I had counted on the commotion to get to my desk without being seen; but, of course, that day everything had to be as quiet as Sunday morning. Through the window I saw my classmates, already in their places, and M. Hamel walking up and down with his terrible iron ruler under his arm. I had to open the door and go in before everybody. You can imagine how I blushed and how frightened I was.
But nothing happened. M. Hamel saw me and said very kindly: “Go to your place quickly, little Franz. We were beginning without you.”
I jumped over the bench and sat down at my desk. Not till then, when I had got a little over my fright, did I see that our teacher had on his beautiful green coat, his frilled shirt, and the little black silk cap, all embroidered, that he never wore except on inspection and prize days. Besides, the whole school seemed so strange and solemn.
But the thing that surprised me most was to see, on the back benches that were always empty, t
Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897)
Alphonse Daudet, one of the masters of the Naturalistic School of modern France, was bom at Nimes in 1840. He made his literary debut in 1858 with a volume of verse. He was both novelist and short story writer, but the Contes du Lundi and Lettres de mon Moulin are now read in preference to Sappho and Jack. The Tartarin books are perhaps an exception: they are little masterpieces of humour and observation. The Contes du Lundi (1873) contain some of Daudet’s most delicate and appealing stories. In The Last Lesson there is a spontaneity and feeling which is characteristic of all his best work.
The present version, anonymously translated, is reprinted from Great Short Stories, P. F. Collier Sons, New York, 1909. Copyright, 1909, by the Frank A. Munsey Co., by whose permission it is here used.
The Last Lesson
I started for school very late that morning and was in great dread of a scolding, especially because M. Ham
The Raising of Lazarus (From the New Testament, John XI)
Though this story is part of the larger narrative of the Gospel of St. John, it is a perfect example of the short story. The details that lead up to the dramatic climax are at first sight not entirely relevant. It is only after the story has been read in its entirety that we perceive the consummate art of the preparatory sentences. Balzac was, many centuries later, to apply this method to the writing of his novels.
The text is taken from the King James version. There is no title to the story in the original.
The Raising of Lazarus
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore, his sister sent unto him saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not
Pliny The Younger (62—II3 A.D.)
The Letters of Pliny the Younger (known in Latin as C. Plinius Caecilius Secundus) give a pleasant and varied picture of Roman life at a time when the satirists were depicting it in lurid hues. Pliny was a gentleman of refinement who found time, in spite of his career as a lawyer and a high government official, to write many letters to his friends, with a view, as we happen to know, to publication. Several of these letters are neither more nor less than short stories. The Haunted House is simply the recital of an incident in a letter to his friend Sura, and is one of the best of the ancient ghost stories. Needless to say, it is a type that has been used time and again.
The text is from an early English translation, and comprises Letter 27 of the Seventh Book. There is no title in the original.
The Haunted House
There was at Athens a mansion, spacious and commodious, but of evil repute and dangerous to heal
The Book of Ruth (From the Old Testament)
Into the extremely complicated questions of authorship, origin and development of the Old Testament it is not necessary to enter. Ruth is one of the most beautifully conceived and finely written narratives of all Biblical literature. Although it has its place in the ethical scheme of the Old Testament, it seems to have been written with an artistic zest and freedom from constraint that are rare in the religious literature of any race.
The text used here is that printed in Volume IV of Ancient Hebrew Literature, in Everyman’s Library, published in 1907 by J. M. Dent and Sons, by whose permission it is here included. (The last sentence has been omitted, as it has nothing to do with the story.)
The Book of Ruth
Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Beth-lehem- judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he, and his wife, an
Jesop (6th Century, B.C.?)
Jesop was “not a poet,” says Gilbert Murray, “but the legendary author of a particular type of story.” This type is known as the Beast Fable, a brief incident related in order to point a simple moral. According to tradition Jesop was a foreign slave of the Sixth Century B.C. Whether the fables of ancient India, such as those in the Hitopadesa, influenced the ancient Greeks and Romans is a question still debated by scholars. At any rate there is a striking similarity, both in treatment and subject-matter, between the Fables of Jesop, Phaedrus and Avianus, and those which delighted the Indians.
The present translation was made by James and published first in 1848.
The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse
Once upon a time a Country Mouse who had a friend in town invited him, for old acquaintance’ sake, to pay him a visit in the country. The invitation being accepted in due form, the Country Mouse, though plain
“He then related a regular romance, with a plot and incidents such as only the most imaginative poet could have constructed. The characters and events stood out with such a vivid, plastic relief, that it was impossible—carried away as one was by the magic spell of them—to help believing, as if in a species of dream, that Serapion had actually witnessed them from the hilltop. This romance was succeeded by another, and that by another, by which time the sun stood high above us in the noontide sky. Serapion then rose from his seat, and looking into the distance, said: ‘Yonder comes my brother Hilarion, who, in his overstrictness, always blames me for being too much given to the society of strangers.’
“I understood the hint, and took my leave, asking if I should be allowed to pay him another visit. Serapion answered with a gentle smile, ‘My friend, I thought you would be eager to get away from this wilderness, so little adapted to your mode of life. But if it is
I have no dread of the terror of the deepest solitude. It is only there that a life like this can dawn upon the pious soul.’
“Serapion, who had spoken with genuine priestly unction, raised, in silence, his eyes to Heaven with an expression of blissful gratitude. How could I feel otherwise than awestruck! A madman,, congratulating himself on his condition, looking upon it as a priceless gift from Heaven, and, from the depths of his heart, wishing me a similar fate!
“I was on the point of leaving him, but he began in an altered tone, saying:
“ ‘You would, probably, scarcely suppose that this wild inhospitable desert is often almost too full of the noise and bustle of life to be suitable for my silent meditations. Every day I receive visits from the most remarkable people of the most diverse kinds. Ariosto was here yesterday, and Dante and Petrarch afterwards. And this evening I expect Evagrus, the celebrated father, with whom I shall discuss the
Our old discussion would go on forever. Then there is another point which you ought seriously to consider. You must, I should suppose, perceive that I, who am talking with you, am leading the peaceful and happy life of a man reconciled with God. It is only after having passed through martyrdom that such a life dawns upon the soul. And if it has pleased the Almighty to cast a veil over what happened before my martyrdom, is it not a terrible and diabolical action to try to tear that veil away?’
“With all my wisdom, I stood confounded and silenced in the presence of this insane man! With the very rationality of his irrationality he had beaten me completely out of the field, and I saw the folly of my undertaking in all its fulness. Still more than that, I felt the reproach contained in what he had last said as deeply as I was astounded at the dim remembrance of his previous life which shone through it like some lofty, invulnerable higher spirit.
And such is my fortune also. Every now and then there appear to me emissaries, sent by Satan, who try to persuade me that I am Count P of M, and that I ought to betake myself to the life of Courts, and all sorts of unholiness. Were it not for the efficacy of prayer, I should take these people by the shoulders, turn them out of my little garden, and carefully barricade it against them.
But I need not do so in your case; for you are, most unmistakably, the very feeblest of all the adversaries who have ever come to me, and I can vanquish you with your own weapons—those of ratiocination. It is insanity that is in question be I ween us. But if one of us two is suffering from that sad malady, it is evident that jyoa are so in a much greater degree than I. You maintain that it is a case of Fixed Idea that I believe myself to be Serapion the martyr—and I am quite aware that many persons hold the same opinion, or pretend that they do.
Now, if I am really insane, non