Month: April 2019

Memnon the Philosopher or Human Wisdom part 5

Memnon the Philosopher or Human Wisdom part 5

Petrified with astonishment, and his heart broken with grief, Memnon returns homeward in despair. As he was about to enter his house, he is repulsed by a number of officers who are carrying off his furniture for the benefit of his creditors: he falls down almost lifeless under a plane tree. There he finds the fair dame, of the morning, who was walking with her dear uncle; and both set up a loud laugh on seeing Memnon with his plaster.

The night approached, and Memnon made his bed on some straw near the walls of his house. Here the ague seized him, and he fell asleep in one of the fits, when a celestial spirit appeared to him in a dream.

It was all resplendent with light: it had six beautiful wings, but neither feet nor head nor tail, and could be likened to nothing. “What art thou?” said Memnon. “Thy good genius,” replied the spirit. “Restore to me then my eye, my health, my fortune, my reason,” said Memnon; and he related how he had lost them all in…

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Memnon the Philosopher or Human Wisdom part 4

Memnon the Philosopher or Human Wisdom part 4

He sleeps out his debauch, and when his head has got a little clear, he sends his servant to the Receiver General of the finances of Nineveh to draw a little money to pay his debts of honor to his intimate friends. The servant returns and informs him that the Receiver General had that morning been declared a fraudulent bankrupt and that by this means an hundred families are reduced to poverty and despair. Mem¬non, almost beside himself, puts a plaster on his eye and a petition in his pocket, and goes to court to solicit justice from the king against the bankrupt.

Four-and-twenty feet in circum¬ference

In the saloon he meets a number of ladies all in the highest spirits, and sailing along with hoops four-and-twenty feet in circum-ference. One of them, who knew him a little, eyed him askance, and cried aloud, “Ah! What a horrid monster!” Another, who was better acquainted with him, thus accosts him, “Good-morrow, Mr. Memnon. I hope you are very well, M…

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Memnon the Philosopher or Human Wisdom part 3

Memnon the Philosopher or Human Wisdom part 3

Their discourse was full of tenderness, which redoubled as pften as their eyes met. Memnon took her affairs exceedingly to heart, and felt himself every instant more and more inclined to oblige a person so virtuous and so unhappy. By degrees, in the warmth of conversation, they ceased to sit opposite; they drew nearer; their legs were no longer crossed. Memnon counseled her so closely and gave her such tender advices that neither of them could talk any longer of business nor well knew what they were about.

At this interesting moment, as may easily be imagined, who should come in but the uncle; he was armed from head to foot, and the first thing he said was, that he would immediately sacrifice, as was just, the sage Memnon and his niece; the latter, who made her escape, knew that he was well enough disposed to pardon, provided a good round sum were offered to him.

Memnon was obliged to purchase his safety with all he had about him. In those days people were happy…

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Memnon the Philosopher or Human Wisdom part 2

Memnon the Philosopher or Human Wisdom part 2

But, says Memnon, I must think a little of how I am to regulate my fortune; why, my desires are moderate, my wealth is securely placed with tjie Receiver General of the finances of Nineveh: I have where¬withal to live independent; and that is the greatest of blessings. I shall never be under the cruel necessity of dancing attendance at court: I will never envy anyone, and nobody will envy me; still, all this is easy. I have friends, continued he, and I will preserve them, for we shall never have any difference; I will never take amiss anything they may say or do; and they will behave in the same way to me. There is no difficulty in all this.

Having thus laid his little plan of philosophy in his closet, Memnon put his head out of the window. He saw two women walking under the plane trees near his house. The one was old, and appeared quite at her ease. The other was young, handsome, and seemingly much agitated: she sighed, she wept, and seemed on that account still more bea…

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Memnon the Philosopher or Human Wisdom part 1

Memnon the Philosopher or Human Wisdom part 1

Voltaire (Francois-Marie Arouet) (1694-1779)

Voltaire was born in Paris in 1694. His early education was received at a Jesuit school. He began writing verses at an early age, and though his father wished him to study law, he continued to write. He was several times imprisoned for libellous verses and often forced to go into exile.

A good part of his life he spent away from France. For over half a century he dominated the intellectual and artistic life of Europe, writing plays, histories, pamphlets, stories and satires. He was one of the greatest French writers and one of the most influential thinkers of modern times. His stories, of which he wrote a fairly large number, are philosophical and satirical tracts cast into narrative form. Memnon is what is known as a philosophical tale: it is one of the keenest satires Voltaire ever wrote.

The present version, anonymously translated, appeared originally in Romances, Tales, and Smaller Pieces of M. de Volt…

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The Falcon part 5

The Falcon part 5

“Since the hour, most honored lady,” began Federigo, “that I first fixed my affection on you, I have always found Fortune most perverse and cruel to me, but all her blows I consider light in comparison with the one she has now dealt me, seeing that you have condescended to visit my house, which when I was rich you’ would not deign to enter, and entreat me for so small a gift; for she has so contrived that it is not in my power to grant it you, and why it is not, you shall briefly hear.

When you informed me that you meant to honor me with your company to dinner, considering your rank, and that it was only proper that I should pay you due honor by procuring every delicacy in my power, as is becoming on such occasions, and recollecting the falcon which you now request of me, and its many excellent qualities, I considered it a dish not unworthy to be placed before you, and I therefore this morning served it up to you roasted at dinner, a thing which at the time I…

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The Falcon part 4

The Falcon part 4

He then spread on his table a napkin of snowy whiteness, one of the few things which yet remained to him of his former possessions, and after some time, with a cheerful aspect returned into the garden to the lady, and told her that a dinner, the best he could provide, was prepared for her. On this the lady with her companion went and seated themselves at the table, where Federigo with great courtesy waited on them, whilst they unknowingly ate his favorite bird.

Turning politely to Federigo

When they had risen from table, after some agreeable conversation, it seemed to the lady to be now a proper time to make known the purpose of her visit, and turning politely to Federigo, she thus spoke: “Calling to recollection your past life, Federigo, and remembering my reserve, which you perhaps esteemed hardheartedness and cruelty, I doubt not that you will wonder at my presumption when you learn the object of my visit; but if you now had, or ever had had children, an…

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The Falcon part 3

The Falcon part 3

She then said to her son, “My dear son, be comforted, and get well, for I promise you that the first thing in the morning, I will go myself for the falcon, and bring it to you.” This promise brought a beam of joy into the boy`s countenance, and the same day he showed evident signs of amendment. The next morning Monna Giovanna, taking with her another lady as a companion, proceeded to Federigo`s humble habitation, and inquired for him. As it happened not to be a day fit for hawking, he was in his garden, and desired one of his people to go to the gate. He was beyond measure surprised when he heard that Monna Giovanna was asking for him, and ran in great joy to meet her. As soon as she saw him approach she gracefully moved to meet him, and respectfully saluting him, said, “Federigo, I am come to recompense you in some sort for the evil you have received at my hands, at a time when you loved me more than was wise on your part, and the recompense I intend is to make myself and…

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The Falcon part 2

The Falcon part 2

Being thus unable to live any longer in the city in the style he was accustomed to, and being more than ever enamored of the lady, he departed to his little estate in the country, and there, without inviting any one to his house, he amused himself with his falcon, and endured his poverty with tranquil patience. It happened that when Federigo was reduced to this extremity, the husband of Monna Giovanna fell sick, and feeling the approach of death, made his will, leaving his possessions, which were very great, to an only son now growing up, and in the event of the son`s death, to Monna Giovanna,.whom he dearly loved; and he had no sooner subscribed his will than he died. Monna Giovanna having thus become a widow, went according to the custom of our ladies to pass her year of mourning in retirement, removing to one of her estates very near to the farm of Federigo.

Repetition of these questions

Hereupon it happened that her son was accustomed to visit Federigo,…

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The Falcon part 1

The Falcon part 1

Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375)

Boccaccio is one of the supreme figures in Italian literature. Great as a reformer of the language, he was at the same time a born teller of tales. He tells us that he wrote stories at the age of seven. He was an enthusiastic traveller and observer of his fellow-men, a scholar, a scientist, and an official of the Florentine state. His most famous book, The Decameron, a collection of a hundred stories, was written soon after the great plague of 1348, which serves as a framework for the telling of the tales. Boccaccio took his material from fables, the histories of Greece and Rome and of the Orient, and occasionally from contemporary life. His best stories have been adapted by Shakespeare and a hundred others in plays, poems, and prose fiction.

The present version is translated by Thomas Roscoe and reprinted from his Italian Novelists, London, no date. The story has no title in the original.

The Falcon

(The Dec…

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The Mysterious Mansion part 10

The Mysterious Mansion part 10

When the wall was about half-way up, the sly workman took advantage of a moment when the Count`s back was turned, to strike a blow with his trowel in one of the glass panes of the closet-door. This act informed Madame de Merret that Rosalie had spoken to Gorenflot.

All three then saw a man`s face; it was dark and gloomy with black hair and eyes of flame. Before her husband turned, the poor woman had time to make a sign to the stranger that signified: Hope!

At four o`clock, toward dawn, for it was the month of September, the construction was finished. The mason was handed over to the care of Jean, and Monsieur de Merret went to bed in his wife`s room.

On rising the following morning, he said carelessly:

“The deuce! I must go to the Mairie for the passport.” He put his hat on his head, advanced three steps toward the door, altered his mind and took the crucifix.

Madame de Merret

His wife trembled for joy. “He…

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The Mysterious Mansion part 9

The Mysterious Mansion part 9

The Count had lately had all the ceilings of his reception rooms on the ground floor repaired. Plaster of Paris is difficult to obtain in Ven- dome; the carriage raises its price. The Count had therefore bought a good deal, being well aware that he could find plenty of purchasers for whatever might remain over. This circumstance inspired him with the design he was about to execute.

“Sir, Gorenflot has arrived,” said Rosalie in low tones.

“Show him in,” replied the Count in loud tones.

Madame de Merret turned rather pale when she saw the mason.

“Gorenflot,” said her husband, “go and fetch bricks from the coach¬house, and bring sufficient to wall up the door of this closet; you will use the plaster I have over to coat the wall with.” Then calling Rosalie and the workman aside:

“Listen, Gorenflot,” he said in an undertone, “you will sleep here to-night. But to-morrow you will have a passport to a foreign country,…

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The Mysterious Mansion part 8

The Mysterious Mansion part 8

At these words Madame de Merret turned a haggard gaze upon her husband.

“Here, take your crucifix,” he added. “Swear to me before God that there is no one in there; I will believe you, I will never open that door.” Madame de Merret took the crucifix and said:

“I swear.”

“Louder,” said the husband, “and repeat `I swear before God that there is no one in that closet`. ”

She repeated the sentence calmly.

“That will do,” said Monsieur de Merret, coldly.

After a moment of silence:

“I never saw this pretty toy before,” he said, examining the ebony crucifix inlaid with silver, and most artistically chiseled.

“I found it at Duvivier`s, who bought it of a Spanish monk when the prisoners passed through Vendome last year.”

“Ah!” said Monsieur de Merret, as he replaced the crucifix on the nail, and he rang. Rosalie did not keep him waiting. Monsieur de Merret went…

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The Mysterious Mansion part 7

The Mysterious Mansion part 7

His unmistakable step resounded under the vaulted corridor. At the moment that the Count turned the handle of his wife`s door, he fancied he could hear the door of the closet I spoke of close; but when he entered Madame de Merret was alone before the fireplace. The husband thought ingenuously that Rosalie was in the closet, yet a suspicion that jangled in his ear put him on his guard. He looked at his wife and saw in her eyes I know not what wild and hunted expres¬sion.

“You are very late,” she said. Her habitually pure, sweet voice seemed changed to him.

Monsieur de Merret did not reply, for at that moment Rosalie entered. It was a thunderbolt for him. He strode about the room, passing from one window to the other, with mechanical motion and folded arms.

“Have you heard bad news, or are you unwell?” inquired his wife timidly, while Rosalie undressed her.

He kept silent.

“You can leave me,” said Madame de Merret to her…

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The Mysterious Mansion part 6

The Mysterious Mansion part 6

One morning I said to Rosalie: “Tell me all you know about Madame de Merret.”

“Oh!” she replied in terror, “do not ask that of me, Monsieur Horace.”

Her pretty face fell—her clear, bright color faded—and her eyes lost their innocent brightness.

“Well, then,” she said, at last, “if you must have it so, I will tell you about it; but promise to keep my secret!”

“Done! my dear girl, I must keep your secret with the honor of a thief, which is the most loyal in the world.”

Were I to transcribe Rosalie`s diffuse eloquence faithfully, an entire volume would scarcely contain it; so I shall abridge.

The room occupied by Madame de Merret at the Breteche was on the ground floor. A little closet about four feet deep, built in the thick¬ness of the wall, served as her wardrobe. Three months before the eventful evening of which I am about to speak, Madame de Merret had been so seriously indisposed that her h…

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The Mysterious Mansion part 5

The Mysterious Mansion part 5

After exchanging a few more words with me, my landlady left me a prey to vague and gloomy thoughts, to a romantic curiosity, and a religious terror not unlike the profound impression produced on us when by night, on entering a dark church, we perceive a faint light under high arches; a vague figure glides by—the rustle of a robe or cassock is heard, and we shudder.

Suddenly the Grande Breteche and its tall weeds, its barred windows, its rusty ironwork, its closed doors, its deserted apartments, appeared like a fantastic apparition before me. I essayed to penetrate the myster¬ious dwelling, and to find the knot of its dark story—the drama that had killed three persons. In my eyes Rosalie became the most interest¬ing person in Vendome.

As I studied her, I discovered the traces of secret care, despite the radiant health that shone in her plump counte¬nance. There was in her the germ of remorse or hope; her attitude revealed a secret, like the attitude of a b…

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The Mysterious Mansion part 4

The Mysterious Mansion part 4

After that, one of our stable-men told us that in the evening when he led the horses to the water, he thought he had seen the Spanish grandee swimming far down the river like a live fish. When he returned, I told him to take care of the rushes; he appeared vexed to have been seen in the water. At last, one day, or rather one morning, we did not find him in his room; he had not returned.

After searching everywhere, I found some writing in the drawer of a table, where there were fifty gold pieces of Spain that are called doubloons and were worth about five thousand francs; and ten thousand francs` worth of diamonds in a small sealed box. The writing said, that in case he did not return, he left us the money and the diamonds, on condition of paying for Masses to thank God for his escape, and for his salvation. In those days my husband had not been taken from me; he hastened to seek him everywhere.

“And now for the strange part of the story. He brought home the…

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The Mysterious Mansion part 3

The Mysterious Mansion part 3

“Sir,” she said, “when the Emperor sent the Spanish prisoners of war and others here, the Government quartered on me a young Span¬iard who had been sent to Vendome on parole. Parole notwithstanding he went out every day to show himself to the sous-prefet. He was a Spanish grandee! Nothing less! His name ended in os and dia, some¬thing like Burgos’de F6redia. I have his name on my books; you can read it if you like. Oh! but he was a handsome young man for a Spaniard; they are all said to be ugly. He was only five feet and a few inches high, but he was well-grown; he had small hands that he took such care of; ah! you should have seen! He had as many brushes for his hands as a woman for her whole dressing apparatus!

Monsieur Decazes

He had thick black hair, a fiery eye, his skin was rather bronzed, but I liked the look of it. He wore the finest linen I have ever seen on any one, although I have had princesses staying here, and, among others, General…

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The Mysterious Mansion part 2

The Mysterious Mansion part 2

An arbor is still visible, or rather the ddbris of an arbor, where there is a table that time has not quite destroyed. The aspect of this garden of bygone days suggests the negative joys of peaceful, provincial life, as one might reconstruct the life of a worthy tradesman by reading the epitaph on his tombstone. As if to complete the sweetness and sadness of the ideas that possess one`s soul, one of the walls displays a sun-dial decorated with the following common¬place Christian inscription:

“Ultimam cogita!” The roof of this house is horribly dilapidated, the shutters are always closed, the balconies are covered with swallows` nests, the doors are perpetually shut, weeds have drawn green lines in the cracks of the flights of steps, the locks and bolts are rusty. Sun, moon, winter, summer, and snow have worn the paneling, warped the boards, gnawed the paint. The lugu¬brious silence which reigns there is only broken by birds, cats, martins, rats and mice, free t…

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The Mysterious Mansion part 1

The Mysterious Mansion part 1

Honore De Balzac (1799-1850)

Born at Tours in 1799, Balzac left his native city at an early age and after various attempts at making a living went into the publishing business in Paris. Failing at that, he set to work more earnestly than ever at writing, and until the end of his life he toiled incessantly at the series of novels and tales which have rendered him famous as one of the great novelists of the world. In his Human Comedy, Balzac included several short stories, which are among the very first of their kind; in them the short story is at last entirely free of the past. His work has that contemporary quality that is one of the distinguishing marks of all great art.

The Mysterious Mansion is grouped among the Scenes from Private Life. It is one of the great stories of modern times.

The present version, anonymously translated, is reprinted from Great Short Stories, Collier`s Sons, New York. The original title of the story is La Grande Bretiche.…

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