Mr. Know All by Somerset Maughaum
I was prepared to dislike Max Kelada even before I knew him. The war had just finished and the
passenger traffic in the ocean-going liners was heavy. Accommodation was very hard to get and
you had to put up with whatever the agents chose to offer you. You could not hope for a cabin to
yourself and I was thankful to be given one in which there were only two berths. But when I was
told the name of my companion my heart sank. It suggested closed portholes and the night air
rigidly excluded. It was bad enough to share a cabin for fourteen days with anyone (I was going
from San Francisco to Yokohama, but I should have looked upon it with less dismay if my
fellow passenger`s name had been Smith or Brown.
When I went on board I found Mr Kelada`s luggage already below. I did not like the look of it;
there were too many labels on the suit-cases, and the wardrobe trunk was too big. He had
unpacked his toilet things, and I observed that he was a patron of the excellent Monsieur Coty;
for I saw on the washing-stand his scent, his hair-wash and his brilliantine. Mr Kelada`s brushes,
ebony with his monogram in gold, would have been all the better for a scrub. I did not at all like
Mr Kelada. I made my way into the smoking-room. I called for a pack of cards and began to play
patience. I had scarcely started before a man came up to me and asked me if he was right in
thinking my name was so and so.
"I am Mr Kelada," he added, with a smile that showed a row of flashing teeth, and sat down.
"Oh, yes, we`re sharing a cabin, I think."
"Bit of luck, I call it. You never know who you`re going to be put in with. I was jolly glad when
I heard you were English. I`m all for us English slicking together when we`re abroad, if you
understand what I mean."
"Are you English?" I asked, perhaps tactlessly.
"Rather. You don`t think I look like an American, do you? British to the backbone, that`s what I
To prove it, Mr Kelada took out of his pocket a passport and airily waved it under my nose.
King George has many strange subjects. Mr Kelada was short and of a sturdy build, clean-shaven
and dark-skinned, with a fleshy hooked nose and very large, lustrous and liquid eyes. His long
black hair was sleek and curly. He spoke with a fluency in which there was nothing English and
his gestures were exuberant. I fell pretty sure that a closer inspection of that British passport
would have betrayed the fact that Mr Kelada was born under a bluer sky than is generally seen in
"What will you have?" he asked me.
I looked at him doubtfully. Prohibition was in force and to all appearance the ship was bone-dry.
When I am not thirsty I do not know which I dislike more, ginger ale or lemon squash. But Mr
Kelada flashed an oriental smile at me.
"Whisky and soda or a dry martini, you have only to say the word."
From each of his hip pockets he fished a flask and laid it on the table before me. I chose the
martini, and calling the steward he ordered a tumbler of ice and a couple of glasses.
"A very good cocktail," I said.
"Well, there are plenty more where that came from, and if you`ve got any friends on board, you
tell them you`ve got a pal who`s got all the liquor in the world."
Mr Kelada was chatty. He talked of New York and of San Francisco. He discussed plays,
pictures, and politics. He was patriotic. The Union Jack is an impressive piece of drapery, but
when it is nourished by a gentleman from Alexandria or Beirut, I cannot but feel that it loses
somewhat in dignity. Mr Kelada was familiar." I do not wish to put on airs, but I cannot help
feeling that it is seemly in a total stranger to put "mister" before my name when he addresses me.
Mr Kelada, doubtless to set me at my case, used no such formality. I did not like Mr Kelada. I
had put aside the cards when he sat down, but now, thinking that for this first occasion our
conversation had lasted long enough, I went on with my game.
"The three on the four," said Mr Kelada.
There is nothing more exasperating when you are playing patience than to be told where to put
the card you have turned up before you have had a chance to look for yourself.
"It`s coming out, it`s coming out," he cried. "The ten on the knave."
With rage and hatred in my heart I finished.
Then he seized the pack.
"Do you like card tricks?"
"No, I hate card tricks," I answered.
"Well, I`ll just show you this one."
He showed me three. Then I said I would go down to the dining-room and get my seat at table.
"Oh, that`s all right," he said. "I`ve already taken a seat for you. I thought that as we were in the
same state-room we might just as well sit at the same table."
I did not like Mr Kelada.
I not only shared a cabin with him and ate three meals a day at the same table, but I could not
walk round the deck without his joining me. It was impossible to snub him. It never occurred to
him that he was not wanted. He was certain that you were as glad to see him as he was to see
you. In your own house you might have kicked him downstairs and slammed the door in his face
without the suspicion dawning on him that he was not a welcome visitor. He was a good mixer,
and in three days knew everyone on board. He ran everything. He managed the sweeps,
conducted the auctions, collected money for prizes at the sports, got up quoit and golf matches,
organized the concert and arranged the fancy-dress ball. He was everywhere and always. He was
certainly the best haled man in the ship. We called him Mr Know-All, even to his face. He took it
as a compliment. But it was at mealtimes that he was most intolerable. For the better part of an
hour then he had us at his mercy. He was hearty, jovial, loquacious and argumentative. He knew
everything better than anybody else, and it was an affront to his overweening vanity that you
should disagree with him. He would not drop a subject, however unimportant, till he had brought
you round to his way of thinking. The possibility that he could be mistaken never occurred to
him. He was the chap who knew. We sat at the doctor`s table. Mr Kelada would certainly have
had it all his own way, for the doctor was lazy and I was frigidly indifferent, except for a man
called Ramsay who sat there also. He was as dogmatic as Mr Kelada and resented bitterly the
Levantine`s cocksureness. The discussions they had were acrimonious and interminable.
Ramsay was in the American Consular Service and was stationed at Kobe. He was a great heavy
fellow from the Middle West, with loose fat under a tight skin, and he bulged out of this really-
made clothes. He was on his way back to resume his post, having been on a flying visit to New
York to retell his wife who had been spending a year at home. Mrs Ramsay was a very pretty
little thing, with pleasant manners and a sense of humour. The Consular Service is ill-paid, and
she was dressed always very simply; but she knew how to wear her clothes. She achieved an
effect of quiet distinction. I should not have paid any particular attention to her but that she
possessed a quality that may be common enough in women, but nowadays is not obvious in their
demeanour. You could not look at her without being struck by her modesty. It shone in her like a
flower on a coat.
One evening at dinner the conversation by chance drifted to the subject of pearls. There had been
in the papers a good deal of talk about the culture pearls which the cunning Japanese were
making, and the doctor remarked that they must inevitably diminish the value of real ones. They
were very good already; they would soon be perfect. Mr Kelada, as was his habit, rushed the new
topic. He told us all that was to be known about pearls. I do not believe Ramsay knew anything
about them at all, but he could not resist the opportunity to have a fling at the Levantine, and in
five minutes we were in the middle of a heated argument. I had seen Mr Kelada vehement and
voluble before, but never so voluble and vehement as now. At last something that Ramsay said
stung him, for he thumped the table and shouted:
"Well, I ought to know what I am talking about. I`m going to Japan just to look into this
Japanese pearl business. I`m in the trade and there`s not a man in it who won`t tell you that what
I say about pearls goes. I know all the best pearls in the world, and what I don`t know about
pearls isn`t worth knowing."
Here was news for us, for Mr Kelada, with all his loquacity, had never told anyone what his
business was. We only knew vaguely that he was going to Japan on some commercial errand. He
looked round the table triumphantly.
"They`ll never be able to get a culture pearl that an expert like me can`t tell with half an eye." He
pointed to a chain that Mrs Ramsay wore. "You take my word for it, Mrs Ramsay, that chain
you`re wearing will never be worth a cent less than it is now."
Mrs Ramsay in her modest way flushed a little and slipped the chain inside her dress. Ramsay
leaned forward. He gave us all a look and a smile flickered in his eyes.
"That`s a pretty chain of Mrs Ramsay`s, isn`t it?"
"I noticed it at once," answered Mr Kelada. "Gee, I said to myself, those are pearls all right."
"I didn`t buy it myself, of course. I`d be interested to know how much you think it cost."
"Oh, in the trade somewhere round fifteen thousand dollars. But if it was bought on Fifth Avenue
shouldn`t be surprised to hear that anything up to thirty thousand was paid for it."
Ramsay smiled grimly.
"You`ll be surprised to hear that Mrs Ramsay bought that siring at a department store the day
before we left New York, for eighteen dollars."
Mr Kelada flushed.
"Rot. It`s not only real, but it`s as fine a siring for its size as I`ve ever seen."
"Will you bet on it? I`ll bet you a hundred dollars it`s imitation."
"Oh, Elmer, you can`t bet on a certainty," said Mrs Ramsay.
She had a little smile on her lips and her tone was gently deprecating.
"Can`t I? If I get a chance of easy money like that I should be all sorts of a fool not to take it."
"But how can it be proved?" she continued. "It`s only my word against Mr Kelada`s."
"Let me look at the chain, and if it`s imitation I`ll tell you quickly enough. I can afford to lose a
hundred dollars," said Mr Kelada.
"Take it off, dear. Let the gentleman look at it as much as he wants."
Mrs Ramsay hesitated a moment. She put her hands to the clasp.
"I can`t undo it," she said. "Mr Kelada will just have to take my word for it."
I had a sudden suspicion that something unfortunate was about to occur, but I could think of
nothing to say.
Ramsay jumped up.
"I`ll undo it."
He handed the chain to Mr Kelada. The Levantine look a magnifying glass from his pocket and
closely examined it. A smile of triumph spread over his smooth and swarthy face. He handed
back the chain. He was about to speak. Suddenly he caught sight of Mrs Ramsay`s face. It was so
white that she looked as though she were about to faint. She was staring at him with wide and
terrified eyes. They held a desperate appeal; it was so clear that I wondered why her husband did
not see it.
Mr Kelada stopped with his mouth open. He flushed deeply. You could almost see the effort he
was making over himself.
"I was mistaken," he said. "It`s a very good imitation, but of course as soon as I looked through
my glass I saw that it wasn`t real. I think eighteen dollars is just about as much as the damned
He took out his pocket book and from it a hundred-dollar bill. He handed it to Ramsay without a
"Perhaps that`ll teach you not to be so cocksure another time, my young friend," said Ramsay as
he took the note.
I noticed that Mr Kelada`s hands were trembling.
The story spread over the ship as stories do, and he had to put up with a good deal of chaff that
evening. It was a fine joke that Mr Know-All had been caught out. But Mrs Ramsay retired to
her state-room with a headache.
Next morning I got up and began to shave. Mr Kelada lay on his bed smoking a cigarette.
Suddenly there was a small scraping sound and I saw a letter pushed under the door. I opened the
door and looked out. There was nobody there. I picked up the letter and saw that it was addressed
to Max Kelada. The name was written in block letters. I handed it to him.
"Who`s this from?" He opened it. "Oh!"
He took out of the envelope, not a letter, but a hundred-dollar bill. He looked at me and again he
reddened. He tore the envelope into little bits and gave them to me.
"Do you mind just throwing them out of the porthole?" I did as he asked, and then I looked at
him with a smile.
"No one likes being made to look a perfect damned fool," he said.
"Were the pearls real?"
"If I had a pretty little wife I shouldn`t let her spend a year in New York while I stayed at Kobe,"
At that moment I did not entirely dislike Mr Kelada. He reached out for his pocket book and
carefully put in it the hundred-dollar note.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies
saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until
one's cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied.
Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty- seven cents. And the next day would be
There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did
it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with
While the mistress of the home is gradually subsiding from the first stage to the second, take a
look at the home. A furnished flat at $8 per week. It did not exactly beggar description, but it
certainly had that word on the lookout for the mendicancy squad.
In the vestibule below was a letter-box into which no letter would go, and an electric button from
which no mortal finger could coax a ring. Also appertaining thereunto was a card bearing the
name "Mr. James Dillingham Young."
The "Dillingham" had been flung to the breeze during a former period of prosperity when its
possessor was being paid $30 per week. Now, when the income was shrunk to $20, though, they
were thinking seriously of contracting to a modest and unassuming D. But whenever Mr. James
Dillingham Young came home and reached his flat above he was called "Jim" and greatly
hugged by Mrs. James Dillingham Young, already introduced to you as Della. Which is all very
Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window
and looked out dully at a gray cat walking a gray fence in a gray backyard. Tomorrow would be
Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving
every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn't go far.
Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present
for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him.
Something fine and rare and sterling--something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honor
of being owned by Jim.
There was a pier-glass between the windows of the room. Perhaps you have seen a pier-glass in
an $8 flat. A very thin and very agile person may, by observing his reflection in a rapid sequence
of longitudinal strips, obtain a fairly accurate conception of his looks. Della, being slender, had
mastered the art.
Suddenly she whirled from the window and stood before the glass. her eyes were shining
brilliantly, but her face had lost its color within twenty seconds. Rapidly she pulled down her
hair and let it fall to its full length.
Now, there were two possessions of the James Dillingham Youngs in which they both took a
mighty pride. One was Jim's gold watch that had been his father's and his grandfather's. The
other was Della's hair. Had the queen of Sheba lived in the flat across the airshaft, Della would
have let her hair hang out the window some day to dry just to depreciate Her Majesty's jewels
and gifts. Had King Solomon been the janitor, with all his treasures piled up in the basement, Jim
would have pulled out his watch every time he passed, just to see him pluck at his beard from
So now Della's beautiful hair fell about her rippling and shining like a cascade of brown waters.
It reached below her knee and made itself almost a garment for her. And then she did it up again
nervously and quickly. Once she faltered for a minute and stood still while a tear or two splashed
on the worn red carpet.
On went her old brown jacket; on went her old brown hat. With a whirl of skirts and with the
brilliant sparkle still in her eyes, she fluttered out the door and down the stairs to the street.
Where she stopped the sign read: "Mne. Sofronie. Hair Goods of All Kinds." One flight up Della
ran, and collected herself, panting. Madame, large, too white, chilly, hardly looked the
"Will you buy my hair?" asked Della.
"I buy hair," said Madame. "Take yer hat off and let's have a sight at the looks of it."
Down rippled the brown cascade.
"Twenty dollars," said Madame, lifting the mass with a practised hand.
"Give it to me quick," said Della.
Oh, and the next two hours tripped by on rosy wings. Forget the hashed metaphor. She was
ransacking the stores for Jim's present.
She found it at last. It surely had been made for Jim and no one else. There was no other like it in
any of the stores, and she had turned all of them inside out. It was a platinum fob chain simple
and chaste in design, properly proclaiming its value by substance alone and not by meretricious
ornamentation--as all good things should do. It was even worthy of The Watch. As soon as she
saw it she knew that it must be Jim's. It was like him. Quietness and value--the description
applied to both. Twenty-one dollars they took from her for it, and she hurried home with the 87
cents. With that chain on his watch Jim might be properly anxious about the time in any
company. Grand as the watch was, he sometimes looked at it on the sly on account of the old
leather strap that he used in place of a chain.
When Della reached home her intoxication gave way a little to prudence and reason. She got out
her curling irons and lighted the gas and went to work repairing the ravages made by generosity
added to love. Which is always a tremendous task, dear friends--a mammoth task.
Within forty minutes her head was covered with tiny, close-lying curls that made her look
wonderfully like a truant schoolboy. She looked at her reflection in the mirror long, carefully,
"If Jim doesn't kill me," she said to herself, "before he takes a second look at me, he'll say I look
like a Coney Island chorus girl. But what could I do--oh! what could I do with a dollar and
eighty- seven cents?"
At 7 o'clock the coffee was made and the frying-pan was on the back of the stove hot and ready
to cook the chops.
Jim was never late. Della doubled the fob chain in her hand and sat on the corner of the table
near the door that he always entered. Then she heard his step on the stair away down on the first
flight, and she turned white for just a moment. She had a habit for saying little silent prayer about
the simplest everyday things, and now she whispered: "Please God, make him think I am still
The door opened and Jim stepped in and closed it. He looked thin and very serious. Poor fellow,
he was only twenty-two--and to be burdened with a family! He needed a new overcoat and he
was without gloves.
Jim stopped inside the door, as immovable as a setter at the scent of quail. His eyes were fixed
upon Della, and there was an expression in them that she could not read, and it terrified her. It
was not anger, nor surprise, nor disapproval, nor horror, nor any of the sentiments that she had
been prepared for. He simply stared at her fixedly with that peculiar expression on his face.
Della wriggled off the table and went for him.
"Jim, darling," she cried, "don't look at me that way. I had my hair cut off and sold because I
couldn't have lived through Christmas without giving you a present. It'll grow out again--you
won't mind, will you? I just had to do it. My hair grows awfully fast. Say `Merry Christmas!'
Jim, and let's be happy. You don't know what a nice-- what a beautiful, nice gift I've got for
"You've cut off your hair?" asked Jim, laboriously, as if he had not arrived at that patent fact yet
even after the hardest mental labor.
"Cut it off and sold it," said Della. "Don't you like me just as well, anyhow? I'm me without my
hair, ain't I?"
Jim looked about the room curiously.
"You say your hair is gone?" he said, with an air almost of idiocy.
"You needn't look for it," said Della. "It's sold, I tell you--sold and gone, too. It's Christmas Eve,
boy. Be good to me, for it went for you. Maybe the hairs of my head were numbered," she went
on with sudden serious sweetness, "but nobody could ever count my love for you. Shall I put the
chops on, Jim?"
Out of his trance Jim seemed quickly to wake. He enfolded his Della. For ten seconds let us
regard with discreet scrutiny some inconsequential object in the other direction. Eight dollars a
week or a million a year--what is the difference? A mathematician or a wit would give you the
wrong answer. The magi brought valuable gifts, but that was not among them. This dark
assertion will be illuminated later on.
Jim drew a package from his overcoat pocket and threw it upon the table.
"Don't make any mistake, Dell," he said, "about me. I don't think there's anything in the way of a
haircut or a shave or a shampoo that could make me like my girl any less. But if you'll unwrap
that package you may see why you had me going a while at first."
White fingers and nimble tore at the string and paper. And then an ecstatic scream of joy; and
then, alas! a quick feminine change to hysterical tears and wails, necessitating the immediate
employment of all the comforting powers of the lord of the flat.
For there lay The Combs--the set of combs, side and back, that Della had worshipped long in a
Broadway window. Beautiful combs, pure tortoise shell, with jewelled rims--just the shade to
wear in the beautiful vanished hair. They were expensive combs, she knew, and her heart had
simply craved and yearned over them without the least hope of possession. And now, they were
hers, but the tresses that should have adorned the coveted adornments were gone.
But she hugged them to her bosom, and at length she was able to look up with dim eyes and a
smile and say: "My hair grows so fast, Jim!"
And them Della leaped up like a little singed cat and cried, "Oh, oh!"
Jim had not yet seen his beautiful present. She held it out to him eagerly upon her open palm.
The dull precious metal seemed to flash with a reflection of her bright and ardent spirit.
"Isn't it a dandy, Jim? I hunted all over town to find it. You'll have to look at the time a hundred
times a day now. Give me your watch. I want to see how it looks on it."
Instead of obeying, Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head
"Dell," said he, "let's put our Christmas presents away and keep 'em a while. They're too nice to
use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs. And now suppose you
put the chops on."
The magi, as you know, were wise men--wonderfully wise men--who brought gifts to the Babe
in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were
no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I
have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most
unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the
wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. O all who
give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.
The Good Lord Will Provide by Lawrence Treat and
Charles M. Plotz
It's been a whole year now a whole long year without you. But I been a real good prisoner
staying out of trouble like a cat stays away from water. They all say I'll get my parole next April,
plenty of time to put in a crop. So hang on, you and Uncle Ike. The only thing bothering me is I
ain't heard from you in so long. Why? What's happening?
Judy, it's not like I done anything wrong. All I did was drive that car. I didn't know they had
guns and itchy fingers, I didn't even know them good. They was just a couple of city fellas
hanging around a bar and I got chinning with them and happened to let drop I was the champeen
stock car racer of Hadley County. I done a little bragging maybe. I musta told them I could just
about drive a car up the side of a wall and down the other side and if they wanted to see how
good I was, why come on out and look. Which they did.
Maybe I was a little stupid but when they allowed they'd pay me right then and there to take
them to the bank next day and then on out to the back hills where there was no roads, which they
said they wanted to do just for the heck of it-well all I did was ask how much. And when they
told me I plumb near keeled over. Because it was almost as much as we needed for the mortgage
payment. I figured money was money and if they was taking a lot of it out of the bank, why
wouldn' they be generous? What I didn't know was they didn't have no account there.
So I reckon I was real stupid. But stupid or not I sure was lucky because if I'd stayed with the
pair much longer I'da got killed too. But they paid me to get them out of town and up into the
hills and after I done that I took off and come straight back to you.
When Ike heard the news on the radio he knowed right off it was me at the wheel of the car.
Nobody else could have outdrove and outsmarted the cops and I bet I could have got clear off to
Mexico or maybe China if I'da wanted to. And if the airplanes hadn't spotted me like they did
that pair. But I done what I was paid for, so I come back where I belonged. And if they took fifty
thousand like the papers said or a million I wouldn't know. I was waiting out in the car and all
the money I ever seen was what I give you. And like I said, I got it the day before and it wasn't
stolen from the bank. Not that bank anyhow.
The sheriff kept asking me where the stolen money was. After all the two bank robbers was
dead with no trace of the money and all the sheriff had was me. Just a poor dumb farmer with a
knack for handling a car.
But I don't want to worry you with all this. I'm real lonesome for you like I said. So when are
you coming up here to visit me? And how are you and how's Ike and the farm?
Your loving husband
I got your letter and the reason I ain't come to see you is that I just don't have the money for
the trip. Besides I got to do all the chores now. Uncle Ike's down with the rhumatiz again and
Doc Saunders says he won't be up and around until the warm spring wheather sets in and that's
not liable to happen until May. And when Ike's feeling puny he wants me around all the time and
all he does is complain and tell me everybody's out to take the skin off me. He even tried to
chase George off the place when George come around in his new car to ask me out for a ride.
And I sure needed to get away from the farm for awhile.
George was real nice to me too. He wanted to know how I was getting along without you
and if I missed you much. Well I said it was kind of lonesome. Who was around except Ike? And
I told him right out that we was liable to lose the farm unless we got that mortgage installment
paid and how could I pay it until I got a crop in? And I said that with George getting promoted to
be vice president of the bank he could maybe do something. He said he'd see what he could
manage and that was about as far as we got. Anyhow it was nice getting away from Ike for
awhile, specially when George took me to dinner at that new place in town.
Walt, I wish you was a banker too.
Your loving wife
I know it's hard on you with Ike to take care of it's even worse. He's tetchy enough when he feels
good but when he's got the aches he's enough to try the patience of a saint. But the good Lord
will provide, Judy, and I know what I'm saying.
About George and the bank holding off-you want to get it writ down. So next time you see
him you want to ask him about Ruthie Watkins which I found out about from a guy up here
named Ernie Taylor. Ernie, his business is selling letters. And like he says, if I got a cow or a
bushel of wheat I can sell them, can't I? So why can't he sell letters?
Ernie and me get along fine because the both of us we're innocent men and we shouldn't
ought to be here. But as long as we are we talk about things and Ernie happened to mention some
letters he got hold of which George writ to this Ruthie Watkins. So maybe you better mention
them to George next time you see him.
Your loving husband
George took me out to dinner again and we talked about a lot of things. And like you told me
me to I just happened to mention Ruthie Watkins and then I said about the mortgage and how it
ought to be writ down. And the very next day I got a letter from the bank promising to hold off
until autumn but I don't know what good it's going to do. Because next time I was out with
George, Ike got hold of some of that white mule stuff and after that he got the idea he ought to go
riding in the tractor. Which he did, as far as that big ditch on the west side. Ike didn't get hurt
bad, just a bruise or two that he's realxing from, but you ought to see what's left of that tractor.
So how do I make that mortgage payment in the fall with no crop coming in? And If i don't pay
up we got no farm.
I'm tired, Walt. I'm plumb tired and just about at the end of my tether. You said the good
Lord will provide-but how? How?
Your loving wife
You got to be patient like I said and if you're real patient the Lord will provide. Because He
come to me in a dream and He said that there was something buried in the south field that would
take care of us. So you tell Ike to get over that rhumatiz of his. Tell him I got only a year to go
and then I 'm going to dig up that something in the south field and after everything's going to be
Your loving husband
I don't know just how to tell you this but I guess I'll set it down the way it happened.
You know how Ike hates the law ever since they come around and took you away. So when
the sheriff and six deputies showed up the day before yesterday Ike tried to chase them away. He
got up out of bad and ran all over the place looking for his shotgun, only I had it hid. Then he
yelled at them and called them all kinds of names and they finally grabbed him and tied him up
for a spell, so he never did see what they done. He's spry again all that running after the deputies
loosened him up and now he's as good as ever. But I don't rightly know what the sheriff come for
and you'll never tumble to what those deputies of his done.
Walt, they went down to that south field and the six of them spent the whole day digging and
then they come back the next day and kept on until they dug up just about every inch of that
field. And I never did see any six men look so tired and they sure was mad. I asked them lots of
questions and one of them-I think he come all the way down from the prison-he allowed as how
all your mail gets read. Walter, what did he say that for?
Your loving wife
Your loving husband
The Luncheon by William Somerset Maugham
I caught sight of her at the play, and in answer to her beckoning, I went over during the interval
and sat down beside her. It was long since I had last seen her, and if someone had not mentioned
her name I hardly think I would have recognized her.
She addressed me brightly.
"Well, it's many years since we first met. How time does fly! We're none of us getting any
younger. Do you remember the first time I saw you? You asked me to luncheon.”
Did I remember?
It was twenty years ago and I was living in Paris. I had a tiny apartment in the Latin quarter
overlooking a cemetery, and I was earning barely enough money to keep body and soul together.
She had read a book of mine and had written to me about it. I answered, thanking her, and
presently I received from her another letter saying that she was passing through Paris and would
like to have a chat with me; but her time was limited, and the only free moment she had was on
the following Thursday; she was spending the morning at the Luxembourg and would I give her
a little luncheon at Foyot's afterwards? Foyot's is a restaurant at which the French senators eat,
and it was so far beyond my means that I had never even thought of going there. But I was
flattered, and I was too young to have learned to say no to a woman. (Few men, I may add, learn
this until they are too old to make it of any consequence to a woman what they say.) I had eighty
francs (gold francs) to last me the rest of the month, and a modest luncheon should not cost more
than fifteen. If I cut out coffee for the next two weeks I could manage well enough.
I answered that I would meet my friend-by correspondence-at Foyot's on Thursday at half-past
twelve. She was not so young as I expected and in appearance imposing rather than attractive.
She was, in fact, a woman of forty (a charming age, but not one that excites a sudden and
devastating passion at first sight), and she gave me the impression of having more teeth, white
and large and even, than were necessary for any practical purpose. She was talkative, but since
she seemed inclined to talk about me I was prepared to be an attentive listener.
I was startled when the bill of fare was brought, for the prices were a great deal higher than I had
anticipated. But she reassured me.
"I never eat anything for luncheon," she said.
"Oh, don't say that!" I answered generously.
"I never eat more than one thing. I think people eat far too much nowadays. A little
fish, perhaps. I wonder if they have any salmon."
Well, it was early in the year for salmon and it was not on the bill of fare, but I asked the waiter if
there was any. Yes, a beautiful salmon had just come in, it was the first they had had. I ordered it
for my guest. The waiter asked her if she would have something while it was being cooked.
"No," she answered, "I never eat more than one thing unless you have a little caviare, I never
My heart sank a little. I knew I could not afford caviare, but I could not very well tell her that. I
told the waiter by all means to bring caviare. For myself I chose the cheapest dish on the menu
and that was a mutton chop.
"I think you are unwise to eat meat," she said. "I don't know how you can expect to work after
eating heavy things like chops. I don't believe in overloading my stomach."
Then came the question of drink.
"I never drink anything for luncheon," she said.
"Neither do I," I answered promptly.
"Except white wine," she proceeded as though I had not spoken.
"These French white wines are so light. They're wonderful for the digestion."
"What would you like?" I asked, hospitable still, but not exactly effusive.
She gave me a bright and amicable flash of her white teeth.
"My doctor won't let me drink anything but champagne."
I fancy I turned a trifle pale. I ordered half a bottle. I mentioned casually that my doctor had
absolutely forbidden me to drink champagne.
"What are you going to drink, then?"
She ate the caviare and she ate the salmon. She talked gaily of art and literature and music. But I
wondered what the bill would come to. When my mutton chop arrived she took me quite
seriously to task.
"I see that you're in the habit of eating a heavy luncheon. I'm sure it's a mistake. Why don't you
follow my example and just eat one thing? I'm sure you'd feel ever so much better for it."
"I am only going to eat one thing." I said, as the waiter came again with the bill of
She waved him aside with an airy gesture.
"No. no. I never eat anything for luncheon. Just a bite, I never want more than that,
and I eat that more as an excuse for conversation than anything else. I couldn't possibly eat
anything more unless they had some of those giant asparagus. I should
be sorry to leave Paris without having some of them."
My heart sank. I had seen them in the shops, and I knew that they were horribly expensive. My
mouth had often watered at the sight of them.
"Madame wants to know if you have any of those giant asparagus." I asked the waiter.
I tried with all my might to will him to say no. A happy smile spread over his broad, priest-like
face, and he assured me that they had some so large, so splendid, so tender, that it was a marvel.
"I'm not in the least hungry," my guest sighed, "but if you insist I don't mind having some
I ordered them.
"Aren't you going to have any?"
"No, I never eat asparagus."
"I know there are people who don't like them. The fact is, you ruin your palate by all the meat
We waited for the asparagus to be cooked. Panic seized me. It was not a question now of how
much money I should have left over for the rest of the month, but whether I had enough to pay
the bill. It would be mortifying to find myself ten francs short and be obliged to borrow from my
guest. I could not bring myself to do that. I knew exactly how much I had, and if the bill came to
more I had made up my mind that I would put my hand in my pocket and with a dramatic cry
start up and say it had been picked. Of course, it would be awkward if she had not money enough
either to pay the bill. Then the only thing would be to leave my watch and say I would come
back and pay later.
The asparagus appeared. They were enormous, succulent, and appetizing. The smell of the
melted butter tickled my nostrils as the nostrils of Jehovah were tickled by the burned offerings
of the virtuous Semites. I watched the abandoned woman thrust them down her throat in large
voluptuous mouthfuls, and in my polite way I discoursed on the condition of the drama in the
Balkans. At last she finished.
"Coffee?" I said.
"Yes, just an ice cream and coffee,” she answered.
I was past caring now. So I ordered coffee for myself and an ice cream and coffee for her.
"You know, there's one thing I thoroughly believe in," she said, as she ate the ice cream. "One
should always get up from a meal feeling one could eat a little more."
"Are you still hungry?" I asked faintly.
"Oh, no, I'm not hungry; you see, I don't eat luncheon. I have a cup of coffee in the
morning and then dinner, but I never eat more than one thing for luncheon. I was speaking for
"Oh, I see!"
Then a terrible thing happened. While we were waiting for the coffee, the head waiter, with an
ingratiating smile on his false face, came up to us bearing a large basket full of huge peaches.
They had the blush of an innocent girl; they had the rich tone of an Italian landscape. But surely
peaches were not in season then? Lord knew what they cost. I knew too what they cost-a little
later, for my guest, going on with her conversation, absentmindedly took one.
"You see, you've filled your stomach with a lot of meat"-my one miserable little chop- "and you
can't eat any more. But I've just had a snack and I shall enjoy a peach."
The bill came and when I paid it I found that I had only enough for a quite inadequate tip. Her
eyes rested for an instant on the three francs I left for the waiter, and I knew that she thought me
mean. But when I walked out of the restaurant I had the whole month before me and not a penny
in my pocket.
"Follow my example," she said as we shook hand, "and never eat more than one thing for
"I'll do better than that," I retorted. "I'll eat nothing for dinner to-night."
"Humorist!" she cried gaily, jumping into a cab, "you're quite a humorist!"
But I have had my revenge at last. I do not believe that I am a vindictive man, but when the
immortal gods take a hand in the matter it is pardonable to observe the result with complacency.
Today she weighs twenty-one stone*.
(* One stone equals fourteen pounds.)
The Landlady by Roald Dahl
Billy Weaver had traveled down from London on the slow afternoon train, with a change at
Reading on the way, and by the time he got to Bath, it was about nine o’clock in the evening, and
the moon was coming up out of a clear starry sky over the houses opposite the station entrance.
But the air was deadly cold and the wind was like a flat blade of ice on his cheeks.
“Excuse me,” he said, “but is there a fairly cheap hotel not too far away from here?”
“Try The Bell and Dragon,” the porter answered, pointing down the road. “They might take you
in. It’s about a quarter of a mile along on the other side.”
Billy thanked him and picked up his suitcase and set out to walk the quarter-mile to The Bell and
Dragon. He had never been to Bath before. He didn’t know anyone who lived there. But Mr.
Greenslade at the head office in London had told him it was a splendid town. “Find your own
lodgings,” he had said, “and then go along and report to the branch manager as soon as you’ve
got yourself settled.”
Billy was seventeen years old. He was wearing a new navy-blue overcoat, a new brown trilby
hat, and a new brown suit, and he was feeling fine. He walked briskly down the street. He was
trying to do everything briskly these days. Briskness, he had decided, was the one common
characteristic of all successful businessmen. The big shots up at the head office were absolutely
fantastically brisk all the time. They were amazing.
There were no shops on this wide street that he was walking along, only a line of tall houses on
each side, all of them identical. They had porches and pillars and four or five steps going up to
their front doors, and it was obvious that once upon a time they had been very swanky
residences. But now, even in the darkness, he could see that the paint was peeling from the
woodwork on their doors and windows and that the handsome white facades were cracked and
blotchy from neglect.
Suddenly, in a downstairs window that was brilliantly illuminated by a street lamp not six yards
away, Billy caught sight of a printed notice propped up against the glass in one of the upper
panes. It said BED AND BREAKFAST. There was a vase of yellow chrysanthemums, tall and
beautiful, standing just underneath the notice.
He stopped walking. He moved a bit closer. Green curtains (some sort of velvety material) were
hanging down on either side of the window. The chrysanthemums looked wonderful beside
them. He went right up and peered through the glass into the room, and the first thing he saw was
a bright fire burning in the hearth. On the carpet in front of the fire, a pretty little dachshund was
curled up asleep with its nose tucked into its belly. The room itself, so far as he could see in the
half darkness, was filled with pleasant furniture. There was a baby grand piano and a big sofa
and several plump armchairs, and in one corner he spotted a large parrot in a cage. Animals were
usually a good sign in a place like this, Billy told himself; and all in all, it looked to him as
though it would be a pretty decent house to stay in. Certainly it would be more comfortable than
The Bell and Dragon.
On the other hand, a pub would be more congenial than a boardinghouse. There would be beer
and darts in the evenings, and lots of people to talk to, and it would probably be a good bit
cheaper, too. He had stayed a couple of nights in a pub once before and he had liked it. He had
never stayed in any boardinghouses, and, to be perfectly honest, he was a tiny bit frightened of
them. The name itself conjured up images of watery cabbage, rapacious landladies, and a
powerful smell of kippers in the living room.
After dithering about like this in the cold for two or three minutes, Billy decided that he would
walk on and take a look at The Bell and Dragon before making up his mind. He turned to go.
And now a queer thing happened to him. He was in the act of stepping back and turning away
from the window when all at once his eye was caught and held in the most peculiar manner by
the small notice that was there. BED AND BREAKFAST, it said. BED AND BREAKFAST,
BED AND BREAKFAST, BED AND BREAKFAST. Each word was like a large black eye
staring at him through the glass, holding him, compelling him, forcing him to stay where he was
and not to walk away from that house, and the next thing he knew, he was actually moving
across from the window to the front door of the house, climbing the steps that led up to it, and
reaching for the bell.
He pressed the bell. Far away in a back room he heard it ringing, and then at once —it must have
been at once because he hadn’t even had time to take his finger from the bell button—the door
swung open and a woman was standing there.
Normally you ring the bell and you have at least a half-minute’s wait before the door opens. But
this dame was like a jack-in-the-box. He pressed the bell—and out she popped! It made him
She was about forty-five or fifty years old, and the moment she saw him, she gave him a warm,
“ Please come in,” she said pleasantly. She stepped aside, holding the door wide open, and Billy
found himself automatically starting forward. The compulsion or, more accurately, the desire to
follow after her into that house was extraordinarily strong.
“I saw the notice in the window,” he said, holding himself back.
“Yes, I know.”
“I was wondering about a room.”
“It’s all ready for you, my dear,” she said. She had a round pink face and very gentle blue eyes.
“I was on my way to The Bell and Dragon,” Billy told her. “But the notice in your window just
happened to catch my eye.”
“My dear boy,” she said, “why don’t you come in out of the cold?”
“How much do you charge?”
“Five and sixpence a night, including breakfast.”
It was fantastically cheap. It was less than half of what he had been willing to pay.
“If that is too much,” she added, “then perhaps I can reduce it just a tiny bit. Do you desire an
egg for breakfast? Eggs are expensive at the moment. It would be sixpence less without the
“Five and sixpence is fine,” he answered. “I should like very much to stay here.”
“I knew you would. Do come in.”
She seemed terribly nice. She looked exactly like the mother of one’s best school friend
welcoming one into the house to stay for the Christmas holidays. Billy took off his hat and
stepped over the threshold.
“Just hang it there,” she said, “and let me help you with your coat.”
There were no other hats or coats in the hall. There were no umbrellas, no walking sticks—
“We have it all to ourselves,” she said, smiling at him over her shoulder as she led the way
upstairs. “You see, it isn’t very often I have the pleasure of taking a visitor into my little nest.”
The old girl is slightly dotty, Billy told himself. But at five and sixpence a night, who cares about
that? “I should’ve thought you’d be simply swamped with applicants,” he said politely.
“Oh, I am, my dear, I am, of course I am. But the trouble is that I’m inclined to be just a teeny-
weeny bit choosy and particular—if you see what I mean.”
“But I’m always ready. Everything is always ready day and night in this house just on the off
chance that an acceptable young gentleman will come along. And it is such a pleasure, my dear,
such a very great pleasure when now and again I open the door and I see someone standing there
who is just exactly right.” She was halfway up the stairs, and she paused with one hand on the
stair rail, turning her head and smiling down at him with pale lips. “Like you,” she added, and
her blue eyes traveled slowly all the way down the length of Billy’s body, to his feet, and then up
On the second-floor landing she said to him, “This floor is mine.”
They climbed up another flight. “And this one is all yours,” she said. “Here’s your room. I do
hope you’ll like it.” She took him into a small but charming front bedroom, switching on the
light as she went in.
“The morning sun comes right in the window, Mr. Perkins. It is Mr. Perkins, isn’t it?”
“No,” he said. “It’s Weaver.”
“Mr. Weaver. How nice. I’ve put a water bottle between the sheets to air them out, Mr. Weaver.
It’s such a comfort to have a hot-water bottle in a strange bed with clean sheets, don’t you agree?
And you may light the gas fire at any time if you feel chilly.”
“Thank you,” Billy said. “Thank you ever so much.” He noticed that the bedspread had been
taken off the bed and that the bedclothes had been neatly turned back on one side, all ready for
someone to get in.
“I’m so glad you appeared,” she said, looking earnestly into his face. “I was beginning to get
“That’s all right,” Billy answered brightly. “You mustn’t worry about me.” He put his suitcase
on the chair and started to open it.
“And what about supper, my dear? Did you manage to get anything to eat before you came
“I’m not a bit hungry, thank you,” he said. “I think I’ll just go to bed as soon as possible because
tomorrow I’ve got to get up rather early and report to the office.”
“Very well, then. I’ll leave you now so that you can unpack. But before you go to bed, would
you be kind enough to pop into the sitting room on the ground floor and sign the book? Everyone
has to do that because it’s the law of the land, and we don’t want to go breaking any laws at this
stage in the proceedings, do we?” She gave him a little wave of the hand and went quickly out of
the room and closed the door.
Now, the fact that his landlady appeared to be slightly off her rocker didn’t worry Billy in the
least. After all, she not only was harmless—there was no question about that—but she was also
quite obviously a kind and generous soul. He guessed that she had probably lost a son in the war,
or something like that, and had never gotten over it.
So a few minutes later, after unpacking his suitcase and washing his hands, he trotted downstairs
to the ground floor and entered the living room. His landlady wasn’t there, but the fire was
glowing in the hearth, and the little dachshund was still sleeping soundly in front of it. The room
was wonderfully warm and cozy. I’m a lucky fellow, he thought, rubbing his hands. This is a bit
of all right.
He found the guest book lying open on the piano, so he took out his pen and wrote down his
name and address. There were only two other entries above his on the page, and as one always
does with guest books, he started to read them. One was a Christopher Mulholland from Cardiff.
The other was Gregory W. Temple from Bristol.
That’s funny, he thought suddenly. Christopher Mulholland. It rings a bell.
Now where on earth had he heard that rather unusual name before?
Was it a boy at school? No. Was it one of his sister’s numerous young men, perhaps, or a friend
of his father’s? No, no, it wasn’t any of those. He glanced down again at the book.
231 Cathedral Road, Cardiff
27 Sycamore Drive, Bristol
As a matter of fact, now he came to think of it, he wasn’t at all sure that the second name didn’t
have almost as much of a familiar ring about it as the first.
“Gregory Temple?” he said aloud, searching his memory. “Christopher Mulholland? . . .”
“Such charming boys,” a voice behind him answered, and he turned and saw his landlady sailing
into the room with a large silver tea tray in her hands. She was holding it well out in front of her,
and rather high up, as though the tray were a pair of reins on a frisky horse.
“They sound somehow familiar,” he said.
“They do? How interesting.”
“I’m almost positive I’ve heard those names before somewhere. Isn’t that odd? Maybe it was in
the newspapers. They weren’t famous in any way, were they? I mean famous cricketers7 or
footballers or something like that?”
“Famous,” she said, setting the tea tray down on the low table in front of the sofa. “Oh no, I
don’t think they were famous. But they were incredibly handsome, both of them, I can promise
you that. They were tall and young and handsome, my dear, just exactly like you.”
Once more, Billy glanced down at the book. “Look here,” he said, noticing the dates. “This last
entry is over two years old.”
“Yes, indeed. And Christopher Mulholland’s is nearly a year before that—more than three years
“Dear me,” she said, shaking her head and heaving a dainty little sigh. “I would never have
thought it. How time does fly away from us all, doesn’t it, Mr. Wilkins?”
“It’s Weaver,” Billy said. “W-e-a-v-e-r.”
“Oh, of course it is!” she cried, sitting down on the sofa. “How silly of me. I do apologize. In one
ear and out the other, that’s me, Mr. Weaver.”
“You know something?” Billy said. “Something that’s really quite extraordinary about all this?”
“No, dear, I don’t.”
“Well, you see, both of these names—Mulholland and Temple—I not only seem to remember
each one of them separately, so to speak, but somehow or other, in some peculiar way, they both
appear to be sort of connected together as well. As though they were both famous for the same
sort of thing, if you see what I mean—like . . . well . . . like Dempsey and Tunney, for example,
or Churchill and Roosevelt.”
“How amusing,” she said. “But come over here now, dear, and sit down beside me on the sofa
and I’ll give you a nice cup of tea and a ginger biscuit before you go to bed.”
“You really shouldn’t bother,” Billy said. “I didn’t mean you to do anything like that.” He stood
by the piano, watching her as she fussed about with the cups and saucers. He noticed that she had
small, white, quickly moving hands and red fingernails.
“I’m almost positive it was in the newspapers I saw them,” Billy said. “I’ll think of it in a
second. I’m sure I will.”
There is nothing more tantalizing than a thing like this that lingers just outside the borders of
one’s memory. He hated to give up.
“Now wait a minute,” he said. “Wait just a minute. Mulholland . . . Christopher Mulholland . . .
wasn’t that the name of the Eton schoolboy who was on a walking tour through the West
Country, and then all of a sudden . . .”
“Milk?” she said. “And sugar?”
“Yes, please. And then all of a sudden . . .”
“Eton schoolboy?” she said. “Oh no, my dear, that can’t possibly be right, because my Mr.
Mulholland was certainly not an Eton schoolboy when he came to me. He was a Cambridge
undergraduate. Come over here now and sit next to me and warm yourself in front of this lovely
fire. Come on. Your tea’s all ready for you.” She patted the empty place beside her on the sofa,
and she sat there smiling at Billy and waiting for him to come over.
He crossed the room slowly and sat down on the edge of the sofa. She placed his teacup on the
table in front of him.
“ There we are,” she said. “How nice and cozy this is, isn’t it?”
Billy started sipping his tea. She did the same. For half a minute or so, neither of them spoke.
But Billy knew that she was looking at him. Her body was half turned toward him, and he could
feel her eyes resting on his face, watching him over the rim of her teacup. Now and again, he
caught a whiff of a peculiar smell that seemed to emanate directly from her person. It was not in
the least unpleasant, and it reminded him—well, he wasn’t quite sure what it reminded him of.
Pickled walnuts? New leather? Or was it the corridors of a hospital?
At length, she said, “Mr. Mulholland was a great one for his tea. Never in my life have I seen
anyone drink as much tea as dear, sweet Mr. Mulholland.”
“I suppose he left fairly recently,” Billy said. He was still puzzling his head about the two names.
He was positive now that he had seen them in the newspapers—in the headlines.
“Left?” she said, arching her brows. “But my dear boy, he never left. He’s still here. Mr. Temple
is also here. They’re on the fourth floor, both of them together.”
Billy set his cup down slowly on the table and stared at his landlady. She smiled back at him, and
then she put out one of her white hands and patted him comfortingly on the knee. “How old are
you, my dear?” she asked.
“Seventeen!” she cried. “Oh, it’s the perfect age! Mr. Mulholland was also seventeen. But I think
he was a trifle shorter than you are; in fact I’m sure he was, and his teeth weren’t quite so white.
You have the most beautiful teeth, Mr. Weaver, did you know that?”
“They’re not as good as they look,” Billy said. “They’ve got simply masses of fillings in them at
“Mr. Temple, of course, was a little older,” she said, ignoring his remark. “He was actually
twenty-eight. And yet I never would have guessed it if he hadn’t told me, never in my whole life.
There wasn’t a blemish on his body.”
“A what?” Billy said.
“His skin was just like a baby’s.”
There was a pause. Billy picked up his teacup and took another sip of his tea; then he set it down
again gently in its saucer. He waited for her to say something else, but she seemed to have lapsed
into another of her silences. He sat there staring straight ahead of him into the far corner of the
room, biting his lower lip.
“That parrot,” he said at last. “You know something? It had me completely fooled when I first
saw it through the window. I could have sworn it was alive.”
“Alas, no longer.”
“It’s most terribly clever the way it’s been done,” he said. “It doesn’t look in the least bit dead.
Who did it?”
“ You did?”
“Of course,” she said. “And have you met my little Basil as well?” She nodded toward the
dachshund curled up so comfortably in front of the fire. Billy looked at it. And suddenly, he
realized that this animal had all the time been just as silent and motionless as the parrot. He put
out a hand and touched it gently on the top of its back. The back was hard and cold, and when he
pushed the hair to one side with his fingers, he could see the skin underneath, grayish black and
dry and perfectly preserved.
“Good gracious me,” he said. “How absolutely fascinating.” He turned away from the dog and
stared with deep admiration at the little woman beside him on the sofa. “It must be most awfully
difficult to do a thing like that.”
“Not in the least,” she said. “I stuff all my little pets myself when they pass away. Will you have
another cup of tea?”
“No, thank you,” Billy said. The tea tasted faintly of bitter almonds, and he didn’t much care for
“You did sign the book, didn’t you?”
“That’s good. Because later on, if I happen to forget what you were called, then I could always
come down here and look it up. I still do that almost every day with Mr. Mulholland and Mr. . . .
Mr. . . .”
“Temple,” Billy said, “Gregory Temple. Excuse my asking, but haven’t there been any other
guests here except them in the last two or three years?”
Holding her teacup high in one hand, inclining her head slightly to the left, she looked up at him
out of the corners of her eyes and gave him another gentle little smile.
“No, my dear,” she said. “Only you.”
The Lady Or The Tiger? by Frank Stockton
In the very olden time there lived a semi-barbaric king, whose ideas, though somewhat polished
and sharpened by the progressiveness of distant Latin neighbors, were still large, florid, and
untrammeled, as became the half of him which was barbaric. He was a man of exuberant fancy,
and, withal, of an authority so irresistible that, at his will, he turned his varied fancies into facts.
He was greatly given to self-communing, and, when he and himself agreed upon anything, the
thing was done. When every member of his domestic and political systems moved smoothly in
its appointed course, his nature was bland and genial; but, whenever there was a little hitch, and
some of his orbs got out of their orbits, he was blander and more genial still, for nothing pleased
him so much as to make the crooked straight and crush down uneven places.
Among the borrowed notions by which his barbarism had become semified was that of the
public arena, in which, by exhibitions of manly and beastly valor, the minds of his subjects were
refined and cultured.
But even here the exuberant and barbaric fancy asserted itself. The arena of the king was
built, not to give the people an opportunity of hearing the rhapsodies of dying gladiators, nor to
enable them to view the inevitable conclusion of a conflict between religious opinions and
hungry jaws, but for purposes far better adapted to widen and develop the mental energies of the
people. This vast amphitheater, with its encircling galleries, its mysterious vaults, and its unseen
passages, was an agent of poetic justice, in which crime was punished, or virtue rewarded, by the
decrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance.
When a subject was accused of a crime of sufficient importance to interest the king, public
notice was given that on an appointed day the fate of the accused person would be decided in the
king's arena, a structure which well deserved its name, for, although its form and plan were
borrowed from afar, its purpose emanated solely from the brain of this man, who, every
barleycorn a king, knew no tradition to which he owed more allegiance than pleased his fancy,
and who ingrafted on every adopted form of human thought and action the rich growth of his
When all the people had assembled in the galleries, and the king, surrounded by his court, sat
high up on his throne of royal state on one side of the arena, he gave a signal, a door beneath him
opened, and the accused subject stepped out into the amphitheater. Directly opposite him, on the
other side of the enclosed space, were two doors, exactly alike and side by side. It was the duty
and the privilege of the person on trial to walk directly to these doors and open one of them. He
could open either door he pleased; he was subject to no guidance or influence but that of the
aforementioned impartial and incorruptible chance. If he opened the one, there came out of it a
hungry tiger, the fiercest and most cruel that could be procured, which immediately sprang upon
him and tore him to pieces as a punishment for his guilt. The moment that the case of the
criminal was thus decided, doleful iron bells were clanged, great wails went up from the hired
mourners posted on the outer rim of the arena, and the vast audience, with bowed heads and
downcast hearts, wended slowly their homeward way, mourning greatly that one so young and
fair, or so old and respected, should have merited so dire a fate.
But, if the accused person opened the other door, there came forth from it a lady, the most
suitable to his years and station that his majesty could select among his fair subjects, and to this
lady he was immediately married, as a reward of his innocence. It mattered not that he might
already possess a wife and family, or that his affections might be engaged upon an object of his
own selection; the king allowed no such subordinate arrangements to interfere with his great
scheme of retribution and reward. The exercises, as in the other instance, took place
immediately, and in the arena. Another door opened beneath the king, and a priest, followed by a
band of choristers, and dancing maidens blowing joyous airs on golden horns and treading an
epithalamic measure, advanced to where the pair stood, side by side, and the wedding was
promptly and cheerily solemnized. Then the gay brass bells rang forth their merry peals, the
people shouted glad hurrahs, and the innocent man, preceded by children strewing flowers on his
path, led his bride to his home.
This was the king's semi-barbaric method of administering justice. Its perfect fairness is
obvious. The criminal could not know out of which door would come the lady; he opened either
he pleased, without having the slightest idea whether, in the next instant, he was to be devoured
or married. On some occasions the tiger came out of one door, and on some out of the other. The
decisions of this tribunal were not only fair, they were positively determinate: the accused person
was instantly punished if he found himself guilty, and, if innocent, he was rewarded on the spot,
whether he liked it or not. There was no escape from the judgments of the king's arena.
The institution was a very popular one. When the people gathered together on one of the great
trial days, they never knew whether they were to witness a bloody slaughter or a hilarious
wedding. This element of uncertainty lent an interest to the occasion which it could not otherwise
have attained. Thus, the masses were entertained and pleased, and the thinking part of the
community could bring no charge of unfairness against this plan, for did not the accused person
have the whole matter in his own hands?
This semi-barbaric king had a daughter as blooming as his most florid fancies, and with a soul
as fervent and imperious as his own. As is usual in such cases, she was the apple of his eye, and
was loved by him above all humanity. Among his courtiers was a young man of that fineness of
blood and lowness of station common to the conventional heroes of romance who love royal
maidens. This royal maiden was well satisfied with her lover, for he was handsome and brave to
a degree unsurpassed in all this kingdom, and she loved him with an ardor that had enough of
barbarism in it to make it exceedingly warm and strong. This love affair moved on happily for
many months, until one day the king happened to discover its existence. He did not hesitate nor
waver in regard to his duty in the premises. The youth was immediately cast into prison, and a
day was appointed for his trial in the king's arena. This, of course, was an especially important
occasion, and his majesty, as well as all the people, was greatly interested in the workings and
development of this trial. Never before had such a case occurred; never before had a subject
dared to love the daughter of the king. In after years such things became commonplace enough,
but then they were in no slight degree novel and startling.
The tiger-cages of the kingdom were searched for the most savage and relentless beasts, from
which the fiercest monster might be selected for the arena; and the ranks of maiden youth and
beauty throughout the land were carefully surveyed by competent judges in order that the young
man might have a fitting bride in case fate did not determine for him a different destiny. Of
course, everybody knew that the deed with which the accused was charged had been done. He
had loved the princess, and neither he, she, nor any one else, thought of denying the fact; but the
king would not think of allowing any fact of this kind to interfere with the workings of the
tribunal, in which he took such great delight and satisfaction. No matter how the affair turned
out, the youth would be disposed of, and the king would take an aesthetic pleasure in watching
the course of events, which would determine whether or not the young man had done wrong in
allowing himself to love the princess.
The appointed day arrived. From far and near the people gathered, and thronged the great
galleries of the arena, and crowds, unable to gain admittance, massed themselves against its
outside walls. The king and his court were in their places, opposite the twin doors, those fateful
portals, so terrible in their similarity.
All was ready. The signal was given. A door beneath the royal party opened, and the lover of
the princess walked into the arena. Tall, beautiful, fair, his appearance was greeted with a low
hum of admiration and anxiety. Half the audience had not known so grand a youth had lived
among them. No wonder the princess loved him! What a terrible thing for him to be there!
As the youth advanced into the arena he turned, as the custom was, to bow to the king, but he
did not think at all of that royal personage. His eyes were fixed upon the princess, who sat to the
right of her father. Had it not been for the moiety of barbarism in her nature it is probable that
lady would not have been there, but her intense and fervid soul would not allow her to be absent
on an occasion in which she was so terribly interested. From the moment that the decree had
gone forth that her lover should decide his fate in the king's arena, she had thought of nothing,
night or day, but this great event and the various subjects connected with it. Possessed of more
power, influence, and force of character than any one who had ever before been interested in
such a case, she had done what no other person had done - she had possessed herself of the secret
of the doors. She knew in which of the two rooms, that lay behind those doors, stood the cage of
the tiger, with its open front, and in which waited the lady. Through these thick doors, heavily
curtained with skins on the inside, it was impossible that any noise or suggestion should come
from within to the person who should approach to raise the latch of one of them. But gold, and
the power of a woman's will, had brought the secret to the princess.
And not only did she know in which room stood the lady ready to emerge, all blushing and
radiant, should her door be opened, but she knew who the lady was. It was one of the fairest and
loveliest of the damsels of the court who had been selected as the reward of the accused youth,
should he be proved innocent of the crime of aspiring to one so far above him; and the princess
hated her. Often had she seen, or imagined that she had seen, this fair creature throwing glances
of admiration upon the person of her lover, and sometimes she thought these glances were
perceived, and even returned. Now and then she had seen them talking together; it was but for a
moment or two, but much can be said in a brief space; it may have been on most unimportant
topics, but how could she know that? The girl was lovely, but she had dared to raise her eyes to
the loved one of the princess; and, with all the intensity of the savage blood transmitted to her
through long lines of wholly barbaric ancestors, she hated the woman who blushed and trembled
behind that silent door.
When her lover turned and looked at her, and his eye met hers as she sat there, paler and
whiter than any one in the vast ocean of anxious faces about her, he saw, by that power of quick
perception which is given to those whose souls are one, that she knew behind which door
crouched the tiger, and behind which stood the lady. He had expected her to know it. He
understood her nature, and his soul was assured that she would never rest until she had made
plain to herself this thing, hidden to all other lookers-on, even to the king. The only hope for the
youth in which there was any element of certainty was based upon the success of the princess in
discovering this mystery; and the moment he looked upon her, he saw she had succeeded, as in
his soul he knew she would succeed.
Then it was that his quick and anxious glance asked the question: "Which?" It was as plain to
her as if he shouted it from where he stood. There was not an instant to be lost. The question was
asked in a flash; it must be answered in another.
Her right arm lay on the cushioned parapet before her. She raised her hand, and made a slight,
quick movement toward the right. No one but her lover saw her. Every eye but his was fixed on
the man in the arena.
He turned, and with a firm and rapid step he walked across the empty space. Every heart
stopped beating, every breath was held, every eye was fixed immovably upon that man. Without
the slightest hesitation, he went to the door on the right, and opened it.
Now, the point of the story is this: Did the tiger come out of that door, or did the lady ?
The more we reflect upon this question, the harder it is to answer. It involves a study of the
human heart which leads us through devious mazes of passion, out of which it is difficult to find
our way. Think of it, fair reader, not as if the decision of the question depended upon yourself,
but upon that hot-blooded, semi-barbaric princess, her soul at a white heat beneath the combined
fires of despair and jealousy. She had lost him, but who should have him?
How often, in her waking hours and in her dreams, had she started in wild horror, and covered
her face with her hands as she thought of her lover opening the door on the other side of which
waited the cruel fangs of the tiger!
But how much oftener had she seen him at the other door! How in her grievous reveries had
she gnashed her teeth, and torn her hair, when she saw his start of rapturous delight as he opened
the door of the lady! How her soul had burned in agony when she had seen him rush to meet that
woman, with her flushing cheek and sparkling eye of triumph; when she had seen him lead her
forth, his whole frame kindled with the joy of recovered life; when she had heard the glad shouts
from the multitude, and the wild ringing of the happy bells; when she had seen the priest, with
his joyous followers, advance to the couple, and make them man and wife before her very eyes;
and when she had seen them walk away together upon their path of flowers, followed by the
tremendous shouts of the hilarious multitude, in which her one despairing shriek was lost and
Would it not be better for him to die at once, and go to wait for her in the blessed regions of
And yet, that awful tiger, those shrieks, that blood!
Her decision had been indicated in an instant, but it had been made after days and nights of
anguished deliberation. She had known she would be asked, she had decided what she would
answer, and, without the slightest hesitation, she had moved her hand to the right.
The question of her decision is one not to be lightly considered, and it is not for me to
presume to set myself up as the one person able to answer it. And so I leave it with all of you:
Which came out of the opened door - the lady, or the tiger
Cat in the Rain by Ernest Hemingway
There were only two Americans stopping at the hotel. They did not know any of the people they
passed on the stairs on their way to and from their room. Their room was on the second floor
facing the sea. It also faced the public garden and the war monument. There were big palms and
green benches in the public garden. In the good weather there was always an artist with his
easel. Artists liked the way the palms grew and the bright colors of the hotels facing the gardens
and the sea. Italians came from a long way off to look up at the war monument. It was made of
bronze and glistened in the rain. It was raining. The rain dripped from the palm trees. Water
stood in pools on the gravel paths. The sea broke in a long line in the rain and slipped back
down the beach to come up and break again in a long line in the rain. T he motor cars were gone
from the square by the war monument. Across the square in the doorway of the cafe a waiter
stood looking out at the empty square.
The American wife stood at the window looking out. Outside right under their window a cat was
crouched under one of the dripping green tables. The cat was trying to make herself so compact
that she would not be dripped on.
"I'm going down and get that kitty," the American wife said.
"I'll do it," her husband offered from the bed.
"No, I'll get it. The poor kitty out trying to keep dry under a table."
The husband went on reading, lying propped up with the two pillows at the foot of the bed.
"Don't get wet," he said.
The wife went downstairs and the hotel owner stood up and bowed to her as she passed the
office. His desk was at the far end of the office. He was an old man and very tall.
"Il piove [It's raining]," the wife said. She liked the hotel-keeper.
"si, si, Signora, brutto tempo. It is very bad weather."
He stood behind his desk in the far end of the dim room. The wife liked him. She like dthe
deadly serious way he received any complaints. She liked his dignity. She liked the way he
wanted to serve her. She liked the way he felt about being a hotel-keeper. She liked his old,
heavy face and big hands.
Liking him she opened the door and looked out. It was raining harder. A man in a rubber cape
was crossing the empty square to the cafe. The cat would be around to the right. Perhaps she
could go along under the eaves. As she stood in the doorway an umbrella opened behind her. It
was the maid who looked after their room.
"You must not get wet," she smiled, speaking Italian. Of course, the hotel keeper had sent her.
With the maid holding the umbrella over her, she walked along the gravel path until she was
under their window. The table was there, washed bright green in the rain, but the cat was gone.
She was suddenly disappointed. The maid looked up at her.
"Ha perduto qualque cosa, Signora? [Have you lost something, Madam?]"
"There was a cat," said the American girl.
"Si, il gatto."
"A cat?" the maid laughed. "A cat in the rain?"
"Yes," she said, "under the table." Then. "Oh. I wanted it so much. I wanted a kitty."
When she talked English the maid's face tightened.
"Come, Signora," she said. "We must get back inside. You will be wet."
"I suppose so," said the American girl.
They went back along the gravel path and passed in the door. The maid stayed outside to close
the umbrella. As the American girl passed the office, the padrone bowed from his desk.
Something felt very small and tight inside the girl. The padrone made her feel very small and at
the same time really important. She had a momentary feeling of being of supreme importance.
She went on up the stairs. She opened the door of the room. George was on the bed, reading.
"Did you get the cat?" he asked, putting the book down.
"It was gone."
"Wonder where it went to," he said, resting his eyes from reading.
She sat down on the bed.
"I wanted it so much," she said. "I don't know why I wanted it so much. I wanted that poor
kitty. It isn't any fun to be a poor kitty out in the rain."
George was reading again.
She went over and sat in front of the mirror of the dressing table looking at herself with the hand
glass. She studied her profile, first one side and then the other. Then she studied the back of her
head and her neck.
"Don't you think it would be a good idea if I let my hair grow out?" she asked, looking at her
George looked up and saw the back of her neck, clipped close like a boy's.
"I like it the way it is."
"I get so tired of it," she said. "I get so tired of looking like a boy."
George shifted his position in the bed. He hadn't looked away from her since she started to
"You look pretty darn nice," he said.
She laid the mirror down on the dresser and went over to the window and looked out. It was
"I want to pull my hair back tight and smooth and make a big knot at the back that I can feel,"
she said. "I want to have a kitty to sit on my lap and purr when I stroke her."
"Yeah?" George said from the bed.
"And I want to eat at a table with my own silver and I want candles. And I want it to be spring
and I want to brush my hair out in front of a mirror and I want a kitty and I want some new
"Oh, shut up and get something to read," George said. He was reading again.
His wife was looking out of the window. It was quite dark now and still raining in the palm
"Anyway, I want a cat," she said, "I want a cat. I want a cat now. If I can't have long hair or any
fun, I can have a cat."
George was not listening. He was reading his book. His wife looked out of the window where
the light had come on in the square.
Someone knocked at the door.
"Avanti [Come in]," George said. He looked up from his book.
In the doorway stood the maid. She held a big tortoise-shell cat pressed tight against her and
swung down against her body.
"Excuse me," she said, "the padrone asked me to bring this for the Signora."
The Nightingale and the Rose by Oscar Wilde
"She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses," cried the young Student; "but
in all my garden there is no red rose."
From her nest in the holm-oak tree the Nightingale heard him, and she looked out through the
leaves, and wondered.
"No red rose in all my garden!" he cried, and his beautiful eyes filled with tears. "Ah, on what
little things does happiness depend! I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the
secrets of philosophy are mine, yet for want of a red rose is my life made wretched."
"Here at last is a true lover," said the Nightingale. "Night after night have I sung of him, though I
knew him not: night after night have I told his story to the stars, and now I see him. His hair is
dark as the hyacinth-blossom, and his lips are red as the rose of his desire; but passion has made
his face like pale ivory, and sorrow has set her seal upon his brow."
"The Prince gives a ball to-morrow night," murmured the young Student, "and my love will be of
the company. If I bring her a red rose she will dance with me till dawn. If I bring her a red rose, I
shall hold her in my arms, and she will lean her head upon my shoulder, and her hand will be
clasped in mine. But there is no red rose in my garden, so I shall sit lonely, and she will pass me
by. She will have no heed of me, and my heart will break."
"Here indeed is the true lover," said the Nightingale. "What I sing of, he suffers - what is joy to
me, to him is pain. Surely Love is a wonderful thing. It is more precious than emeralds, and
dearer than fine opals. Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it, nor is it set forth in the
marketplace. It may not be purchased of the merchants, nor can it be weighed out in the balance
"The musicians will sit in their gallery," said the young Student, "and play upon their stringed
instruments, and my love will dance to the sound of the harp and the violin. She will dance so
lightly that her feet will not touch the floor, and the courtiers in their gay dresses will throng
round her. But with me she will not dance, for I have no red rose to give her"; and he flung
himself down on the grass, and buried his face in his hands, and wept.
"Why is he weeping?" asked a little Green Lizard, as he ran past him with his tail in the air.
"Why, indeed?" said a Butterfly, who was fluttering about after a sunbeam.
"Why, indeed?" whispered a Daisy to his neighbour, in a soft, low voice.
"He is weeping for a red rose," said the Nightingale.
"For a red rose?" they cried; "how very ridiculous!" and the little Lizard, who was something of
a cynic, laughed outright.
But the Nightingale understood the secret of the Student's sorrow, and she sat silent in the oak-
tree, and thought about the mystery of Love.
Suddenly she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air. She passed through the
grove like a shadow, and like a shadow she sailed across the garden.
In the centre of the grass-plot was standing a beautiful Rose-tree, and when she saw it she flew
over to it, and lit upon a spray.
"Give me a red rose," she cried, "and I will sing you my sweetest song."
But the Tree shook its head.
"My roses are white," it answered; "as white as the foam of the sea, and whiter than the snow
upon the mountain. But go to my brother who grows round the old sun-dial, and perhaps he will
give you what you want."
So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing round the old sun-dial.
"Give me a red rose," she cried, "and I will sing you my sweetest song."
But the Tree shook its head.
"My roses are yellow," it answered; "as yellow as the hair of the mermaiden who sits upon an
amber throne, and yellower than the daffodil that blooms in the meadow before the mower
comes with his scythe. But go to my brother who grows beneath the Student's window, and
perhaps he will give you what you want."
So the Nightingale flew over to the Rose-tree that was growing beneath the Student's window.
"Give me a red rose," she cried, "and I will sing you my sweetest song."
But the Tree shook its head.
"My roses are red," it answered, "as red as the feet of the dove, and redder than the great fans of
coral that wave and wave in the ocean-cavern. But the winter has chilled my veins, and the frost
has nipped my buds, and the storm has broken my branches, and I shall have no roses at all this
"One red rose is all I want," cried the Nightingale, "only one red rose! Is there no way by which I
can get it?"
"There is away," answered the Tree; "but it is so terrible that I dare not tell it to you."
"Tell it to me," said the Nightingale, "I am not afraid."
"If you want a red rose," said the Tree, "you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it
with your own heart's-blood. You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn. All night
long you must sing to me, and the thorn must pierce your heart, and your life-blood must flow
into my veins, and become mine."
"Death is a great price to pay for a red rose," cried the Nightingale, "and Life is very dear to all.
It is pleasant to sit in the green wood, and to watch the Sun in his chariot of gold, and the Moon
in her chariot of pearl. Sweet is the scent of the hawthorn, and sweet are the bluebells that hide in
the valley, and the heather that blows on the hill. Yet Love is better than Life, and what is the
heart of a bird compared to the heart of a man?"
So she spread her brown wings for flight, and soared into the air. She swept over the garden like
a shadow, and like a shadow she sailed through the grove.
The young Student was still lying on the grass, where she had left him, and the tears were not yet
dry in his beautiful eyes.
"Be happy," cried the Nightingale, "be happy; you shall have your red rose. I will build it out of
music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart's-blood. All that I ask of you in return is that
you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy, though she is wise, and mightier than
Power, though he is mighty. Flame- coloured are his wings, and coloured like flame is his body.
His lips are sweet as honey, and his breath is like frankincense."
The Student looked up from the grass, and listened, but he could not understand what the
Nightingale was saying to him, for he only knew the things that are written down in books.
But the Oak-tree understood, and felt sad, for he was very fond of the little Nightingale who had
built her nest in his branches.
"Sing me one last song," he whispered; "I shall feel very lonely when you are gone."
So the Nightingale sang to the Oak-tree, and her voice was like water bubbling from a silver jar.
When she had finished her song the Student got up, and pulled a note-book and a lead-pencil out
of his pocket.
"She has form," he said to himself, as he walked away through the grove - "that cannot be denied
to her; but has she got feeling? I am afraid not. In fact, she is like most artists; she is all style,
without any sincerity. She would not sacrifice herself for others. She thinks merely of music, and
everybody knows that the arts are selfish. Still, it must be admitted that she has some beautiful
notes in her voice. What a pity it is that they do not mean anything, or do any practical good."
And he went into his room, and lay down on his little pallet-bed, and began to think of his love;
and, after a time, he fell asleep.
And when the Moon shone in the heavens the Nightingale flew to the Rose-tree, and set her
breast against the thorn. All night long she sang with her breast against the thorn, and the cold
crystal Moon leaned down and listened. All night long she sang, and the thorn went deeper and
deeper into her breast, and her life-blood ebbed away from her.
She sang first of the birth of love in the heart of a boy and a girl. And on the top-most spray of
the Rose-tree there blossomed a marvellous rose, petal following petal, as song followed song.
Pale was it, at first, as the mist that hangs over the river - pale as the feet of the morning, and
silver as the wings of the dawn. As the shadow of a rose in a mirror of silver, as the shadow of a
rose in a water-pool, so was the rose that blossomed on the topmost spray of the Tree.
But the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn. "Press closer, little
Nightingale," cried the Tree, "or the Day will come before the rose is finished."
So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and louder and louder grew her song, for she
sang of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and a maid.
And a delicate flush of pink came into the leaves of the rose, like the flush in the face of the
bridegroom when he kisses the lips of the bride. But the thorn had not yet reached her heart, so
the rose's heart remained white, for only a Nightingale's heart's-blood can crimson the heart of a
And the Tree cried to the Nightingale to press closer against the thorn. "Press closer, little
Nightingale," cried the Tree, "or the Day will come before the rose is finished."
So the Nightingale pressed closer against the thorn, and the thorn touched her heart, and a fierce
pang of pain shot through her. Bitter, bitter was the pain, and wilder and wilder grew her song,
for she sang of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.
And the marvellous rose became crimson, like the rose of the eastern sky. Crimson was the
girdle of petals, and crimson as a ruby was the heart.
But the Nightingale's voice grew fainter, and her little wings began to beat, and a film came over
her eyes. Fainter and fainter grew her song, and she felt something choking her in her throat.
Then she gave one last burst of music. The white Moon heard it, and she forgot the dawn, and
lingered on in the sky. The red rose heard it, and it trembled all over with ecstasy, and opened its
petals to the cold morning air. Echo bore it to her purple cavern in the hills, and woke the
sleeping shepherds from their dreams. It floated through the reeds of the river, and they carried
its message to the sea.
"Look, look!" cried the Tree, "the rose is finished now"; but the Nightingale made no answer, for
she was lying dead in the long grass, with the thorn in her heart.
And at noon the Student opened his window and looked out.
"Why, what a wonderful piece of luck!" he cried; "here is a red rose! I have never seen any rose
like it in all my life. It is so beautiful that I am sure it has a long Latin name"; and he leaned
down and plucked it.
Then he put on his hat, and ran up to the Professor's house with the rose in his hand.
The daughter of the Professor was sitting in the doorway winding blue silk on a reel, and her
little dog was lying at her feet.
"You said that you would dance with me if I brought you a red rose," cried the Student. "Here is
the reddest rose in all the world. You will wear it to-night next your heart, and as we dance
together it will tell you how I love you."
But the girl frowned.
"I am afraid it will not go with my dress," she answered; "and, besides, the Chamberlain's
nephew has sent me some real jewels, and everybody knows that jewels cost far more than
"Well, upon my word, you are very ungrateful," said the Student angrily; and he threw the rose
into the street, where it fell into the gutter, and a cart-wheel went over it.
"Ungrateful!" said the girl. "I tell you what, you are very rude; and, after all, who are you? Only
a Student. Why, I don't believe you have even got silver buckles to your shoes as the
Chamberlain's nephew has"; and she got up from her chair and went into the house.
"What I a silly thing Love is," said the Student as he walked away. "It is not half as useful as
Logic, for it does not prove anything, and it is always telling one of things that are not going to
happen, and making one believe things that are not true. In fact, it is quite unpractical, and, as in
this age to be practical is everything, I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics."
So he returned to his room and pulled out a great dusty book, and began to read.
The Open Window by Saki
"My aunt will be down presently, Mr. Nuttel," said a very self-possessed young lady of fifteen;
"in the meantime you must try and put up with me."
Framton Nuttel endeavoured to say the correct something which should duly flatter the niece
of the moment without unduly discounting the aunt that was to come. Privately he doubted more
than ever whether these formal visits on a succession of total strangers would do much towards
helping the nerve cure which he was supposed to be undergoing.
"I know how it will be," his sister had said when he was preparing to migrate to this rural
retreat; "you will bury yourself down there and not speak to a living soul, and your nerves will be
worse than ever from moping. I shall just give you letters of introduction to all the people I know
there. Some of them, as far as I can remember, were quite nice."
Framton wondered whether Mrs. Sappleton, the lady to whom he was presenting one of the
letters of introduction came into the nice division.
"Do you know many of the people round here?" asked the niece, when she judged that they
had had sufficient silent communion.
"Hardly a soul," said Framton. "My sister was staying here, at the rectory, you know, some
four years ago, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here."
He made the last statement in a tone of distinct regret.
"Then you know practically nothing about my aunt?" pursued the self-possessed young lady.
"Only her name and address," admitted the caller. He was wondering whether Mrs. Sappleton
was in the married or widowed state. An undefinable something about the room seemed to
suggest masculine habitation.
"Her great tragedy happened just three years ago," said the child; "that would be since your
"Her tragedy?" asked Framton; somehow in this restful country spot tragedies seemed out of
"You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon," said the
niece, indicating a large French window that opened on to a lawn.
"It is quite warm for the time of the year," said Framton; "but has that window got anything to
do with the tragedy?"
"Out through that window, three years ago to a day, her husband and her two young brothers
went off for their day's shooting. They never came back. In crossing the moor to their favourite
snipe-shooting ground they were all three engulfed in a treacherous piece of bog. It had been that
dreadful wet summer, you know, and places that were safe in other years gave way suddenly
without warning. Their bodies were never recovered. That was the dreadful part of it." Here the
child's voice lost its self-possessed note and became falteringly human. "Poor aunt always thinks
that they will come back someday, they and the little brown spaniel that was lost with them, and
walk in at that window just as they used to do. That is why the window is kept open every
evening till it is quite dusk. Poor dear aunt, she has often told me how they went out, her husband
with his white waterproof coat over his arm, and Ronnie, her youngest brother, singing 'Bertie,
why do you bound?' as he always did to tease her, because she said it got on her nerves. Do you
know, sometimes on still, quiet evenings like this, I almost get a creepy feeling that they will all
walk in through that window - "
She broke off with a little shudder. It was a relief to Framton when the aunt bustled into the
room with a whirl of apologies for being late in making her appearance.
"I hope Vera has been amusing you?" she said.
"She has been very interesting," said Framton.
"I hope you don't mind the open window," said Mrs. Sappleton briskly; "my husband and
brothers will be home directly from shooting, and they always come in this way. They've been
out for snipe in the marshes today, so they'll make a fine mess over my poor carpets. So like you
menfolk, isn't it?"
She rattled on cheerfully about the shooting and the scarcity of birds, and the prospects for
duck in the winter. To Framton it was all purely horrible. He made a desperate but only partially
successful effort to turn the talk on to a less ghastly topic, he was conscious that his hostess was
giving him only a fragment of her attention, and her eyes were constantly straying past him to the
open window and the lawn beyond. It was certainly an unfortunate coincidence that he should
have paid his visit on this tragic anniversary.
"The doctors agree in ordering me complete rest, an absence of mental excitement, and
avoidance of anything in the nature of violent physical exercise," announced Framton, who
laboured under the tolerably widespread delusion that total strangers and chance acquaintances
are hungry for the least detail of one's ailments and infirmities, their cause and cure. "On the
matter of diet they are not so much in agreement," he continued.
"No?" said Mrs. Sappleton, in a voice which only replaced a yawn at the last moment. Then
she suddenly brightened into alert attention - but not to what Framton was saying.
"Here they are at last!" she cried. "Just in time for tea, and don't they look as if they were
muddy up to the eyes!"
Framton shivered slightly and turned towards the niece with a look intended to convey
sympathetic comprehension. The child was staring out through the open window with a dazed
horror in her eyes. In a chill shock of nameless fear Framton swung round in his seat and looked
in the same direction.
In the deepening twilight three figures were walking across the lawn towards the window,
they all carried guns under their arms, and one of them was additionally burdened with a white
coat hung over his shoulders. A tired brown spaniel kept close at their heels. Noiselessly they
neared the house, and then a hoarse young voice chanted out of the dusk: "I said, Bertie, why do
Framton grabbed wildly at his stick and hat; the hall door, the gravel drive, and the front gate
were dimly noted stages in his headlong retreat. A cyclist coming along the road had to run into
the hedge to avoid imminent collision.
"Here we are, my dear," said the bearer of the white mackintosh, coming in through the
window, "fairly muddy, but most of it's dry. Who was that who bolted out as we came up?"
"A most extraordinary man, a Mr. Nuttel," said Mrs. Sappleton; "could only talk about his
illnesses, and dashed off without a word of goodby or apology when you arrived. One would
think he had seen a ghost."
"I expect it was the spaniel," said the niece calmly; "he told me he had a horror of dogs. He
was once hunted into a cemetery somewhere on the banks of the Ganges by a pack of pariah
dogs, and had to spend the night in a newly dug grave with the creatures snarling and grinning
and foaming just above him. Enough to make anyone lose their nerve."
Romance at short notice was her speciality.
Indian Camp by Ernest Hemingway
At the lake shore there was another rowboat drawn up. The two Indians stood waiting.
Nick and his father got in the stern of the boat and the Indians shoved it off and one of them
got in to row. Uncle George sat in the stern of the camp rowboat. The young Indian shoved the
camp boat off and got in to row Uncle George.
The two boats started off in the dark. Nick heard the oarlocks of the other boat quite a way
ahead of them in the mist. The Indians rowed with quick choppy strokes. Nick lay back with his
father's arm around him. It was cold on the water. The Indian who was rowing them was working
very hard, but the other boat moved further ahead in the mist all the time.
"Where are we going, Dad?" Nick asked.
"Over to the Indian camp. There is an Indian lady very sick."
"Oh," said Nick.
Across the bay they found the other boat beached. Uncle George was smoking a cigar in the
dark. The young Indian pulled the boat way up on the beach. Uncle George gave both the Indians
They walked up from the beach through a meadow that was soaking wet with dew, following
the young Indian who carried a lantern. Then they went into the woods and followed a trail that
led to the logging road that ran back into the hills. It was much lighter on the logging road as the
timber was cut away on both sides. The young Indian stopped and blew out his lantern and they
all walled on along the road.
They came around a bend and a dog came out barking. Ahead were the lights of the shanties
where the Indian bark-peelers lived. More dogs rushed out at them. The two Indians sent them
back to the shanties. In the shanty nearest the road there was a light in the window. An old
woman stood in the doorway holding a lamp.
Inside on a wooden bunk lay a young Indian woman. She had been trying to have her baby for
two days. All the old women in the camp had been helping her. The men had moved off up the
road to sit in the dark and smoke cut of range of the noise she made. She screamed just as Nick
and the two Indians followed his father and Uncle George into the shanty. She lay in the lower
bunk, very big under a quilt. Her head was turned to one side. In the upper bunk was her
husband. He had cut his foot very badly with an ax three days before. He was smoking a pipe.
The room smelled very bad.
Nick's father ordered some water to be put on the stove, and while it was heating he spoke to
"This lady is going to have a baby, Nick," he said.
"I know," said Nick.
"You don't know," said his father. "Listen to me. What she is going through is called being in
labor. The baby wants to be born and she wants it to be born. All her muscles are trying to get
the baby born. That is what is happening when she screams."
"I see," Nick said.
Just then the woman cried out.
"Oh, Daddy, can't you give her something to make her stop screaming?" asked Nick.
"No. I haven't any anaesthetic," his father said. "But her screams are not important. I don't hear
them because they are not important."
The husband in the upper bunk rolled over against the wall.
The woman in the kitchen motioned to the doctor that the water was hot. Nick's father went
into the kitchen and poured about half of the water out of the big kettle into a basin. Into the
water left in the kettle he put several things he unwrapped from a handkerchief.
"Those must boil," he said, and began to scrub his hands in the basin of hot water with a cake
of soap he had brought from the camp. Nick watched his father's hands scrubbing each other
with the soap. While his father washed his hands very carefully and thoroughly, he talked.
"You see, Nick, babies are supposed to be born head first but sometimes they're not. When
they're not they make a lot of trouble for everybody. Maybe I'll have to operate on this lady.
We'll know in a little while."
When he was satisfied with his hands he went in and went to work.
"Pull back that quilt, will you, George?" he said. "I'd rather not touch it."
Later when he started to operate Uncle George and three Indian men held the woman still. She
bit Uncle George on the arm and Uncle George said, "Damn squaw bitch!" and the young Indian
who had rowed Uncle George over laughed at him. Nick held the basin for his father. It all took a
His father picked the baby up and slapped it to make it breathe and handed it to the old
"See, it's a boy, Nick," he said. "How do you like being an interne?"
Nick said. "All right." He was looking away so as not to see what his father was doing.
"There. That gets it," said his father and put something into the basin.
Nick didn't look at it.
"Now," his father said, "there's some stitches to put in. You can watch this or not, Nick, just as
you like. I'm going to sew up the incision I made."
Nick did not watch. His curiosity had been gone for a long time.
His father finished and stood up. Uncle George and the three Indian men stood up. Nick put
the basin out in the kitchen.
Uncle George looked at his arm. The young Indian smiled reminiscently.
"I'll put some peroxide on that, George," the doctor said.
He bent over the Indian woman. She was quiet now and her eyes were closed. She looked very
pale. She did not know what had become of the baby or anything.
"I'll be back in the morning." the doctor said, standing up.
"The nurse should be here from St. Ignace by noon and she'll bring everything we need."
He was feeling exalted and talkative as football players are in the dressing room after a game.
"That's one for the medical journal, George," he said. "Doing a Caesarian with a jack-knife
and sewing it up with nine-foot, tapered gut leaders."
Uncle George was standing against the wall, looking at his arm.
"Oh, you're a great man, all right," he said.
"Ought to have a look at the proud father. They're usually the worst sufferers in these little
affairs," the doctor said. "I must say he took it all pretty quietly."
He pulled back the blanket from the Indian's head. His hand came away wet. He mounted on
the edge of the lower bunk with the lamp in one hand and looked in. The Indian lay with his face
toward the wall. His throat had been cut from ear to ear. The blood had flowed down into a pool
where his body sagged the bunk. His head rested on his left arm. The open razor lay, edge up, in
"Take Nick out of the shanty, George," the doctor said.
There was no need of that. Nick, standing in the door of the kitchen, had a good view of the
upper bunk when his father, the lamp in one hand, tipped the Indian's head back.
It was just beginning to be daylight when they walked along the logging road back toward the
"I'm terribly sorry I brought you along; Nickie," said his father, all his post-operative
exhilaration gone. "It was an awful mess to put you through."
"Do ladies always have such a hard time having babies?" Nick asked.
"No, that was very, very exceptional."
"Why did he kill himself, Daddy?"
"I don't know, Nick. He couldn't stand things, I guess."
"Do many men kill themselves, Daddy?"
"Not very many, Nick."
"Do many women?"
"Don't they ever?"
"Oh, yes. They do sometimes."
"Where did Uncle George go?"
"He'll turn up all right."
"Is dying hard, Daddy?"
"No, I think it's pretty easy, Nick. It all depends."
They were seated in the boat. Nick in the stern, his father rowing. The sun was coming up over
the hills. A bass jumped, making a circle in the water. Nick trailed his hand in the water. It felt
warm in the sharp chill of the morning.
In the early morning on the lake sitting in the stern of the boat with his father rowing; he felt
quite sure that he would never die.
Pink Bow Tie by Paul Jennings
Well, here I am again, sitting outside thePrincipal's office. And I've only been at the school
fortwo days. Two lots of trouble in two days! Yesterday I got punished for nothing. Nothing at
all. I see this bloke walking along the street wearing a
pink bow tie. It looks like a great pink butterfly attacking his neck. It is the silliest bow tie I have
'’What are you staring at, lad?' says the bloke. He is in a bad mood.
'Your bow tie,' I tell him. 'It is ridiculous. It looks like a pink vampire.' It is so funny that I start
to laugh my head off.
Nobody tells me that this bloke is Old Splodge, the Principal of the school. He doesn't see the
joke and he decides to punish me. Life is very unfair.
Now I am in trouble again. I am sitting here outside Old Splodge's office waiting for him to call
Well, at least I've got something good to look at. Old Splodge's secretary is sitting there typing
some letters. She is called Miss Newham and she is a real
knockout. Every boy in the school is in love with her. I wish she was my girlfriend, but as she is
seventeen and I am only fourteen there is not much hope. Still,
she doesn't have a boyfriend so there is always a chance.
She is looking at me and smiling. I can feel my face going red. 'Why have you dyed your hair
blond?' she asks sweetly. 'Didn't you know it is against the
school rules for boys to dye their hair?' I try to think of a very impressive answer but before I can
say anything Old Splodge sticks his head around the office door. 'Come in, boy,' he says.
I go in and sit down. 'Well, lad,' says Old Splodge. 'Why have you dyed your hair? Trying to be a
surfie, eh?' He is a grumpy old boy. He is due to retire next
year and he does not want to go. I notice that he is still wearing the pink bow tie. He always
wears this bow tie. He cannot seem to live without it. I try not to look at it as I answer him. 'I did
not dye my hair, sir,' I say.
'Yesterday,' says Splodge, 'when I saw you, I noticed
that you had black hair. Am I correct?'
'Yes, sir,' I answer.
'Then tell me, lad,' he says, 'how is it that your hair is white today?' I notice that little purple
veins are standing out on his bald head. This is a bad sign.
'It's a long story,' I tell him.
'Tell me the long story,' he says. 'And it had better be good.' .
I look him straight in the eye and this is what I tell him.
I am a very nervous person. Very sensitive. I get scared easily. I am scared of the dark. I am
scared of ghost stories. I am even scared of the Cookie Monster on
Sesame Street. Yesterday I am going home on the train after being in trouble at school and I am
in a carriage with some very strange people. There is an old lady with a 60 walking stick, grey
hair and gold wire-rim glasses. She is bent right over and can hardly walk. There is also a mean,
skinny-looking guy sitting next to me. He looks like he would cut your throat for two bob. Next
to him is a kid of about my age and he is smoking. You are not allowed to smoke when you are
fourteen. This is why I am not smoking at the time.
After about five minutes a ticket collector puts his head around the door. He looks straight at the
kid who is smoking. 'Put that cigarette out,' he says. 'You are too
young to smoke.' The kid does not stop smoking. He picks up this thing that looks like a radio
and twiddles a knob. Then he starts to grow older in front of our eyes. He just slowly changes
until he looks about twenty-five. 'How's that?' he says to
the ticket collector. 'Am I old enough now?'
The ticket collector gives an almighty scream and runs down the corridor as fast as his legs can
take him. The rest of us just sit there looking at the kid (who is now a
man) with our mouths hanging open.
'How did you do' that?' trembles the old lady. She is very interested indeed.
'Easy,' says the kid-man as he stands up. The train is stopping at a station. 'Here,' he says
throwing the radio thing on to her lap. 'You can have it if you want.' He goes out of the
compartment, down the corridor and gets off the train.
We all stare at the box-looking thing. It has a sliding knob on it. Along the right-hand side it says
OLDER and at the left end it says YOUNGER. On the top is a label saying AGE RAGER.
The mean-looking bloke sitting next to me makes a sudden lunge forward and tries to grab the
Age Rager but the old lady is too quick for him, 'No you don't,' she says and shoves him off.
Quick as a flash she pushes the knob a couple of centimetres down towards the YOUNGER end.
Straight away she starts to grow younger. In about one minute she looks as if she is sixteen. She
is sixteen. She looks kind of pretty in the old lady's glasses and old-fashioned clothes. It makes
her look like a hippy. 'Cool,' she shouts, throwing off her shawl. She throws the Age Rager over
to me, runs down the corridor and jumps off the train just as it is pulling out of the station.
'Give that to me,' says the mean-looking guy. Like I told you before, I am no hero. I am scared of
my own shadow. I do not like violence or scary things so I hand over the Age Rager to Mean
Face. He grabs the Age Rager from me and pushes theknob nearly up to the end where it says
Straight away he starts to grow younger but he does not stop at sixteen. In no time at all there is a
baby sitting next to me in a puddle of adult clothes.
He is only about one year old. He looks at me with a wicked smile. He sure is a mean-looking
baby. 'Bad, Dad Dad,' he says.
'I am not your Dad Dad,' I say. 'Give me that before you hurt yourself.' The baby shakes his head
and puts the Age Rager behind his back. I can see that he is not going to hand it over. He thinks
it is a toy.
Then, before I can move, he pushes the knob right up to the OLDER end. A terrible sight meets
my eyes. He starts to get older and older. First he is about sixteen, then thirty, then sixty, then
eighty, then one hundred and then he is dead. But it does not stop there. His body starts to rot
away until all that is left is a skeleton.
I give a terrible scream and run to the door but I cannot get out because it is jammed. I kick and
shout but I cannot get out. I open the window but the train is going too fast for me to escape.
And that is how my hair gets white. I have to sit in that carriage with a dead skeleton for fifteen
minutes. I am terrified. I am shaking with fear. It is the most horrible thing that has ever
happened to me. My hair goes white in just fifteen minutes. I am frightened into being a blond.
When the train stops I get out of the window and walk all the rest of the way home.
'And that,' I say to Splodge, 'is the truth.'
Splodge is fiddling with his pink bow tie. His face is turning the same colour. I can see that he is
about to freak out. 'What utter rubbish,' he yells. 'Do you take me for a fool? Do you expect me
to believe that yarn?'
'I can prove it,' I say. I get the Age Rager out of my bag and put it on his desk.
Splodge picks it up and looks at it carefully; 'You can go now, lad,' he says in a funny voice. 'I
will send a letter home to your parents telling them that you are suspended from school for
I walk sadly back to class. My parents will kill me if I am suspended from school.
For the next two weeks I worry about the letter showing up in the letter box. But nothing
happens. I am saved.
Well, it is not quite true that nothing happens. Two things happen: one good and one bad. The
good thing is that Splodge disappears and is never seen again.
The bad thing is that Miss Newham gets a boyfriend. He is about eighteen and is good-looking.
It is funny though. Why would she go out with a kid who wears pink bow tie?