloak, without the barrel-organ, without the monkey. My first impulse was to go up to him, but an uneasy feeling of I do not know what held me back; I felt that I blushed and I did not move from my place. Every now and then a passer-by stopped for a moment and made as if to search his pockets, but I did not see a single copper fall into the old man's hat. The place became gradually deserted, and one beggar after another trotted off with his little earnings. At last a child came out of the church, led by a gentleman in mourning; the child pointed towards the old man, and then ran up to him and laid a silver coin in his hat. The old man humbly bowed his head in thanks, and even I, with my unfortunate absent-mindedness, was very nearly thanking the little donor also, so pleased was I. My friend carefully wrapped up the precious gift in an old pocket-handkerchief, and stooping forward, as if still carrying the barrel-organ on his back, he walked off.
I happened to be quite free that morning, and thinking that a little walk before luncheon could do me no harm after the hospital air, I followed him at a short distance across the Seine. [Footnote: Seine. Paris is on the River Seine. "buon giorno": "Good day."] Once or twice I nearly caught him up, and all but tapped him on the shoulder, with a "Buon giorno, Don Gaetano!" Yet, without exactly knowing why, I drew back at the last moment and let him get a few paces ahead of me again.
We had just crossed the Place Maubert [Footnote: Place Maubert: Boulevard St. Germain: streets in Paris.] and turned into the Boulevard St. Germain; the boulevard was full of people, so that, without being noticed, I could approach him quite close. He was standing before an elegant confectioners' shop, and to my surprise he entered without hesitation. I took up my position before the shop window, alongside some shivering street arabs [Footnote: Street Arabs. What is meant by this term?] who stood there, absorbed in the contemplation of the unattainable delicacies within, and I watched the old man carefully untie his pocket-handkerchief and lay the little girl's gift upon the counter. I had hardly time to draw back before he came out with a red paper bag of sweets in his hand, and with rapid steps he started off in the direction of the Jardin des Plantes.
I was very much astonished at what I had seen, and my curiosity made me follow him. He slackened his pace at one of the little slums behind Hopital de la Pitie, [Footnote: Hopital de la Pitie: literally, "Hospital of Pity."] and I saw him disappear into a dirty old house. I waited outside a minute or two and then I groped my way through the pitch-dark entrance, climbed up a filthy staircase, and found a door slightly ajar. An icy, dark room, in the middle three ragged little children crouched together around a half-extinct braziero, [Footnote: Brazier: a pan for burning coals. Tuscan. Tuscany is one of the divisions of northern Italy.] in the corner the only furniture in the room—a clean iron bedstead, with crucifix and rosary hung on the wall above it, and by the window an image of the Madonna adorned with gaudy paper flowers; I was in Italy, in my poor, exiled Italy. And in the purest Tuscan the eldest sister informed me that Don Gaetano lived in the garret. I went up there and knocked, but got no answer, so I opened the door myself. The room was brightly lit by a blazing fire. With his back towards the door, Don Gaetano was on his knees before the stove busy heating a saucepan over the fire; beside him on the floor lay an old mattress with the well-known Abruzzi cloak thrown over it, and close by, spread out on a newspaper, were various delicacies—an orange, walnuts, and raisins, and there also was the red paper bag. Don Gaetano dropped a lump of sugar into the saucepan, stirred it with a stick, and in a persuasive voice I heard him say, "Che bella roba, che bella roba, quanto e buono questa latte con lo zucchero! Non piange anima mia, adesso siamo pronti!" [Footnote: "What nice things, what nice things, how good this milk with sugar is! Don't cry, my darling, it is ready now!"]
A slight rustling was heard beneath the Abruzzi cloak and a black little hand was stretched out toward the red paper bag.
"Primo il latte, primo il latte" admonished the old man. "Non importa, piglio tu una," [Footnote: "The milk first, the milk first—never mind, take one."] he repeated, and took a big burnt almond out of the paper bag; the little hand disappeared, and a crunching was heard under the cloak. Don Gaetano poured the warm milk in a saucer, and then he carefully lifted up a corner of the cloak. There lay the poor little monkey with heaving breast and eyes glowing with fever. Her face had become so small and her complexion was ashy gray. The old man took her on his knees, and tenderly as a mother he poured some spoonfuls of the warm milk into her mouth. She looked with indifferent eyes towards the delicacies on the table, and absently she let her fingers pass through her master's beard. She was so tired that she could hardly hold her head up, and now and then she coughed so that her thin little body trembled, and she pressed both her hands to her temples. Don Gaetano shook his head sadly, and carefully laid the little invalid back under the cloak.
A feeble blush spread over the old man's face as he caught sight of me. I told him that I happened to be passing by just as he was entering his house, and that I took the liberty of following him upstairs in order to bid him good-morning and to give him my new address, in the hope that he would come and play to me as before. I involuntarily looked round for the barrel-organ as I spoke, and Don Gaetano, who understood, informed me that he no longer played the organ—he sang. I glanced at the precious pile of wood beside the fire-place, at the new blanket that hung before the window to keep out the draught, at the delicacies on the newspaper—and I also understood.
The monkey had been ill three weeks—"la febbre," [Footnote: La febbre: the fever.] explained the old man. We knelt one on each side of the bed, and the sick animal looked at me with her mute prayer for help. Her nose was hot, as it is with sick children and dogs, her face wrinkled like that of an old, old woman, and her eyes had got quite a human expression. Her breathing was so short, and we could hear how it rattled in her throat. The diagnosis was not difficult—she had consumption. Now and again she stretched out her thin arms as if she implored us to help her, and Don Gaetano thought that she did so because she wished to be bled. I would willingly have given in in this case, although opposed in principle to this treatment, if I had thought it possible that any benefit could have been derived from it; but I knew only too well how unlikely this was, and I tried my best to make Don Gaetano understand it. Unhappily I did not know myself what there was to be done. I had at that time a friend amongst the keepers of the monkey-house in the Jardin des Plantes, and the same night he came with me to have a look at her; he said that there was nothing to be done, and that there was no hope. And he was right. For one week more the fire blazed in Don Gaetano's garret, then it was left to go out, and it became cold and dark as before in the old man's home.
True, he got his barrel-organ out from the pawn-shop, and now and then a copper fell into his hat. He did not die of starvation, and that was about all he asked of life.
The spring came and I left Paris; and God knows what become of Don Gaetano.
If you happen to hear a melancholy old barrel-organ in the courtyard, go to the window and give a penny to the poor errant [Footnote: Errant: wandering.] musician—perhaps it is Don Gaetano! If you find that his organ disturbs you, try if you like it, better by making him stand a little farther off, but don't send him away with harshness! He has to bear so many hard words as it is; why should not we then be a little kind to him—we who love music?
—AXEL MUNTHE (adapted).
[Footnote: What interested the author in the old organ-grinder? What was the music like? Explain the title of the story. By what incidents does the author show the unselfish devotion of the old musician for his pet? Was his pet winning or lovable? Why did the old man care so much for it? Is the picture of the old man dignified or sordid?
Why? Point out instances of dramatic contrast. Are the descriptions in the story simple or elaborate?]
OUT OF DOORS
St. Guido [Footnote: Saint Guido was a fanciful name given to the little boy because his shock of golden curls looked like the nimbus around a saint's head.] ran out at the garden gate into a sandy lane, and down the lane till he came to a grassy bank. He caught hold of the bunches of grass and so pulled himself up. There was a footpath on the top which went straight in between fir-trees, and as he ran along they stood on each side of him like green walls. They were very near together, and even at the top the space between them was so narrow that the sky seemed to come down, and the clouds to be sailing but just over them, as if they would catch and tear in the fir-trees. The path was so little used that it had grown green, and as he ran he knocked dead branches out of his way. Just as he was getting tired of running he reached the end of the path, and came out into a wheat-field. The wheat did not grow very closely, and the spaces were filled with azure corn-flowers. St. Guido thought he was safe away now, so he stopped to look.
There were the fir-trees behind him—a thick wall of green—hedges on the right and left, and the wheat sloped down towards an ash-copse in the hollow. No one was in the field, only the fir-trees, the green hedges, the yellow, wheat, and the sun overhead. Guido kept quite still, because he expected that in a minute the magic would begin, and something would speak to him. His cheeks, which had been flushed with running, grew less hot, but I cannot tell you the exact color they were; for his skin was so white and clear, it would not tan under the sun, yet being always out of doors it had taken the faintest tint of golden brown mixed with rosiness. His blue eyes which had been wide open, as they always were when full of mischief, became softer, and his long eyelashes drooped over them. But as the magic did not begin, Guido walked on slowly into the wheat, which rose nearly to his head, though it was not yet so tall as it would be before the reapers came. He did not break any of the stalks, or bend them down and step on them; he passed between them, and they yielded on either side. The wheat-ears were pale gold, having only just left off their green, and they surrounded him on all sides as if he were bathing.
A butterfly painted a velvety red with white spots came floating along the surface of the corn, [Footnote: Corn. In England corn means wheat, or sometimes rye or barley or oats. What we call corn the English call maize.] and played round his cap, which was a little higher, and was so tinted by the sun that the butterfly was inclined to settle on it. Guido put up his hand to catch the butterfly, forgetting his secret in his desire to touch it. The butterfly was too quick—with a snap of his wings, disdainfully mocking the idea of catching him, away he went. Guido nearly stepped on a humble-bee—buzz-zz! the bee was so alarmed he actually crept up Guido's knickers to the knee, and even then knocked himself against a wheat-ear when he started to fly. Guido kept quite still while the humble-bee was on his knee, knowing that he should not be stung if he did not move. He knew, too, that humble-bees have stings though people often say they have not, and the reason people think they do not possess them is because humble-bees are so good-natured and never sting unless they are very much provoked.
Another bumble-bee went over along the tips of the wheat—burr-rr—as he passed; then a scarlet fly, and next a bright yellow wasp who was telling a friend flying behind him that he knew where there was such a capital piece of wood to bite up into tiny pieces and make into paper for the nest in the thatch, but his friend wanted to go to the house because there was a pear quite ripe there on the wall. Next came a moth, and after the moth a golden fly, and three gnats, and a mouse ran along the dry ground with a curious sniffing rustle close to Guido. A shrill cry came down out of the air, and looking up he saw two swifts [Footnote: Swifts: swallows.] turning circles, and as they passed each other they shrieked—their voices were so shrill they shrieked. They were only saying that in a month their little swifts in the slates would be able to fly. While he sat so quiet on the ground and hidden by the wheat, he heard a cuckoo such a long way off it sounded like a watch when it is covered up. "Cuckoo" did not come full and distinct—it was such a tiny little "cuckoo" caught in the hollow of Guido's ear. The cuckoo must have been a mile away.
Suddenly he thought something went over, and yet he did not see it—perhaps it was the shadow—and he looked up and saw a large bird not very far up, not farther than he could fling, or shoot his arrows, and the bird was fluttering his wings, but did not move away farther, as if he had been tied in the air. Guido knew it was a hawk, and the hawk was staying there to see if there was a mouse or a little bird in the wheat. After a minute the hawk stopped fluttering and lifted his wings together as a butterfly does when he shuts his, and down the hawk came, straight into the corn. "Go away!" shouted Guido jumping up, and flinging his cap, and the hawk, dreadfully frightened and terribly cross, checked himself and rose again with an angry rush. So the mouse escaped, but Guido could not find his cap for some time. Then he went on, and still the ground sloping sent him down the hill till he came close to the copse.
Some sparrows came out from the copse, [Footnote: Copse: a wood of small trees.] and he stopped and saw one of them perch on a stalk of wheat, with one foot above the other sideways, so that he could pick at the ear and get the corn. Guido watched the sparrow clear the ear, then he moved, and the sparrows flew back to the copse, where they chattered at him for disturbing them. There was a ditch between the corn and the copse, and a streamlet; he picked up a stone and threw it in, and the splash frightened a rabbit, who slipped over the bank and into a hole. The boughs of an oak reached out across to the corn, and made so pleasant a shade that Guido, who was very hot from walking in the sun, sat down on the bank of the streamlet with his feet dangling over it, and watched the floating grass sway slowly as the water ran. Gently he leaned back till his back rested on the sloping ground—he raised one knee, and left the other foot over the verge where the tip of the tallest rushes touched it. Before he had been there a minute he remembered the secret which a fern had taught him.
First, if he wanted to know anything, or to hear a story, or what the grass was saying, or the oak-leaves singing, he must be careful not to interfere as he had done just now with the butterfly by trying to catch him. Fortunately, that butterfly was a nice butterfly, and very kindhearted, but sometimes, if you interfered with one thing, it would tell another thing, and they would all know in a moment, and stop talking, and never say a word. Once, while they were all talking pleasantly, Guido caught a fly in his hand; he felt his hand tickle as the fly stepped on it, and he shut up his little fist so quickly he caught the fly in the hollow between the palm and his fingers. The fly went buzz, and rushed to get out, but Guido laughed, so the fly buzzed again, and just told the grass, and the grass told the bushes, and everything knew in a moment, and Guido never heard another word all that day. Yet sometimes now they all knew something about him; they would go on talking. You see, they all rather petted and spoiled him. Next, if Guido did not hear them conversing, the fern said he must touch a little piece of grass and put it against his cheek, or a leaf, and kiss it, and say, "Leaf, leaf, tell them I am here."
Now, while he was lying down, and the tip of the rushes touched his foot, he remembered this, so he moved the rush with his foot and said, "Rush, rush, tell them I am here." Immediately there came a little wind, and the wheat swung to and fro, the oak-leaves rustled, the rushes bowed, and the shadows slipped forwards and back again. Then it was still.
—RICHARD JEFFERIES (adapted).
[Footnote: Whore do you imagine this scene is laid? What things in the text suggest this? Do you get a single picture, or a rapid succession of pictures? Which is the author really giving you: nature as it is, or as it seems to the boy? Has any of it ever seemed so to you? Note the appeal to sight, hearing, and touch; note the use of color. Does the author show a love for, and knowledge of, nature? Select the passages in which the sympathy between the boy and all nature is dwelt on.]
There is a marked similarity, almost an identity, between the religious institutions of most of the Polynesian islands; [Footnote: Polynesian Islands: in the Pacific, just east of Australia.] and in all exists the mysterious "Taboo," restricted in its uses to a greater or less extent. So strange and complex in its arrangements is this remarkable system, that I have in several cases met with individuals who, after residing for years among the islands in the Pacific, and acquiring a considerable knowledge of the language, have nevertheless been altogether unable to give any satisfactory account of its operations. Situated as I was in the Typce valley, I perceived every hour the effects of this all-controlling power, without in the least comprehending it. Those effects were indeed wide-spread and universal, pervading the most important as well as the minutest transactions of life. The savage, in short, lives in the continual observance of its dictates, which guide and control every action of his being.
For several days after entering the valley, I had been saluted at least fifty times in the twenty-four hours with the talismanic [Footnote: Talismanic: having the properties of a charm.] word "Taboo" shrieked in my ears, at some gross violation of its provisions, of which I had unconsciously been guilty. The day after our arrival I happened to hand some tobacco to Toby over the head of a native who sat between us. He started up as if stung by an adder; while the whole company, manifesting an equal degree of horror, simultaneously screamed out "Taboo!" I never again perpetrated a similar piece of ill-manners, which indeed was forbidden by the canons of good breeding as well as by the mandates of the taboo. But it was not always so easy to perceive wherein you had contravened [Footnote: Contravened: come into conflict with.] the spirit of this institution. I was many times called to order, if I may use the phrase, when I could not for the life of me conjecture what particular offense I had committed.
One day I was strolling through a secluded portion of the valley; and hearing the musical sound of the cloth-mallet at a little distance, I turned down a path that conducted me in a few moments to a house where there were some half-dozen girls employed in making tappa. [Footnote: Tappa: a kind of cloth made from the inner bark of the paper mulberry.] This was an operation I had frequently witnessed, and had handled the bark in all the various stages of its preparation. On the present occasion the females were intent upon their occupation; and after looking up and talking gayly to me for a few moments, they resumed their employment. I regarded them for awhile in silence, and then carelessly picking up a handful of the material that lay around, proceeded unconsciously to pick it apart. While thus engaged, I was suddenly startled by a scream, like that of a whole boarding-school of young ladies just on the point of going into hysterics. Leaping up with the idea of seeing a score of Happar warriors about to perform anew the Sabine atrocity, [Footnote: Sabine atrocity: referring to the carrying off of the Sabine women by the Romans in the legendary history of early Rome.] I found myself confronted by the company of girls, who, having dropped their work, stood before me with staring eyes, swelling bosoms, and fingers pointed in horror towards me.
Thinking that some venomous reptile must be concealed in the bark which I held in my hand, I began cautiously to separate and examine it. Whilst I did so the horrified girls redoubled their shrieks. Their wild cries and frightened motions actually alarmed me; and throwing down the tappa, I was about to rush from the house, when in the same instant their clamors ceased, and one of them, seizing me by the arm, pointed to the broken fibres that had just fallen from my grasp, and screamed in my ear the fatal word "Taboo!"
I subsequently found out that the fabric they were engaged in making was of a peculiar kind, destined to be worn on the heads of females; and through every stage of its manufacture was guarded by a rigorous taboo, which interdicted the whole masculine gender from even so much as touching it.
Frequently in walking through the groves, I observed bread-fruit and cocoanut trees with a wreath of leaves twined in a peculiar fashion about their trunks. This was the mark of the taboo. The trees themselves, their fruit, and even the shadows they cast upon the ground, were consecrated by its presence. In the same way a pipe which the King had bestowed upon me was rendered sacred in the eyes of the natives, none of whom could I ever prevail upon to smoke from it. The bowl was encircled by a woven band of grass, somewhat resembling those Turks' heads occasionally worked in the handles of our whip-stalks. A similar badge was once braided about my wrist by the royal hand of Mehevi himself, who, as soon as he had concluded the operation, pronounced me "Taboo." This occurred shortly after Toby's disappearance; and were it not that from the first moment I had entered the valley the natives had treated me with uniform kindness, I should have supposed that their conduct afterwards was to be ascribed to the fact that I had received this sacred investiture.
[Footnote: The author, Herman Melville, was born in New York in 1819. In his youth he ran away from home and became a sailor on a whaling vessel. Escaping from the cruel tyranny of the captain, he reached the Marquesas Islands, where he had strange adventures as the captive of a tribe of cannibals in the Typee Valley. He lived here many months, and finally returned home in an Australian ship.]
[Footnote: Many writers on the customs of primitive people suppose the taboo to be the earliest form of law. It is commonly imposed by the king or the high priest of the tribe. Does the "taboo" here seem to you to be a matter of law or religion? Have we any "taboos" in our social system? What do we mean when we say of an act or a thing that it is "taboo," or "tabooed"? Does ceremoniousness increase or decrease with civilization?]
SCHOOL DAYS AT THE CONVENT
I waited for night and supper very impatiently. Recreation time began as soon as we left the refectory. [Footnote: Refectory: the dining hall.] In summer the two classes went to the garden. In winter each class went to its own room: the seniors to their fine and spacious study; we to our forlorn quarters, where there was no room to play, and where our teacher forced us to "amuse" ourselves quietly,—that is, not at all. Leaving the refectory always made a momentary confusion, and I admired the way the "devils" of the two classes managed to create the slight disorder under whose favor one could easily escape. The cloister [Footnote: Cloister: the covered arched passage on the side of a court.] had but one little lamp to light it: this left the other three galleries in semi-darkness. Instead of walking straight ahead towards the juniors' room, you stepped to the left, let the flock pass on, and you were free. I did so, and found myself in the dark with my friend Mary and the other "devils" she had told me would be there. They were all armed, some with logs, others with tongs. I had nothing, but was bold enough to go to the school-room, get a poker, and return to my accomplices without being noticed.
Then they initiated me into the great secret, and we started on our expedition.
The great secret was the traditional legend of the convent: a dream handed down from generation to generation, and from "devil" to "devil," for about two centuries; a romantic fiction which may have had some foundation of truth at the beginning, but now rested merely on the needs of our imagination. Its object was to "deliver the victim." There was a prisoner, some said several prisoners, shut up somewhere in an impenetrable retreat: either a cell hidden and bricked up in the thickness of the walls, or in a dungeon under the vaults of the immense sub-basements extending beneath the monastery as well as under a great part of the Saint-Victor district. There were indeed magnificent cellars there,—a real subterranean city, whose limits we never found,—and they had many mysterious outlets at different points within the vast area of the inclosure. We were told that at a great distance off, these cellars joined the excavations running under the greater part of Paris and the surrounding country as far as Vincennes. [Footnote: Vincennes: a town about two miles from Paris.] They said that by following our convent cellars you could reach the Catacombs, [Footnote: Catacombs: subterranean passages.] the quarries, the baths of Julian, [Footnote: Baths of Julian: a Roman emperor of the fourth century.] and what not. These vaults were the key to a world of darkness, terrors, mysteries: an immense abyss dug beneath our feet, closed by iron gates, whose exploration was as perilous as the descent into hell of AEneas or Dante. For this reason it was absolutely imperative to get there, in spite of the insurmountable difficulties of the enterprise, and the terrible punishments the discovery of our secret would provoke.