Entering these subterranean domains was one of those unhoped-for strokes of good luck that occurred once, or at most twice, in the life of a "devil," after years of perseverance and mental effort. It was of no use thinking of getting in by the main door. That door was at the bottom of a wide staircase next to the kitchens, which were cellars too; and here the lay sisters [Footnote: Lay sisters: the nuns who are not in holy orders.] congregated.
But we were sure that the vaults could be reached by a thousand other ways, even by the roof. According to us, every nailed-up door, every dark corner under a staircase, every hollow-sounding wall, might communicate mysteriously with the subterranean region; and we looked for that communication most earnestly up to the very attic.
I had read Mrs. Radcliffe's "Castle of the Pyrenees" [Footnote: Castle of the Pyrenees. Mrs. Radcliffe's novels were the first "mystery and horror" tales to become popular.] at Nohant, with terror and delight. My companions had many another Scotch and Irish legend in their heads, all fit to set one's hair on end. The convent too had innumerable stories of its own lamentable events,—about ghosts, dungeons, inexplicable apparitions, and mysterious noises. All this, and the thought of finally discovering the tremendous secret of the victim, so kindled our imaginations that we were sure we heard sighs and groans start from under the stones, or breathe through the cracks of doors and walls.
We started off, my companions for the hundredth, I for the first time, in search of that elusive captive,—languishing no one knew where, but certainly somewhere, and whom perhaps we were called to discover. She must have been very old, considering how long she had been sought in vain! She might have been over two hundred years old, but we did not mind that! We sought her, called her, thought of her incessantly, and never despaired.
That evening I was led into the oldest and most broken-up part of the buildings,—perhaps the most exciting locality for our exploration. We selected a little passage with wooden railings overlooking an empty space without any known outlet. A staircase with banisters led to this unknown region, but an oaken door forbade access to the stairs. We had to get around the obstacle by passing from the railing to the banisters, and walk down the outside of the worm-eaten balusters. There was a dark void below us whose depth we could not fathom. We had only a little taper (a "rat"), and that hardly let us see more than the first steps of the mysterious staircase.
We were at the bottom in a moment; and with more joy than disappointment found that we were directly under the passage, in a square space without any opening. Not a door nor a window, nor any explicable purpose for this sort of closed vestibule. Why was there a staircase leading into a blind space? Why was there a strong padlocked door shutting off the staircase?
The little taper was divided into several lengths, and each one began examining for herself. The staircase was made of wood. A secret spring in one of the steps must lead to a passage, another staircase, or a hidden trap. While some explored the staircase, and tried to force its old planks apart, others groped along the wall in search of a knob, a rack, a ring, or any of the thousand contrivances mentioned in the chronicles of old manors as moving a stone, turning a panel, or opening an entrance into unknown regions.
Alas, there was nothing! The wall was smooth and plastered. The pavement sounded dull; not a stone was loose, and the staircase hid no spring. One of us looked further. She declared that in the extreme corner under the staircase the wall had a hollow sound; we struck it, and found it true. "It's here!" we all exclaimed. "There's a walled-up passage in there, but that passage leads to the awful dungeon. That is the way down to the sepulchre holding the living victims." We glued our ears to the wall, heard nothing; still the discoverer maintained that she could hear confused groans and clanking chains. What was to be done?
"Why, it's quite plain," said Mary: "we must pull the wall down. All of us together can surely make a hole in it."
Nothing seemed easier to us; and we all went to work,—some trying to knock it down with their logs, others scraping it with their shovels and tongs,—never thinking that by worrying those poor shaky walls, we risked tumbling the building down on our heads. Fortunately we could not do much harm, because the noise made by the logs would have attracted some one.
We had to be satisfied with pushing and scratching. Yet we had managed to make quite a noticeable hole in the plaster, lime, and stones, when the bell rang for prayers. We had just time to repeat our perilous escapade, [Footnote: Escapade: prank.] put out our lights, separate, and grope our way back to the schoolrooms. We put off the continuation of the enterprise till the next day, and appointed the same place of meeting. Those who got there first were not to wait for those who might be detained by punishment or unusual surveillance. Each one was to do her best to scoop out the wall. It would be just so much done toward the next day's work. There was no chance of any one's noticing it, as no one ever went down into that blind hallway given over to mice and spiders.
We dusted each other off, regained the cloister, slipped into our respective class-rooms, and were ready to kneel at prayers with the others. I forget whether we were noticed and punished that evening. It happened so often that no single event of the kind has any special date in the great number. Still we could often carry on our work with impunity.
The search for the great secret and the dungeon lasted the whole winter I spent in the junior class. The wall was perceptibly damaged, but we were stopped by reaching wooden girders. We looked elsewhere, ransacked twenty different places, never having the least success, yet never losing hope.
One day we thought we would look for some mansard [Footnote: Mansard: having two slopes.] window which might be, so to speak, the upper key to the so ardently desired subterranean world. There were many such windows, whose purpose we ignored. There was a little room in the attic where we practiced on one of the thirty pianos scattered through the establishment. We had an hour for this practice every day, and very few of us cared for it. As I always loved music, I liked to practice. But I was becoming more of an artist in romance than music; for what more beautiful poem could there be than the romance in action we were pursuing with our joint imaginations, courage, and palpitating emotions?
In this way the piano hour became the daily hour for adventures, without detriment, however, to the evening ones. We appointed meetings in one of these straggling rooms, and from there would go to the "I don't know where" or the "As you please" of fancy.
From the attic where I was supposed to be playing scales, I could see a labyrinth of roofs, sheds, lofts, and slopes, all covered with moss-grown tiles and decorated with broken chimneys, offering a vast field for new explorations. So on the roof we went. It was not hard to jump out of the window. Six feet below us there was a gutter joining two gables. It was more imprudent than difficult to scale these gables, meet others, jump from slope to slope, and run about like cats; and danger, far from restraining, only seemed to stimulate us.
There was something exceedingly foolish, but at the same time heroic, in this mania of "seeking the victim"; foolish, because we had to suppose that the nuns, whose gentleness and kindness we worshipped, were practicing horrible tortures upon some one; heroic, because we risked our lives every day to deliver an imaginary creature, who was the object of our most generous thought and most chivalrous undertakings.
We had been out about an hour, spying into the garden, looking down on a great part of the courts and buildings, and carefully hiding behind chimneys whenever we saw a black-veiled nun, who might have raised her head and seen us in the clouds, when we asked ourselves how we should get back. The arrangement of the roofs had allowed us to step or jump down. Going up was not so easy. I think it would have been impossible without a ladder. We scarcely knew where we were. At last we recognized a parlor-boarder's window,—Sidonie Macdonald's, the celebrated general's daughter. It could be reached by a final jump, but would be more dangerous than the others. I jumped too hurriedly, and caught my heel in a flat sky-light, through which I should have fallen thirty feet into a hall near the junior's room, if by chance my awkwardness had not made me swerve. I got off with two badly flayed knees, but did not give them a second thought. My heel had broken into a part of the sash of that deuced window, and smashed half a dozen panes, which dropped with a frightful crash quite near the kitchen entrance. A great noise arose at once among the lay sisters, and through the opening I had just made, we could hear Sister Theresa's loud voice screaming, "Cats!" and accusing Whisky—Mother Alippe's big tom-cat—of fighting with all his fellows, and breaking all the windows in the house. But sister Mary defended the cat's morals, and Sister Helen was sure that a chimney had fallen on the roof. This discussion started the nervous giggle that nothing can stop in little girls. We heard the sisters on the stairs, we should be caught in the very act of walking on the roofs, and still we could not stir to find refuge. Then I discovered that one of my shoes was gone,—that it had dropped through the broken sash into the kitchen hall. Though my knees were bleeding, my laughter was so uncontrollable that I could not say a word, but merely showed my unshod foot and explained what had happened by dumb show. A new explosion of laughter followed, although the alarm had been given and the lay sisters were near.
We were soon reassured. Being sheltered and hidden by overhanging roofs, we could hardly be discovered without getting up to the broken window by a ladder, or following the road we had taken. And that was something we could safely challenge any of the nuns to do. So when we had recognized the advantage of our position, we began to me-ouw Homerically, so that Whisky and his family might be accused and convicted in our stead. Then we made for the window of Sidonie, who did not welcome us. The poor child was practicing on the piano, and paying no attention to the feline howls vaguely striking her ear. She was delicate and nervous, very gentle, and quite incapable of understanding what pleasure we could find in roaming over roofs. As she sat playing, her back was turned to the window; and when we burst into it in a bunch, she screamed aloud. We lost little time in quieting her. Her cries would attract the nuns; so we sprang into the room and scampered to the door, while she stood trembling and staring, seeing all the strange procession flit by without understanding it nor recognizing any one of us, so terrified was she. In a moment we had all dispersed: one went to the upper room whence we had started, and played the piano with might and main; another took a round-about way to the school-room. As for me, I had to find my shoe, and secure that piece of evidence, if I still had the time. I managed to avoid the lay sisters, and to find the kitchen entry free. "Audaces fortuna juvat," [Footnote: Audaces fortuna juvat: "Fortune favors the brave."] said I to myself thinking of the aphorisms Deschartres [Footnote: Deschartres: the tutor of George Sand's father.] had taught me And indeed I found the lucky shoe, where it had fallen in a dark corner and not been seen. Whisky alone was accused. My knees hurt me very much for a few days but, I did not brag of them; and the explorations did not slacken.
—GEORGE SAND (adapted).
[Footnote: George Sand is a nom de plume. The author's real name is Armandine Lucile Aurore Dupin. She was a famous French novelist and playwright—born 1804, died 1876.]
[Footnote: Could you tell from the context where the scene is laid? What kind of child do you imagine the writer was? Has the narrative the stamp of a real experience? Do you know any books similar to what you may imagine the "Castle of the Pyrenees" to be?]
She [the writer, L. M. A.] soon ceased to be surprised at any demonstration of feminine strength, skill, and independence, for everywhere the women took the lead.
They not only kept house, reared children, and knit every imaginable garment the human frame can wear, but kept the shops and the markets, tilled the gardens, cleaned the streets, and bought and sold cattle, leaving the men free to enjoy the only pursuits they seemed inclined to follow,—breaking horses, [Footnote: Breaking horses: training horses to work, an expression familiar to every country child.] mending roads, and getting drunk.
The markets seemed entirely in the hands of the women, and lively scenes they presented to unaccustomed eyes, especially the pig-market, held every week, in the square before Madame C.'s house. At dawn the squealing began, and was kept up till sunset. The carts came in from all the neighboring hamlets, with tubs full of infant pigs, over which the women watched with maternal care till they were safely deposited among the rows of tubs that stood along the walk facing Anne of Bretaigne's [Footnote: Anne of Bretaigne: the daughter of Francis II, duke of Brittany; born at Nantes, 1476.] gray old tower, and the pleasant promenade which was once the fosse [Footnote: Fosse: a moat; a ditch.] about the city walls.
Here Madame would seat herself and knit briskly till a purchaser applied, when she would drop her work, dive among the pink innocents, and hold one up by its unhappy leg, undisturbed by its doleful cries, while she settled its price with a blue-gowned, white-capped neighbor, as sharp-witted and shrill-tongued as herself. If the bargain was struck, they slapped their hands together in a peculiar way, and the new owner clapped her purchase into a meal-bag, slung it over her shoulder, and departed with her squirming, squealing treasure as calmly as a Boston lady with a satchel full of ribbons and gloves.
More mature pigs came to market on their own legs, and very long, feeble legs they were, for a more unsightly beast than a Breton pig was never seen out of a toy Noah's ark. Tall, thin, high-backed, and sharp-nosed, these porcine [Footnote: Porcine: relating to swine; hoglike.] victims tottered to their doom, with dismal wailings, and not a vestige of spirit till the trials and excitement of the day goaded them to rebellion, when their antics furnished fun for the public. Miss Livy observed that the women could manage the pigs when men failed entirely. The latter hustled, lugged, or lashed, unmercifully and unsuccessfully; the former, with that fine tact which helps them to lead nobler animals than pigs, would soothe, sympathize, coax, and gently beguile the poor beasts, or devise ways of mitigating their bewilderment and woe, which did honor to the sex, and triumphantly illustrated the power of moral suasion.
One amiable lady, who had purchased two small pigs and a coop full of fowls, attempted to carry them all on one donkey. But the piggies rebelled lustily in the bags, the ducks remonstrated against their unquiet neighbors, and the donkey indignantly refused to stir a step till the unseemly uproar was calmed. But the Bretonne was equal to the occasion; for, after a pause of meditation, she solved the problem by tying the bags round the necks of the pigs so that they could enjoy the prospect. This appeased them at once, and produced a general lull; for when the pigs stopped squealing, the ducks stopped quacking, the donkey ceased his bray, and the party moved on in dignified silence, with the youthful pigs, one black, one white, serenely regarding life from their bags.
Another time, a woman leading a newly bought cow, came through the square, where the noise alarmed the beast so much that she became unruly, and pranced in a most dangerous manner. Miss Livy hung out of the window, breathless with interest, and ready to fly with brandy and bandages at a minute's notice, for it seemed inevitable that the woman would be tossed up among the lindens before the cow was conquered. The few men who were lounging about, stood with their hands in their pockets, watching the struggle without offering to help, till the cow scooped the lady up on her horns ready for a toss. Livy shrieked, but Madame just held on, kicking so vigorously that the cow was glad to set her down, when, instead of fainting she coolly informed the men, who, seeing her danger, had approached, that she "could arrange her cow for herself and did not want any help," which she proved by tying a big blue handkerchief over the animal's eyes, producing instant docility; and then she was led away by her flushed but triumphant mistress, who calmly settled her cap, and took a pinch of snuff to refresh herself, after a scuffle which would have annihilated most women.
When Madame C.'s wood was put in, the newcomers were interested in watching the job, for it was done in a truly Bretonesque manner. It arrived in several odd carts, each drawn by four great horses, with men to each team; and as the carts were clumsy, the horses wild, and the men stupid, the square presented a lively spectacle. At one time there were three carts, twelve horses, and six men all in a snarl, while a dozen women stood at their doors and gave advice. One was washing a lettuce, another dressing her baby, a third twirling her distaff, and a fourth with her little bowl of soup, which she ate in public while gesticulating so frantically that her sabots [Footnote: Sabots: wooden shoes.] clattered on the stones.
The horses had a free fight, and the men swore and shouted in vain, till the lady with the baby suddenly went to the rescue. Planting the naked cherub on the doorstep, this energetic matron charged in among the rampant animals, and by some magic touch untangled the teams, quieted the most fractious, a big gray brute prancing like a mad elephant, then returned to her baby, who was placidly eating dirt, and with a polite "Voila, messieurs!" [Footnote: Voila Messieurs: "There you are, gentlemen."] she whipped little Jean into his shirt, while the men sat down to smoke.
It took two deliberate men nearly a week to split the gnarled logs, and one brisk woman carried them into the cellar and piled them neatly. The men stopped about once an hour to smoke, drink cider, or rest. The woman worked steadily from morning till night, only pausing at noon for a bit of bread and the soup good Coste sent out to her. The men got two francs a day, the woman half a franc; and, as nothing was taken out of it for wine or tobacco, her ten cents probably went farther than their forty.
This same capable lady used to come to market with a baby on one arm, a basket of fruit on the other, leading a pig, driving a donkey, and surrounded by sheep, while her head bore a pannier [Footnote: Pannier. Panniers are a pair of baskets slung across the back of a horse or donkey.] of vegetables, and her hands spun busily with a distaff. How she ever got on with these trifling incumbrances, was a mystery; but there she was, busy, placid, and smiling, in the midst of the crowd, and at night went home with her shopping well content.
The washerwomen were among the happiest of these happy souls, and nowhere were seen prettier pictures than they made, clustered round the fountains or tanks by the way, scrubbing, slapping, singing, and gossiping, as they washed or spread their linen on the green hedges and daisied grass in the bright spring weather. One envied the cheery faces under the queer caps, the stout arms that scrubbed all day, and were not too tired to carry some chubby Jean or little Marie when night came, and, most of all, the contented hearts in the broad bosoms under the white kerchiefs, for no complaint did one hear from these hard-working, happy women. The same brave spirit seems to possess them now as that which carried them heroically to their fate in the Revolution, when hundreds of mothers and children were shot at Nantes [Footnote: Nantes: a town near the mouth of the Loire River.] and died without murmur.
[Footnote: What traits does the author find most admirable in the women of Brittany? Show how these traits are brought out by contrast with the behavior of the men. Do women in this country do the same kinds of work as the European peasant women? What other things might the descriptions have included if the author had not been so much interested in the people? What parts of the sketch are humorous? Point out passages that are effective through contrast. Show how the women of Brittany are made to seem womanly and dignified in spite of the amusement they furnish us.]
One day we visited a cave some two miles down the stream, which had recently been discovered. We squeezed and wriggled through a big crack or cleft in the side of the mountain, for about one hundred feet, when we emerged into a large dome-shaped passage, the abode, during certain seasons of the year, of innumerable bats, and at all times of primeval darkness. There were various other crannies and pit-holes opening into it, some of which we explored. The voice of running water was heard everywhere, betraying the proximity of the little stream by whose ceaseless corroding the cave and its entrance had been worn. This streamlet flowed out of the mouth of the cave, and came from a lake on the top of the mountain; this accounted for its warmth to the hand, which surprised us all.
Birds of any kind were rare in these woods. A pigeon-hawk came prowling by our camp, and the faint piping call of the nuthatches, leading their young through the high trees, was often heard.
On the third day our guide proposed to conduct us to a lake in the mountains where we could float for deer.
Our journey commenced in a steep and rugged ascent, which brought us, after an hour's heavy climbing, to an elevated region of pine-forest, years before ravished by lumbermen, and presenting all manner of obstacles to our awkward and incumbered pedestrianism. The woods were largely pine, though yellow birch, beech and maple were common. The satisfaction of having a gun, should any game show itself, was the chief compensation to those of us who were thus burdened. A partridge would occasionally whir up before us, or a red squirrel snicker and hasten to his den; else the woods appeared quite tenantless. The most noted object was a mammoth pine, apparently the last of a great race, which presided over a cluster of yellow birches, on the side of the mountain.
About noon we came out upon a long, shallow sheet of water which the guide called Bloody Moose Pond, from the tradition that a moose had been slaughtered there many years before. Looking out over the silent and lovely scene, his eye was the first to detect an object, apparently feeding upon lily-pads, which our willing fancies readily shaped into a deer. As we were eagerly waiting some movement to confirm this impression, it lifted up its head, and lo! a great blue heron. Seeing us approach, it spread its long wings and flew solemnly across to a dead tree on the other side of the lake, enhancing rather than relieving the loneliness and desolation that brooded over the scene. As we proceeded it flew from tree to tree in advance of us, apparently loth to be disturbed in its ancient and solitary domain. In the margin of the pond we found the pitcher-plant growing, and here and there in the sand the closed gentian lifted up its blue head.
In traversing the shores of this wild, desolate lake, I was conscious of a slight thrill of expectation, as if some secret of Nature might here be revealed, or some rare and unheard-of game disturbed. There is ever a lurking suspicion that the beginning of things is in some way associated with water, and one may notice that in his private walks he is led by a curious attraction to fetch all the springs and ponds in his route, as if by them was the place for wonders and miracles to happen. Once, while in advance of my companions, I saw, from a high rock, a commotion in the water near the shore, but on reaching the point found only the marks of musquash [Footnote: Musquash: muskrat.] degrees.
Passing on through the forest, after many adventures with the pine knots, we reached, about the middle of the afternoon, our destination, Nate's Pond—a pretty sheet of water, lying like a silver mirror in the lap of the mountain, about a mile long and half a mile wide, surrounded by dark forests of balsam, hemlock, and pine, and, like the one we had just passed, a very picture of unbroken solitude.
It is not in the woods alone to give one this impression of utter loneliness. In the woods are sounds and voices, and a dumb kind of companionship; one is little more than a walking tree himself; but come upon one of these mountain lakes, and the wildness stands revealed and meets you face to face. Water is thus facile and adaptive, that it makes the wild more wild, while it enhances culture and art.
The end of the pond which we approached was quite shoal, the stones rising above the surface as in a summer brook, and everywhere showing marks of the noble game we were in quest of,—footprints, dung, and cropped and uprooted lily-pads. After resting for a half hour, and replenishing our game-pouches at the expense of the most respectable frogs of the locality, we filed on through the soft, resinous pinewoods, intending to camp near the other end of the lake, where, the guide assured us, we should find a hunter's cabin ready built. A half hour's march brought us to the locality, and a most delightful one it was, so hospitable and inviting that all the kindly and beneficent influences of the woods must have abided there. In a slight depression in the woods, about one hundred yards from the lake, though hidden from it for a hunter's reasons, surrounded by a heavy growth of birch, hemlock, and pine, with a lining of balsam and fir, the rude cabin welcomed us. It was of the approved style, three sides inclosed, with a roof of bark and a bed of boughs, and a rock in front that afforded a permanent back-log to all fires. A faint voice of running water was heard near by, and, following the sound, a delicious spring rivulet was disclosed, hidden by the moss and debris as by a new fall of snow, but here and there rising in little well-like openings, as if for our special convenience.
[Footnote: What does this power of minute observation tell you about the writer? What other qualities of the naturalist does Burroughs show in this account? What things in nature seem most to attract his attention? Do you know what science now says about "the beginning of things" being "associated with water"? What do you imagine were the "adventures with the pine knots" that Burroughs speaks of?]
AN ASCENT OF KILAUEA
[Footnote: Kilauea: a volcano on the island of Hawaii.]
At last we found ourselves at the very edge of the old crater, the bed of which, three or four hundred feet beneath us, was surrounded by steep and in many places overhanging sides. It looked like an enormous cauldron, four or five miles in width, full of a mass of cooled pitch. In the center was the still glowing stream of dark red lava flowing slowly toward us, and in every direction were red-hot patches, and flames, and smoke, issuing from the ground.
Yet the first sensation is rather one of disappointment, as one expects greater activity on the part of the volcano; but the new crater was still to be seen, containing the lake of fire, with steep walls rising up in the midst of the sea of lava.
We spent the night at the Volcano House, and at three o'clock the next afternoon we set out, a party of eight, with two guides, and three porters to carry our wraps and provisions, and to bring back specimens.
First of all we descended the precipice, three hundred feet in depth, forming the wall of the old crater, but now thickly covered with vegetation. It is so steep in many places that flights of zigzag wooden steps have been inserted in the face of the cliff in some places, in order to render the descent practicable.
At the bottom we stepped straight on to the surface of cold boiled lava, which we had seen from above last night. Even here, in every crevice where a few grains of soil had collected, delicate little ferns might be seen struggling for life, and thrusting out their green fronds towards the light.
It was the most extraordinary walk imaginable, over that vast plain of lava, twisted and distorted into every conceivable shape and form, according to the temperature it had originally attained and the rapidity with which it had cooled, its surface, like half-molten glass, cracking and breaking beneath our feet.
Sometimes we came to a patch that looked like the contents of a pot, suddenly petrified in the act of boiling; sometimes the black, iridescent lava had assumed the form of waves, or more frequently of huge masses of rope, twisted and coiled together; sometimes it was piled up like a collection of organ pipes, or had gathered into mounds and cones of various dimensions.
As we proceeded, the lava became hotter and hotter, and from every crack arose gaseous fumes, affecting our noses and throats in a painful manner; till at last, when we had to pass to leeward [Footnote: Leeward: away from the wind.] of the molten stream flowing from the lake, the vapors almost choked us, and it was with difficulty we continued to advance.
The lava was more glassy and transparent-looking, as if it had been fused at a higher temperature than usual; and the crystals of sulphur, alum, and other minerals, with which it abounded, reflected the light in bright prismatic colors. In places it was quite transparent, and we could see beneath it the long streaks of a stringy kind of lava, like brown spun glass, called "Pele's hair."
At last we reached the foot of the present crater, and commenced the ascent of the outer wall. Many times the thin crust gave way beneath our guide, and he had to retire quickly from the hot, blinding, choking fumes that immediately burst forth. But we succeeded in reaching the top, and then what a sight presented itself to our astonished eyes! I could neither speak nor move at first, but could only stand and gaze at the horrible grandeur of the scene.
We were standing on the extreme edge of a precipice, overhanging a lake of molten fire, a hundred feet below us, nearly a mile across. Dashing against the cliffs on the opposite side, with a noise like the roar of a stormy ocean, waves of blood-red fiery liquid lava hurled their billows upon an iron-bound headland, and then rushed up the face of the cliffs to toss their gory spray high in the air.
The restless, heaving lake boiled and bubbled, never remaining the same for two minutes together. Its normal color seemed to be a dull dark red, covered with a thin gray scum, which every moment and in every part swelled and cracked, and emitted fountains, cascades, and whirlpools of yellow and red fire, while sometimes one big golden river, sometimes four or five, flowed across it.
As the sun set and as darkness enveloped the scene, it became more awful than ever. We retired a little way from the brink to breathe some fresh air, and to try and eat the food we had brought with us; but this was an impossibility. Every instant a fresh explosion or glare made us jump up to survey the scene.
The violent struggles of the lava to escape from its fiery bed, and the loud and awful noises by which they were at times, accompanied, suggested the idea that some imprisoned monsters were trying to release themselves from their bondage, with shrieks and groans, and cries of agony and despair at the futility of their efforts. Sometimes there were at least seven spots on the borders of the lake where the molten lava dashed up furiously against the rocks—seven fire fountains playing at the same time.
I had for some time been feeling very hot and uncomfortable, and on looking round, the cause was at once apparent. Not two inches beneath the surface, the gray lava on which we were standing and sitting was red hot. A stick thrust through it caught fire, a piece of paper was immediately destroyed, and the gentlemen found the heat from the crevices so great that they could not approach near enough to light their pipes.
One more long last look, and then we turned our faces away from the scene that had enthralled us for so many hours. The whole of the lava we had crossed in the extinct crater was now aglow in many patches, and in all directions flames were bursting forth, fresh lava flowing, and steam and smoke were issuing from the surface.
It was a toilsome journey back again, walking as we did in single file, and obeying the strict charges of our head guide to follow him closely, and to tread exactly in his footsteps. On the whole, it was easier by night than by day to distinguish the route to be taken, as we could now see the dangers that before we could only feel; and many were the fiery crevices we stepped over and jumped across. Once I slipped, and my foot sank through the thin crust. Sparks issued from the ground, and the stick on which I leaned caught fire before I could fairly recover myself.
[Footnote: Note the purely objective description. What colors predominate? Point out the similes in use. Do they heighten the picture? Does the author succeed in giving a clear picture of the volcano?]
Before this remonstrance was finished, Maggie was already out of hearing, making her way towards the great attic that ran under the old high-pitched roof, shaking the water from her black locks as she ran, like a Skye terrier escaped from his bath. This attic was Maggie's favorite retreat on a wet day, when the weather was not too cold; here she fretted out all her ill-humors, and talked aloud to the worm-eaten floors and the worm-eaten shelves, and the dark rafters festooned with cobwebs; and here she kept a Fetish [Footnote: Fetish (also spelt "fetich"): a material object, venerated by certain African tribes; a sort of idol, which is sometimes punished by its owner in disappointment or anger.] which she punished for all her misfortunes. This was the trunk of a large wooden doll, which once stared with the roundest of eyes above the reddest of cheeks, but was now entirely defaced by a long career of vicarious [Footnote: Vicarious: suffered or performed in place of another.] suffering. Three nails driven into the head commemorated as many crises in Maggie's nine years of earthly struggle; that luxury of vengeance having been suggested to her by the picture of Jael [Footnote: Jael: referring to the story of how Jael drove the nail into the forehead of Sisera. Judges IV: 17 to 22.] destroying Sisera in the old Bible. The last nail had been driven in with a fiercer stroke than usual, for the Fetish on that occasion represented Aunt Glegg. But immediately afterwards Maggie had reflected that if she drove many nails in, she would not be so well able to fancy that the head was hurt, when she knocked it against the wall, nor to comfort it, and make believe to poultice it, when her fury was abated; for even Aunt Glegg would be pitiable when she had been hurt very much, and thoroughly humiliated, so as to beg her niece's pardon. Since then she had driven no more nails in, but had soothed herself by alternately grinding and beating the wooden head against the rough brick of the great chimneys that made two square pillars supporting the roof. That was what she did this morning on reaching the attic, sobbing all the while with a passion that expelled every other form of consciousness,—even the memory of the grievance that had caused it. As at last the sobs were getting quieter, and the grinding less fierce, a sudden beam of sunshine, falling through the wire lattice across the worm-eaten shelves, made her throw away the Fetish and run to the window. The sun was really breaking out; the sound of the mill seemed cheerful again; the granary doors were open; and there was Yap, the queer white-and-brown terrier, with one ear turned back, trotting about and sniffing vaguely, as if he were in search of a companion. It was irresistible. Maggie tossed her hair back and ran downstairs, seized her bonnet without putting it on, peeped, and then dashed along the passage lest she should encounter her mother, and was quickly out in the yard, whirling round like a Pythoness, and singing as she whirled, "Yap, Yap, Tom's coming home!" while Yap danced and barked round her, as much as to say, if there was any noise wanted he was the dog for it.
[Footnote: What traits of character does Maggie show? Do children think of their dolls as alive? Or as representing people they know? Did you ever have the impulse to "take your spite out" on something, animate or inanimate? Did you feel any better for relieving your feelings so? There is an interesting account of a savage beating his idol in Melville's "Typee."]
SALMON FISHING IN IRELAND
The pool has been cut through a peat bog, [Footnote: Peat-bog. Peat is a kind of turf that is used for fuel.] and the greater part of it is twenty feet deep. A broad fringe of water-lilies lines the banks, leaving, however, an available space for throwing a fly upon between them. This is the great resting-place of the fish on their way to the lake and the upper river. The water is high, and almost flowing over the bog. The wind catches it fairly, tearing along the surface and sweeping up the crisp waves in white clouds of spray. The party of strangers who had cards to fish were before us, but they are on the wrong side, trying vainly to send their flies in the face of the southwester, which whirls their casting-lines back over their heads. They have caught a peal [Footnote: Peal: a small salmon.] or two, and one of them reports that he was broken by a tremendous fish at the end of the round-pool. Jack directs them to a bend higher up, where they will find a second pool as good as this one, with a more favorable slant of wind, while I put my rod together and turn over the leaves of my fly-book. Among the marvels of art and nature I know nothing equal to a salmon-fly. It resembles no insect, winged or unwinged, which the fish can have seen. A shrimp, perhaps, is the most like it, if there are degrees to utter dissimilarity. Yet every river is supposed to have its favorite flies. Size, color, shape, all are peculiar. Here vain tastes prevail for golden pheasant and blue and crimson paroquet. There the salmon are as sober as Quakers, and will look at nothing but drabs and browns. Nine parts of this are fancy, but there is still a portion of truth in it. Bold hungry fish will take anything in any river; shy fish will undoubtedly rise and splash at a stranger's fly, while they will swallow what is offered them by any one who knows their ways. It may be something in the color of the water: it may be something in the color of the banks: experience is too uniform to allow the fact itself to be questioned. Under Jack's direction, I select small flies about the size of green drakes: one a sombre gray, with a silver twist about him, a claret hackle, [Footnote: Claret hackle. A hackle is an artificial fly made of feathers.] a mallard wing, [Footnote: Mallard wing. A mallard is the drake of the wild duck. The artificial fly imitates its wing.] streaked faintly on the lower side with red and blue. The drop fly is still darker, with purple legs and olive green wings and body.
We move to the head of the pool and begin to cast in the gravelly shallows, on which the fish lie to feed in a flood, a few yards above the deep water. A white trout or two rise, and presently I am fast in something which excites momentary hopes. The heavy rod bends to the butt. A yard or two of line runs out, but a few seconds show that it is only a large trout which has struck at the fly with his tail, and has been hooked foul. He cannot break me, and I do not care if he escapes, so I bear hard upon him and drag him by main force to the side, where Harper slips the net under his head, and the next moment he is on the bank. Two pounds within an ounce or so, but clean run from the sea, brought up by last night's flood, and without a stain of the bog-water on the pure silver of his scales. He has disturbed the shallow, so we move a few steps down.
There is an alder bush on the opposite side, where the strength of the river is running. It is a long cast. The wind is blowing so hard that I can scarcely keep my footing, and the gusts whirl so unsteadily that I cannot hit the exact spot where, if there is a salmon in the neighborhood, he is lying.
The line flies out straight at last, but I have now thrown a few inches too far; my tail fly is in the bush, dangling across an overhanging bough. An impatient movement, a jerk, or a straight pull, and I am "hung up," as is the phrase, and delayed for half an hour at least. Happily there is a lull in the storm. I shake the point of the rod. The vibration runs along the line; the fly drops softly like a leaf upon the water—and as it floats away something turns heavily, and a huge brown back is visible for an instant through a rift in the surface. But the line comes home. He was an old stager, as we could see by his color, no longer ravenous as when fresh from the salt-water. He was either lazy and missed the fly, or it was not entirely to his mind. He was not touched, and we drew back to consider. "Over him again while he is angry," is the saying in some rivers, and I have known it to answer where the fish feed greedily. But it will not do here; we must give him time; and we turn again to the fly-book. When a salmon rises at a small fly as if he meant business, yet fails to take it, the rule is to try another of the same pattern a size larger. This too, however, just now Jack thinks unfavorably of. The salmon is evidently a very large one, and will give us enough to do if we hook him. He therefore, as one precaution, takes off the drop fly lest it catch in the water-lilies. He next puts the knots of the casting-line through a severe trial; replaces an unsound joint with a fresh link of gut, and finally produces out of his hat a "hook"—he will not call it a fly—of his own dressing. It is a particolored father-long-legs, a thing which only some frantic specimen of orchid ever seriously approached, a creature whose wings were two strips of the fringe of a peacock's tail, whose legs descended from blue jay through red to brown, and terminated in a pair of pink trailers two inches long. Jack had found it do, and he believed it would do for me. And so it did. I began to throw again six feet above the bush, for a salmon often shifts his ground after rising. One cast—a second—another trout rises which we receive with an anathema, [Footnote: Anathema: a curse.] and drag the fly out of his reach. The fourth throw there is a swirl like the wave which arises under the blade of an oar, a sharp sense of hard resistance, a pause, and then a rush for dear life. The wheel shrieks, the line hisses through the rings, and thirty yards down the pool the great fish springs madly six feet into the air. The hook is firm in his upper jaw; he had not shaken its hold, for the hook had gone into the bone—pretty subject of delight for a reasonable man, an editor of a magazine, and a would-be philosopher, turned fifty! The enjoyments of the unreasoning part of us cannot be defended on grounds of reason, and experience shows that men who are all logic and morals, and have nothing of the animal left in them, are poor creatures after all.
Any way, I defy philosophy with a twenty-pound salmon fast hooked, and a pool right ahead four hundred yards long and half full of water-lilies. "Keep him up the strame," shrieked a Paddy, who, on the screaming of the wheel, had flung down his spade in the turf bog and rushed up to see the sport. "Keep him up the strame, your honor—bloody wars! you'll lost him else." We were at fault, Jack and I. We did not understand why down stream was particularly dangerous, and Pat was too eager and too busy swearing to explain himself. Alas, his meaning became soon but too intelligible. I had overtaken the fish on the bank and had wheeled in the line again, but he was only collecting himself for a fresh rush, and the next minute it seemed as if the bottom had been knocked out of the pool and an opening made into infinity. Round flew the wheel again; fifty yards were gone in as many seconds, the rod was bending double, and the line pointed straight down; straight as if there was a lead at the end of it and unlimited space in which to sink. "Ah, didn't I tell ye so?" said Pat; "what will we do now?" Too late Jack remembered that fourteen feet down at the bottom of that pool lay the stem of a fallen oak, below which the water had made a clear channel. The fish had turned under it, and whether he was now up the river or down, or where he was who could tell? He stopped at last. "Hold him hard," said Jack, hurling off his clothes, and while I was speculating whether it would be possible to drag him back the way that he had gone, a pink body flashed from behind me, bounded off the bank with a splendid header, and disappeared. He was under for a quarter of a minute; when he rose he had the line in his hand between the fish and the tree.
"All right," he sputtered, swimming with the other hand to the bank and scrambling up. "Run the rest of the line off the reel and out through the rings." He had divined by a brilliant instinct the only remedy for our situation. The thing was done, fast as Pat and I could ply our fingers. The loose end was drawn round the log, and while Jack was humoring the fish with his hand, and dancing up and down the bank regardless of proprieties, we had carried it back down the rings, replaced it on the reel, wound in the slack, and had again command of the situation.
The salmon had played his best stroke. It had failed him, and he now surrendered like a gentleman. A mean-spirited fish will go to the bottom, bury himself in the weed, and sulk. Ours set his head towards the sea, and sailed down the length of the pool in the open water without attempting any more plunges. As his strength failed, he turned heavily on his back, and allowed himself to be drawn to the shore. The gaff [Footnote: Gaff: a large hook fixed on the end of a pole or handle.] was in his side and he was ours. He was larger than we had guessed him. Clean run he would have weighed twenty-five pounds. The fresh water had reduced him to twenty-two, but without softening his muscle or touching his strength.
—JAMES FROUDE (adapted).
[Footnote: Is the first part of the narrative a typical story of "fisherman's luck"? Show how the story illustrates that a real lover of fishing is enthusiastic over every detail of his experience. Is the story technical at the expense of the reader's interest? How does the element of suspense add to the interest? Is the account more interesting by being told in the first person? Why?]
ACROSS RUNNING WATER
At a running water, that comes out at a place called Srath-namara, near the sea-gates of Loch Suibhne, there is a pool called the Pool of the Changeling. None ever goes that way from choice, for only the crying of the curlew is heard there, or the querulous wailing lapwing.
It was here that one night, in a September of many storms, a woman stood staring at the sea. The screaming seamews [Footnote: Seamews: gulls.] wheeled and sank and circled overhead, and the solanders [Footnote: Solanders: a kind of wild geese.] rose with heavy wing and hoarse cries, and the black scarts screeched to the startled guillemots [Footnote: Guillemots: birds similar to the auks.] or to the foam-white terns [Footnote: Terns: a species of birds allied to the gulls.] blown before the wind like froth. The woman looked neither at the seafowl nor at the burning glens of scarlet flame which stretched dishevelled among the ruined lands of the sunset.
Between the black flurries of the wind, striking the sea like flails, came momentary pauses or long silences. In one of these the woman raised her arms, she the while unheeding the cold tide wash about her feet, where she stood insecurely on the wet slippery tangle.
Seven years ago this woman had taken the one child she had, that she did not believe to be her own but a changeling, and had put it on the shore at the extreme edge of the tide-reach, and had left it for the space of an hour. When she came back, the child she had left with a numbness on its face and with the curse of dumbness, was laughing wild, and when she came near, it put out its arms and gave the cry of the young of birds. She lifted the "leanav" in her arms and stared into its eyes, but there was no longer the weary blankness, and the little one yearned with the petulant laughing and idle whimpering of the children of other mothers. And that mother there gave a cry of joy, and with a singing heart went home.
It was in the seventh year after that finding by the sea, that one day, when a cold wind was blowing from the west, the child Morag came in by the peat-fire, where her mother was boiling the porridge, and looked at her without speaking. The mother turned at that, and looked at Morag. Her heart sank like a pool-lily at shadow, when she saw that Morag had woven a wreath of brown tangled seaweed into her hair. But that was nothing to the bite in her breast when the girl began singing a song that had not a word in it she had ever heard on her own or other lips, but was wild as the sound of the tide calling in dark nights of cloud and wind, or as the sudden coming of waves over a quiet sea in the silence of the black hours of sleep.
"What is it, Morag-mo-run?" she asked, her voice like a reed in the wind.
"It's time," says Morag, with a change in her eyes, and her face shining with a gleam on it.
"Time for what, Morag?"
"For me to be going back to the place I came from."
"And where will that be?"
"Where would it be but to the place you took me out of, and called across?"
The mother gave a cry and a sob. "Sure, now, Morag-a-ghraidh, you will be my own lass and no other?"
"Whist, woman," answered the girl; "don't you hear the laughing in the burn, [Footnote: Burn: a small stream.] and the hoarse voice out in the sea?"
"That I do not, O Morag-mo-chridh, and sure it's black sorrow to you and to me hearing that hoarse voice and that thin laughing."
"Well, sorrow or no sorrow, I'm off now, poor woman. [Footnote: Poor woman: a friendly term of address in Ireland.] And it's good-bye, and a good-bye to you I'll be saying to you, poor woman. Sure it's a sorrow to me to leave you in grief, but if you'll go down to the edge of the water, at the place you took me from, where the runnin' water falls into the sea-pool, you'll be having there against your breast in no time the child of your own that I never was and never could be."
"And why that, and why that, O Morag, lennavanmo?"
"Peace on your sorrow, woman, and good-bye to you now;" and with that the sea-changeling went laughing out at the door, singing a wave-song that was so wild and strange the mother's woe was turned to a fear that rose like chill water in her heart.
When she dared follow—and why she did not go at once she did not know—she saw at first no sight of Morag or any other on the lonely shore. In vain she called, with a great sorrowing cry. But as, later, she stood with her feet in the sea, she became silent of a sudden, and was still as a rock, with her ragged dress about her like draggled seaweed. She had heard a thin crying. It was the voice of a breast-child, and not of a grown lass like Morag.
When a gray heron toiled sullenly from a hollow among the rocks she went to the place. She was still now, with a frozen sorrow. She knew what she was going to find. But she did not guess till she lifted that little frail child she had left upon the shore seven years back, that the secret people of the sea or those who call across running water could have the hardness and coldness to give her again the unsmiling dumb thing she had mothered with so much bitterness of heart.
Morag she never saw again, nor did any other see her, except Padruig Macrae, the innocent, who on a New Year's eve, that was a Friday, said that as he was whistling to a seal down by the Pool at Srath-na-mara he heard someone laughing at him; and when he looked to see who it was he saw it was no other than Morag—and he had called to her, he said, and she called back to him, "Come away, Padruig dear," and then had swum off like a seal, crying the heavy tears of sorrow.
And as for the child she had found again on the place she had left her own silent breast-babe seven years back; it never gave a cry or made any sound whatever, but stared with round, strange eyes only, and withered away in three days, and was hidden by her in a sand-hole at the root of a stunted thorn that grew there.
At every going down of the sun thereafter, the mother of the changeling went to the edge of the sea, and stood among the wet tangle of the wrack, [Footnote: Wrack: coarse seaweed.] and put out her supplicating hands, but never spoke word nor uttered cry.
But on this night of September, while the gleaming sea-fowl were flying through the burning glens of scarlet flame in the wide purple wildness of the sky, with the wind falling and wailing and wailing and falling, the woman went over to the running water beyond the seapool, and put her skirt over her head and stepped into the pool, and, hooded thus and thus patient, waited till the tide came in.
[Footnote: Notice how the author describes the wildness of nature so as to make it seem in sympathy with the strangeness of the human story. Pick out words and passages that convey this as: "screaming seamews," "screeched," "dishevelled," "black flurries," etc. Have you ever read any stories or fairy tales that tell about changelings? Among what kind of people would a story like this be believed? Read Yeats, "The Land of Hearts' Desire" and compare with this story. Is the story too fantastic to gain the reader's sympathy?]
THE PINE-TREE SHILLINGS
The Captain John Hull aforesaid was the mint-master of Massachusetts, and coined all the money that was made there. This was a new line of business; for, in the earlier days of the colony, the current coinage consisted of gold and silver money of England, and Portugal, and Spain. These coins being scarce, the people were often forced to barter their commodities instead of selling them.
For instance, if a man wanted to buy a coat, he perhaps exchanged a bear-skin for it. If he wished for a barrel of molasses, he might purchase it with a pile of pine boards. Musket-bullets were used instead of farthings. The Indians had a sort of money, called wampum, which was made of clam-shells; and this strange sort of specie was likewise taken in payment of debts by the English settlers. Bank-bills had never been heard of. There was not money enough of any kind, in many parts of the country, to pay the salaries of the ministers; so that they sometimes had to take quintals [Footnote: Quintals: hundredweights.] of fish, bushels of corn, or cords of wood, instead of silver or gold.
As the people grew more numerous, and their trade one with another increased, the want of current money was still more sensibly felt. To supply the demand, the General Court passed a law for establishing a coinage of shillings, sixpences, and threepences. [Footnote: Shillings: Sixpences, and three-pences. What country did use and still uses this system?] Captain John Hull was appointed to manufacture this money, and was to have about one shilling out of every twenty to pay him for the trouble of making them.
Hereupon all the old silver in the colony was handed over to Captain John Hull. The battered silver cans and tankards, [Footnote: Tankards: large drinking vessels.] I suppose, and silver buckles, and broken spoons, and silver buttons of wornout coats, and silver hilts of swords that had figured at court,—all such curious old articles were doubtless thrown into the melting pot together. But by far the greater part of the silver consisted of bullion [Footnote: Bullion: uncoined gold or silver in the mass.] from the mines of South America, which the English buccaneers [Footnote: Buccaneers: pirates.]—who were little better than pirates—had taken from the Spaniards, and brought to Massachusetts. All this old and new silver being melted down and coined, the result was an immense amount of splendid shillings, sixpences, and threepences. Each had the date, 1652, on the one side, and the figure of a pine-tree on the other. Hence they were called pine-tree shillings. And for every twenty shillings that he coined, you will remember, Captain John Hull was entitled to put one shilling into his own pocket.
The magistrates soon began to suspect that the mint-master would have the best of the bargain. They offered him a large sum of money if he would but give up the twentieth shilling which he was continually dropping into his own pocket. But Captain Hull declared himself perfectly satisfied with the shilling. And well he might be; for so diligently did he labor that, in a few years, his pockets, his money-bags, and his strong box were overflowing with pine-tree shillings. This was probably the case when he came into possession of Grandfather's chair; and, as he had worked so hard at the mint, it was certainly proper that he should have a comfortable chair to rest himself in.
When the mint-master had grown rich, a young man, Samuel Sewell by name, came a-courting to his only daughter. His daughter—whose name I do not know, but we will call her Betsey—was a fine, hearty damsel, by no means so slender as some young ladies of our own days. On the contrary, having always fed heartily on pumpkin-pies, doughnuts, Indian puddings, and other Puritan dainties, she was as round, and plump as a pudding herself. With this round, rosy Miss Betsey did Samuel Sewell fall in love. As he was a young man of good character, industrious in his business, and a member of the church, the mint-master very readily gave his consent.
"Yes, you may take her," said he, in his rough way, "and you'll find her a heavy burden enough!"
On the wedding day, we may suppose that honest John Hull dressed himself in a plum-colored coat, all the buttons of which were made of pine-tree shillings. The buttons of his waistcoat were sixpences; and the knees of his smallclothes [Footnote: Smallclothes: knee breeches.] were buttoned with silver threepences. Thus attired, he sat with great dignity in Grandfather's chair; and, being a portly old gentleman, he completely filled it from elbow to elbow. On the opposite side of the room, between her bridemaids, sat Miss Betsey. She was blushing with all her might, and looked like a full-blown peony, or a great red apple.
There, too, was the bridegroom, dressed in a fine purple coat and gold-lace waistcoat, with as much other finery as the Puritan laws and customs would allow him to put on. His hair was cropped close to his head, because Governor Endicott [Footnote: Governor Endicott: governor of the Massachusetts colony from 1647 to 1665.] had forbidden any man to wear it below the ears. But he was a very personable young man; and so thought the bridemaids and Miss Betsey herself.
The mint-master also was pleased with his new son-in-law; especially as he had courted Miss Betsey out of pure love, and had said nothing at all about her portion. So, when the marriage ceremony was over, Captain Hull whispered a word to two of his men-servants, who immediately went out, and soon returned, lugging in a large pair of scales. There were such a pair as wholesale merchants use for weighing bulky commodities; and quite a bulky commodity was now to be weighed in them.
"Daughter Betsey," said the mint-master, "get into one side of these scales."
Miss Betsey—or Mrs. Sewell, as we must now call her—did as she was bid, like a dutiful child, without any question of the why and wherefore. But what her father could mean, unless to make her husband pay for her by the pound (in which case she would have been a dear bargain), she had not the least idea.
"And now," said honest John Hull to the servants, "bring that box hither."
The box to which the mint-master pointed was a huge square, iron-bound, oaken chest; it was big enough, my children, for all four of you to play hide-and-seek in. The servants tugged with might and main, but could not lift this enormous receptacle, and were finally obliged to drag it across the floor. Captain Hull then took a key from his girdle, unlocked the chest, and lifted its ponderous lid. Behold! it was full to the brim of bright pine-tree shillings, fresh from the mint; and Samuel Sewell began to think that his father-in-law had got possession of all the money in the Massachusetts treasury. But it was only the mint-master's honest share of the coinage.
Then the servants, at Captain Hull's command, heaped double handfuls of shillings into one side of the scales, while Betsey remained in the other. Jingle, jingle, went the shillings, as handful after handful was thrown in, till, plump and ponderous as she was, they fairly weighed the young lady from the floor.
"There, son Sewell!" cried the honest mint-master, resuming his seat in Grandfather's chair, "take these shillings for my daughter's portion. Use her kindly, and thank Heaven for her. It is not every wife that's worth her weight in silver!"
[Footnote: Notice the kindly quality of the humor. Do you know any other stories written in this vein? Does the author seem to think that Miss Betsey's charms or her money were her attraction?]
THE WHITE TRAIL
For the space of nearly ten weeks these people travelled thus in the region of the Kabinikagam. Sometimes they made long marches; sometimes they camped for the hunting; sometimes the great, fierce storms of the north drove them to shelter, snowed them under, and passed on shrieking. The wind opposed them. At first of little account, its very insistence gave it value. Always the stinging snow whirling into the face; always the eyes watering and smarting; always the unyielding opposition against which to bend the head; always the rush of sound in the ears,—a distraction against which the senses had to struggle before they could take their needed cognisance of trail and of game. An uneasiness was abroad with the wind, an uneasiness that infected the men, the dogs, the forest creatures, the very insentient trees themselves. It racked the nerves. In it the inimical Spirit of the North seemed to find its plainest symbol; though many difficulties she cast in the way were greater to be overcome.
Ever the days grew shorter. The sun swung above the horizon, low to the south, and dipped back as though pulled by some invisible string. Slanting through the trees it gave little cheer and no warmth. Early in the afternoon it sank, silhouetting the pointed firs, casting across the snow long, crimson shadows, which faded into gray. It was replaced by a moon, chill and remote, dead as the white world on which it looked.
In the great frost continually the trees were splitting with loud, sudden reports. The cold had long since squeezed the last drops of moisture from the atmosphere. It was metallic, clear, hard as ice, brilliant as the stars, compressed with the freezing. The moon, the stars, the earth, the very heavens glistened like polished steel. Frost lay on the land thick as a coverlid. It hid the east like clouds of smoke. Snow remained unmelted two feet from the camp-fire.
And the fire alone saved these people from the enemy. If Sam stooped for a moment to adjust his snow-shoe strap, he straightened his back with a certain reluctance,—already the benumbing preliminary to freezing had begun. If Dick, flipping his mitten from his hand to light his pipe, did not catch the fire at the second tug, he had to resume the mitten and beat the circulation into his hand before renewing the attempt, lest the ends of his fingers become frosted. Movement, always and incessantly, movement alone could keep going the vital forces on these few coldest days until the fire had been built to fight back the white death.
It was the land of ghosts. Except for the few hours at midday these people moved in the gloom and shadow of a nether world. The long twilight was succeeded by longer night, with its burnished stars, its dead moon, its unearthly aurora. On the fresh snow were the tracks of creatures, but in the flesh they glided almost invisible. The ptarmigan's [Footnote: Ptarmigan: a species of grouse that is brown in summer but turns white, or nearly white, in winter.] bead eye alone betrayed him, he had no outline. The ermine's black tip was the only indication of his presence. Even the larger animals—the caribou, the moose—had either turned a dull gray, or were so rimed by the frost as to have lost all appearance of solidity. It was ever a surprise to find these phantoms red, to discover that their flesh would resist the knife. During the strife of the heavy northwest storms one side of each tree had become more or less plastered with snow, so that even their dark trunks flashed mysteriously into and out of view. In the entire world of the great white silence the only solid, enduring, palpable reality was the tiny sledge train crawling with infinite patience across its vastness.
White space, a feeling of littleness and impotence, twilight gloom, burnished night, bitter cold, unreality, phantasmagoria, [Footnote: Phantasmagoria: illusive images.] ghosts like those which surged about Aeneas, [Footnote: Ghosts about Aeneas: referring to the descent of Aeneas into Hades as told in Virgil's "Aeneid."] and finally clogging, white silence,—these were the simple but dreadful elements of that journey which lasted, without event, from the middle of November until the latter part of January.
—STEWART EDWARD WHITE.
[Footnote: What is the effect of the repeated use of "always" in the first paragraph? Cite the passages that help most in giving you a clear picture of the scene. What effect is produced by the absence of color in the description? Why does the author use almost entirely the short sentences? What possibilities of tragedy are hinted at in the narrative? How is the sense of silence and isolation conveyed?]
A DISSERTATION ON ROAST PIG
Mankind, says a Chinese manuscript, which my friend M. was obliging enough to read and explain to me, for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw, clawing it or biting it from the living animal, just as they do in Abyssinia to this day. This period is not obscurely hinted at by their great Confucius [Footnote: Confucius: a celebrated Chinese philosopher, born about 550 B.C.] in the second chapter of his Mundane Mutations, where he designates a kind of golden age by the term Cho-fang, literally the Cooks' holiday.
The manuscript goes on to say, that the art of roasting, or rather broiling (which I take to be the elder brother) was accidentally discovered in the manner following. The swineherd, Ho-ti, having gone out into the woods one morning, as his manner was, to collect mast [Footnote: Mast-acorns: nuts.] for his hogs, left his cottage in the care of his eldest son Bo-bo, a great lubberly boy, who being fond of playing with fire, as younkers [Footnote: Younkers: youngsters.] of his age commonly are, let some sparks escape into a bundle of straw, which kindling quickly, spread the conflagration over every part of their poor mansion, till it was reduced to ashes. Together with the cottage (a sorry antediluvian makeshift of a building, you may think it), what was of much more importance, a fine litter of young pigs, no less than nine in number, perished. China pigs [Footnote: China pigs. What adjective would we use now?] have been esteemed a luxury all over the East from the remotest periods that we read of.
Bo-bo was in the utmost consternation, as you may think, not so much for the sake of the tenement, which his father and he could easily build up again with a few dry branches, and the labor of an hour or two, at any time, as for the loss of the pigs. While he was thinking what he should say to his father, and wringing his hands over the smoking remnants of one of those untimely sufferers, an odor assailed his nostrils, unlike any scent which he had before experienced.
What could it proceed from?—not from the burnt cottage—he had smelled that smell before—indeed this was by no means the first accident of the kind which had occurred through the negligence of this unlucky young firebrand. Much less did it resemble that of any known herb, weed, or flower. A premonitory moistening at the same time overflowed his nether lip. He knew not what to think.
He next stooped down to feel the pig, if there were any signs of life in it. He burned his fingers, and to cool them he applied them in his booby fashion to his mouth. Some of the crumbs of the scorched skin had come away with his fingers, and for the first time in his life (in the world's life indeed, for before him no man had known it) he tasted —crackling! [Footnote: Crackling: the brown crisp rind of roasted pork.] Again he felt and fumbled at the pig.
It did not burn him so much now, still he licked his fingers from a sort of habit.
The truth at length broke into his slow understanding, that it was the pig that smelt so, and the pig that tasted so delicious; and, surrendering himself to the newborn pleasure, he fell to tearing whole handfuls of the scorched skin with the flesh next it, and was cramming it down his throat in his beastly fashion, when his sire entered amid the smoking rafters, armed with retributory cudgel, and finding how affairs stood, began to rain blows upon the young rogue's shoulders, as thick as hailstones, which Bo-bo heeded not any more than if they had been flies. The tickling pleasure which he experienced in his lower regions, had rendered him quite callous to any inconveniences he might feel in those remote quarters.
His father might lay on, but he could not beat him from his pig, till he had fairly made an end of it, when, becoming a little more sensible of his situation, something like the following dialogue ensued:—
"You graceless fellow, what have you got there devouring? Is it not enough that you have burned down three houses with your dog's tricks, but you must be eating fire and I know not what—what have you got there, I say?"
"O father, the pig, the pig, do come and taste how nice the burnt pig eats."
The ears of Ho-ti tingled with horror. He cursed his son, and he cursed himself that ever he should have a son that should eat burnt pig.
Bo-bo, whose scent was wonderfully sharpened since morning, soon raked out another pig, and fairly rending it asunder, thrust the lesser half by main force into the fists of Ho-ti, still shouting out, "Eat, eat, eat the burnt pig, father, only taste,"—with such like ejaculations, cramming all the while as if he would choke.
Ho-ti trembled in every joint while he grasped the abominable thing, wavering whether he should not put his son to death for an unnatural young monster, when the crackling scorching his fingers, as it had done his son's, and applying the same remedy to them, he in his turn tasted some of its flavor, which, make what sour mouths he would for a pretence, proved not altogether displeasing to him. In conclusion (for the manuscript here is a little tedious) both father and son fairly sat down to the mess, and never left off till they despatched all that remained of the litter.
Bo-bo was strictly enjoined not to let the secret escape, for the neighbors would certainly have stoned them for a couple of abominable wretches, who could think of improving upon the good meat God had sent them. Nevertheless, strange stories got about. It was observed that Ho-ti's cottage was burned down now more frequently than ever.
Nothing but fires from this time forward. Some would break out in broad day, others in the night-time. And Ho-ti himself, which was the more remarkable, instead of chastising his son, seemed to grow more indulgent to him than ever.
At length they were watched, the terrible mystery discovered, and father and son summoned to take their trial at Pekin, then an inconsiderable assize town. [Footnote: Assize town: the place where the court sits to conduct trials.] Evidence was given, the obnoxious food itself produced in court, and verdict about to be pronounced, when the foreman of the jury begged that some of the burnt pig, of which the culprits stood accused, might be handed into the box.
He handled it, and they all handled it, and burning their fingers, as Bo-bo and his father had done before them, and nature prompting to each of them the same remedy, against the face of all the facts, and the clearest charge which the judge had ever given,—to the surprise of the whole court, townsfolk, strangers, reporters, and all present—without leaving the box, or any manner of consultation whatever, they brought in a simultaneous verdict of Not Guilty.
The judge, who was a shrewd fellow, winked at the manifest iniquity of the decision; and when the court was dismissed, went privily, and bought up all the pigs that could be had for love or money. In a few days his Lordship's town house was observed to be on fire. The thing took wing, and now there was nothing to be seen but fires in every direction. Fuel and pigs grew enormously dear all over the district. The insurance offices one and all shut up shop. People built slighter and slighter every day, until it was feared that the very science of architecture would in no long time be lost to the world.
Thus this custom of firing houses continued, till in process of time, says my manuscript, a sage arose, like our Locke, [Footnote: Locke: John Locke, a celebrated English philosopher of the seventeenth century.] who made a discovery, that flesh of swine, or indeed of any other animal, might be cooked (burnt, as they called it) without the necessity of consuming a whole house to dress it. Then first began the rude form of a gridiron.
Roasting by the string, or spit, came in a century or two later, I forget in whose dynasty. By such slow degrees, concludes the manuscript, do the most useful, and seemingly the most obvious arts, make their way among mankind.
[Footnote: In this essay where does the humor lie? Is it in the absurdity of the story told? In the exaggerations? What stories, of those you have studied, does this most resemble? Why? Notice how bare the story is of any description except that which is essential to the theme. What is the effect of this? Does the author describe the taste of roast pig sympathetically? Does any article of food arouse your enthusiasm? If so, try writing an essay on it. Why does the author introduce such incongruous terms as "foreman of the jury," "jury box," "insurance offices"?]
THE LAST CLASS
I was very late for school that morning, and I was afraid of being scolded, especially as Monsieur Hamel had told us that he should examine us on participles, and I did not know the first thing about them. For a moment I thought of staying away from school and wandering about the fields. It was such a warm, lovely day. I could hear the blackbirds whistling on the edge of the wood, and in the Rippert field, behind the sawmill, the Prussians going through their drill. [Footnote: Prussians going through their drill. The time of the story is laid at the end of the Franco-Prussian War.] All that was much more tempting to me than the rules concerning participles; but I had the strength to resist, and I ran as fast as I could to school. As I passed the Mayor's office, I saw that there were people gathered about the little board on which notices were posted. For two years all our bad news had come from that board—battles lost, conscriptions, [Footnote: Conscription: compulsory enrollment for military service.] orders from headquarters; and I thought without stopping:
"What can it be now?"
Then, as I ran across the square, Wachter the blacksmith, who stood there with his apprentice, reading the placard, called out to me:
"Don't hurry so, my boy; you'll get to your school soon enough!"
I thought that he was making fun of me, and I ran into Monsieur Hamel's little yard all out of breath.
Usually, at the beginning of school, there was a great uproar which could be heard in the street, desks opening and closing, lessons repeated aloud in unison, with our ears stuffed in order to learn quicker, and the teacher's stout ruler beating on the desk:
"A little more quiet!"
I counted on all this noise to reach my bench unnoticed, but as it happened, that day everything was quiet, like a Sunday morning. Through the open window I saw my comrades already in their places, and Monsieur Hamel walking back and forth with the terrible iron ruler under his arm. I had to open the door and enter, in the midst of that perfect silence. You can imagine whether I blushed and whether I was afraid!
But no! Monsieur Hamel looked at me with no sign of anger and said very gently:
"Go at once to your seat, my little Frantz; we were going to begin without you."
I stepped over the bench and sat down at once at my desk. Not until then, when I had partly recovered from my fright, did I notice that our teacher had on his handsome blue coat, his plaited ruff, and the black embroidered breeches, which he wore on days of inspection or of distribution of prizes. Moreover, there was something extraordinary, something solemn about the whole class. But what surprised me most was to see at the back of the room, on the benches which were usually empty, some people from the village sitting, as silent as we were: old Hauser with his three-cornered hat, the ex-mayor, the ex-postman, and others besides. They all seemed depressed; and Hauser had brought an old spelling-book with gnawed edges, which he held wide-open on his knee, with his great spectacles askew.
While I was wondering at all this, Monsieur Hamel had mounted his platform, and in the same gentle and serious voice with which he had welcomed me, he said to us:
"My children, this is the last time that I shall teach you. Orders have come from Berlin to teach nothing but German in the schools of Alsace and Lorraine. The new teacher arrives to-morrow. This is the last class in French, so I beg you to be very attentive."
Those few words overwhelmed me. Ah! the villains! that was what they had posted at the mayor's office.
My last class in French!
And I barely knew how to write! So I should never learn! I must stop short where I was! How angry I was with myself because of the time I had wasted, the lessons I had missed, running about after nests, or sliding on the Saar! [Footnote: Saar: a river just beyond the northeast border line of the province of Lorraine.] My books, which only a moment before I thought so tiresome, so heavy to carry—my grammar, my sacred history—seemed to me now like old friends, from whom I should be terribly grieved to part. And it was the same about Monsieur Hamel. The thought that he was going away, that I should never see him again, made me forget the punishments, the blows with the ruler.
Poor man! It was in honor of that last lesson that he had put on his fine Sunday clothes; and I understood now why those old fellows from the village were sitting at the end of the room. It seemed to mean that they regretted not having come oftener to the school. It was also a way of thanking our teacher for his forty years of faithful service, and of paying their respects to the fatherland which was vanishing.
I was at that point in my reflections, when I heard my name called. It was my turn to recite. What would I not have given to be able to say from the beginning to the end that famous rule about participles, in a loud, distinct voice, without a slip! But I got mixed up at the first words, and I stood there swaying against my bench, with a full heart, afraid to raise my head. I heard Monsieur Hamel speaking to me:
"I will not scold you, my little Frantz; you must be punished enough; that is the way it goes; every day we say to ourselves: 'Pshaw! I have time enough. I will learn to-morrow.' And then you see what happens. Ah! it has been the great misfortune of our Alsace always to postpone its lessons until to-morrow. 'What! you claim to be French, and you can neither speak nor write your language!' In all this, my poor Frantz, you are not the guiltiest one. We all have our fair share of reproaches to address to ourselves.
"Your parents have not been careful enough to see that you were educated. They preferred to send you to work in the fields or in the factories, in order to have a few more sous. And have I nothing to reproach myself for? Have I not often made you water my garden instead of studying? And when I wanted to go fishing for trout, have I ever hesitated to dismiss you?"
Then passing from one thing to another, Monsieur Hamel began to talk to us about the French language, saying that it was the most beautiful language in the world, the most clear, the most substantial; that we must always retain it among ourselves, and never forget it, because when a people falls into servitude, "so long as it clings to its language, it is as if it held the key to its prison." Then he took the grammar and read us our lesson. I was amazed to see how readily I understood. Everything that he said seemed so easy to me, so easy. I believed, too, that I had never listened so closely, and that he, for his part, had never been so patient with his explanations. One would have said that, before going away, the poor man desired to give us all his knowledge, to force it all into our heads at a single blow.
When the lesson was at an end, we passed to writing. For that day Monsieur Hamel had prepared some entirely new examples, on which was written in a fine, round hand: "France, Alsace, France, Alsace." They were like little flags, waving all about the class, hanging from the rods of our desks. You should have seen how hard we all worked and how silent it was! Nothing could be heard save the grinding of the pens over the paper. At one time some cockchafers [Footnote: Cockchafers: a species of beetle.] flew in; but no one paid any attention to them not even the little fellows, who were struggling with their straight lines, with a will and conscientious application, as if even the lines were French. On the roof of the schoolhouse, pigeons cooed in low tones, and I said to myself as I listened to them:
"I wonder if they are going to compel them to sing German too!"
From time to time, when I raised my eyes from my paper, I saw Monsieur Hamel sitting motionless in his chair and staring at the objects about him as if he wished to carry away in his glance the whole of his little schoolhouse. Think of it! For forty years he had been there in the same place, with his yard in front of him and his class just as it was! But the benches and desks were polished and rubbed by use; the walnuts in the yard had grown, and the hop-vine which he himself had planted now festooned the windows even to the roof. What a heartrending thing it must have been for that poor man to leave all those things, and to hear his sister walking back and forth in the room overhead, packing their trunks! For they were to go away the next day—to leave the province forever.
However, he had the courage to keep the class to the end. After the writing, we had the lesson in history; then the little ones sang all together the ba, be, bi, bo, bu. Yonder, at the back of the room, old Hauser had put on his spectacles, and, holding his spelling-book in both hands, he spelled out the letters with them. I could see that he too was applying himself. His voice shook with emotion, and it was so funny to hear him, that we all longed to laugh and to cry. Ah! I shall remember that last class.
Suddenly the church struck twelve, then the Angelus [Footnote: Angelus: the angelus bell, which is rung at morning, noon, and night.] rang. At the same moment, the bugles of the Prussians returning from drill blared under our windows. Monsieur Hamel rose, pale as death, from his chair. Never had he seemed to me so tall.
"My friends," he said, "my friends, I—I—"
But something suffocated him. He could not finish the sentence.
Thereupon he turned to the blackboard, took a piece of chalk, and, bearing on with all his might, he wrote in the largest letters he could:
"Vive La France!" [Footnote: Vive la France: "Long live France."]
Then he stood there with his head resting against the wall, and without speaking, he motioned to us with his hand:
"That is all; go."
[Footnote: Compare this story with "A Leaf in the Storm." What do such stories make you think of "the glory of conquest"? Why was the decree made that this was to be "the last class in French"? Does the author make this story a personal tragedy or the tragedy of France? Where is the climax of the story? Is it effective? What kind of spirit does it show? Does that spirit live in France to-day?]
AN ARAB FISHERMAN
This morning I reached the rocks before the dawn had begun to break. It was too dark to fish; but I crept out to the very edge of the ledge, and sat down beside a great boulder to wait for the light. I lit my pipe and smoked impatiently. It seemed as though the dawn came up out of the water itself; long before I could notice any increase of light the waves began to change color from the dark, oily olive tint of night to a lighter green, and gradually, just as it began to dawn, to their daytime blue. A long trailing cloud, which stretched clean across the sky like an exaggerated Milky Way, suddenly caught fire at its eastern end. Rapidly the red flame along ran its entire length to the other horizon. Then countless unexpected shadows woke up on the rocks about me, weird, undefined shapes, which became clear-cut only when the rim of the sun came up over Cap Rouge.
But a swish in the water beside me, as the first fish rose, recalled me to the business in hand. I opened my little tin tackle-box, put the rod together, and just as I was tying on the flies I was disturbed by human voices. I said several things I shouldn't have, and looked up over my rock to motion back the intruders. For a moment I thought I was back in Old Greece, the Old Greece where early morning fishers were often interrupted by the sea-nymphs. But a second glance reassured me—it was only an Arab and his wife hunting crabs.
Their method was typical. He was a sombre old chap, with long, scanty white beard, a soiled burnous, [Footnote: Burnous: a cloak-like garment with a hood, worn by the Arabs.] and thin, scrawny brown legs. He sat stolidly on a dry rock, a basket under his feet, and—this was the typical part—watched his wife work. I did not blame him for watching. It was a pretty sight. She was a supple young Mauresque, [Footnote: Mauresque: Moorish (girl).] slim and graceful as the water-nymph for whom I had first mistaken her. She had laid aside her outer cloak-like garment, and was clad only in a light cotton tunic. It was very simple affair—two small holes for her arms, a bigger one for her head, and a still bigger one at the bottom to get in by. I could make one myself. It was bound about her waist with a heavy dark red woollen sash, the ends of which, hanging down at her side, were adorned with a most amazing collection of colored strings, bright yellow, startling orange, pale blue, and flaming crimson. It sounds discordant, and I must admit that, as it hangs now in my room, it almost makes my head ache. But out there on the red, wet rocks it was toned down by the faint morning light, and mingled charmingly with the greens on the bank and the far-reaching blue of the sea. In her hand was a spear—a stick sharpened in a fire.
If the old gentleman took it sedately and placidly, it was just the reverse with her. She was fairly running over with the joy of life. She would crawl about deftly until she saw a crab, then she would make a long detour to get it between her and the sun, so that her shadow should not frighten it. When she got within striking distance, she would wave her hand at her husband, as though she thought he could increase the intensity of his silence. With a graceful, dextrous thrust she would stab her game, and, gathering up her scant skirts, she would dash into the water after it. The moment she got her hand on it she would let out a delighted little scream of glee, and go bounding over the rocks to exhibit it to her lord and master. I wanted to wring his scrawny old neck for not being more enthusiastic about it. But he never once lost his blase manner. He would look at the crab a moment critically, then lift up his foot and let her put it in the basket. Not a word would he say. But off she would go again with undimmed ardor. It was a sight for the gods. And for half an hour I forgot all about my fishing-rod.
At last their basket was full, and the old man got up and began to come my way. She picked up her mantle and the basket and followed him. They saw me at the same moment. She gave a startled little squeal and started to retreat; but the old man grunted "Roumi," so she stopped.
"Roumi," being translated, means "Infidel." It was as though he had said, "Don't get excited; it is only a dog." If I had been a Mussulman, she would have run screaming to the woods, and would have had to do—I don't know what penance—because I had seen her face unveiled. But I was only an infidel dog and didn't count. The old man made the "Sign of Peace," and the two sat down beside me.
I didn't return his salute. I had never felt so entirely, so shamefully insulted in my life. I have always read a deep contempt for me in the eyes of the Mussulmans I have met. The Arab boy who cleans my boots and cares for "Citron," my mare, looks down on me from a perfectly unspeakable height of superiority. The men do not matter, but to be insulted so by a woman, a very pretty woman, made my hair crinkle! I had heard that the Mohammedan women do not veil before the infidels. But I had never realized the overpowering weight of the insult before. She would have been utterly confused if an Arab had seen her face. She sat there before me, almost within reach of my hand, in a thin, short, very short, tunic, which was wet, and she never turned a hair. I was a "Roumi," not a man, a dog. That was all there was to it. I felt that unless I could shake her composure I would explode. I tried to convince her I was a man by staring at her. I might just as well have tried to embarrass the statue of Venus de Milo!
"Bonjour," [Footnote: Bonjour: "good day."] the old man said. He had probably learned French working for a colonist; or perhaps he had served in the Spahis [Footnote: Spahis: Algerian cavalrymen serving in the French army.] when he was younger. I was too mad to return his greeting.
"Fishing?" he asked.
Such insane questions, when the answer is so evident, generally infuriate me; and I probably would have told him I was skating if I had not been afraid he would get mad and walk off with his wife, and I had not yet given up hope of embarrassing her.
"Yes," I replied. "And you?"
"I've been crab-fishing," he said solemnly, and he showed me his basket. "I'm a good fisher," he added.
I looked at his wife, but she did not seem to see anything funny in his choice of pronouns. I tied another fly on my leader.
"No good," he said. "Use crab meat. Fish don't like feathers."
I made a couple of casts without making a strike. "No good!" he kept repeating. He began to get on my nerves. At last I had better luck and landed a beautiful three-pounder. I dangled it triumphantly before his eyes.
"No good," he said stolidly. "Use crab meat. Fish don't like feathers."
Then I had a run of luck. Almost every cast I got a rise, and soon I had a nice string of eight, all from two to five pounds. I noticed that all the strikes had been on the same fly, so I stopped for a minute to change the other two flies to this variety. I thought that if I should have the luck to raise two at once—as sometimes happens—I might convince him. When I opened the box to get the new flies, both of them came close to look in. In one compartment were some bare hooks on which I had not yet built flies. The old man pounced on them at once.
"There!" he cried. "These are good. Use these with crab meat and you will catch fish!"
I sat back in dumb amazement. Once upon a time, way back in the dimness before history, this chap's ancestors had begun to fish off these rocks with a bent wire and a piece of crab meat. Century after century they had sat there unchanging. Sat there all day long, and had been lucky to catch half as many fish as I had done in fifteen minutes. And glaring ocular demonstration did not shake his faith in the methods of his ancestors. I began to understand the hopeless discouragement with which my host talks of the "Native Question." The Arabs are starving off because the French have stolen their land. But the fact remains that most of the natives have more land than the colonists. An Arab will starve to death on a piece of land which will support two French families, simply because the Arabs do not know—and will not learn—how to intensify their culture. Somehow—nobody knows just how—the Romans, during the long centuries of their occupation, succeeded in teaching them to put an iron point on the end of the crooked stick with which they scratch the earth. It is the last thing they have learned.
The Arabs employed by my host are good workmen. They seem perfectly intelligent; six days a week they yoke his stout oxen before a great American plow, turn his soil, scatter his fertilizer, after the harvest help him sort out the best grain for the next sowing, and so forth; but the seventh day of the week they hitch their wives beside an ass, and tickle the soil with their iron-pointed stick. "Why should we put on fertilizer?" they ask. "Allah, the Just, will give us the harvest our piety deserves."
My speculations about the fate of the race were interrupted by the voice of the young woman. Her eye had been caught by a gaudy red-feathered trolling-spoon and its polished brass disk. She pointed to it, and said something in Arabic. The old man shook his head.
"No good" he repeated his deadly refrain.
"Use these. Crab meat. You will catch fish. Fish don't like feathers."
But I'd lost interest in fishing. I realized that if I pulled up Jonah's whale it would not convince the old man. So I started to put up my things.
[Footnote: Note the use of color. What things in the scene should you like to see for yourself? Is the humor of the story one of situation or character? Was the old Arab vain or only stupid? Is his attitude toward the author a typically Eastern one? Do you know Kipling's ballad, "The East and the West"?]
THE ARCHERY CONTEST
At the beginning of the contest a stranger appears to take part in the shooting. He tells Prince John that his name is Locksley.
A target was placed at the upper end of the southern avenue which led to the lists. [Footnote: Lists: fields of combat.] The contending archers took their station in turn, at the bottom of the southern access, the distance between that station and the mark allowing full distance for what was called a shot at rovers. The archers, having previously determined by lot their order of precedence, were to shoot each three shafts in succession. The sports were regulated by an officer of inferior rank, termed the Provost of the Games; for the high rank of the marshals of the lists would have been held degraded, had they condescended to superintend the sports of the yeomanry. [Footnote: Yeomanry: the yeomen in England were the freeholders, the class next in order to the gentry.]