Тексты на английском языке icon

Тексты на английском языке


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Тексты на английском языке


Чтение текстов на английском языке - один из способов изучения языка. Тексты на английском языке, если они правильно подобраны, могут помочь в изучении языка. Неправильно и неумело подобранные тексты на английском языке способны отбить охоту и желание изучать язык у самых стойких и упорных. Важно не только правильно подобрать тексты, но и правильно с этими текстами работать. Основной принцип работы с текстами на английском языке заключается, и это ни для кого не секрет, в их чтении. Но чтение текстов может быть разным, как по своим целям, так и по способам, котрыми эти цели достигаются. Самыми распространенными целями, которых добивается читатель текстов на английском языке, являются: пополнение общего или тематического словарного запаса, обучение и тренировка в произношении английских слов и выражений, закрепление правил английской грамматики путем разбора типичных примеров встречающихся в тексте и их многократное повторение с целью запоминнания и т.д. Очевидно, что для их достижения необходим подбор соответствующих этим целям текстов на английском языке.

Другим критерием по которому должны выбираться тексты для чтения на английском языке является их сложность (лексическая, грамматическая). Для начинающих изучение языка необходимы тексты попроще и покороче, чтобы не успеть рассеять их внимание и не утомить раньше времени. Для опытных обучаемых соответственно нужны сложные тексты большим многообразием грамматических форм и лексического материала. Выбор английских текстов для чтения может осуществляться самостоятельно - опытным путем, либо с помощью преподавателя. Второй способ предпочтительнее, так как професиональный преподаватель может более точно определить ваш уровень знания языка и подобрать соответствующие тексты. Если вы занимаетесь изучением английского языка самостоятельно, то вам следует выбирать тексты на английском языке исходя из следующих соображений - количество незнакомых слов в английском тексте не должно превышать 10-15%. Чтение английских текстов с большим количеством новых слов будет отнимать много времени на обращения к словарю и снизит эффективость запоминания новых слов. Хорошим вариантим работы с текстами на английском языке является чтение небольших фрагментов с приведенным в конце переводом наиболее сложных слов и выражений. Перевод слов сэкономит времы на обращение к словарю а транскрипция поможет научиться правильно произносить слово.

Источником текстов на английском языке могут служить учебники английского языка из курса средней школы. Они хороши тем, что английские тексты в них обычно расположены в порядке возрастания сложности, учебный материал тщательно дозирован а в конце текста обычно приводятся задания и упражнения по прочитанному тексту. Они помогают лучше усвоить новый лексический материал. Для начинающих изучение английского языка идеально подойдут старые советские учебники, отличающиеся от современных образцов очень тщательной проработкой учебного материала и высоким качеством его подачи.

Газетные статьи могут также использоваться в качестве источничов учебного материала. Однако следует обратить внимание, что язык прессы отличается специфичностью, в нем много сокращений, мало художественных оборотов, и в целом он предназначен для краткой подачи информации читателю, освещении определенных фактов и событий с минимумом отступлений и максимальной экономией печатного пространства.

Более оптимальным источником текстов на английском языке являются художественные произведения англоязычной прозы. Рассказы на английском языке, главы из повестей и романов будут прекрасным источником новых слов.


^ ПРОСТЫЕ ТЕКСТЫ:

1. Big Вen


The big clock on the tower of the Palace of Westminster in London is often called Big Ben. But Big Ben is really the bell of the clock. It is the biggest clock bell in Britain. It weighs 13.5 tons.

The clock tower is 318 feet high. You have to go up 374 steps to reach the top. So the clock looks small from the pavement below the tower.

But its face is 23 feet wide. It would only just fit into some classrooms.

The minute-hand is 14 feet long. Its weight is equal to that of two bags of coal. The hour-hand is 9 feet long.

The clock bell is called Big Ben after Sir Benjamin Hall. He had the job to see that the bell was put up.

Sir Benjamin was a big man. One day he said in Parliament, "Shall we call the bell St. Stephen's?" St. Stephen's is the name of the tower.

But someone said for a joke, "Why not call it Big Ben?" Now the bell is known all over the world by that name.


2. ^ About libraries


There are many big and small libraries everywhere in our country. They have millions of books in different languages. You can find there the oldest and the newest books.

Every school has a library. Pupils come to the library to take books on different subjects.

The school library where Oleg studies is good. It is a large clean room. There are four big windows in it. The walls are light blue. There are a lot of shelves full of books. You can find books on literature, physics, history, chemistry, geography, biology and other subjects. There are books in English, too.

On the walls you can see pictures of some great writers and poets.

On the table near the window you can always see beautiful spring and autumn flowers.

Oleg likes to go to the library. He can always find there something new, something he needs.


3^ . Charles Darwin (1809—1882)


A hundred years ago people believed that plants and animals had always been as they are now. They thought that all the different sorts of living things, including men and women, were put in this world by some mysterious power a few thousand years ago.

It was Charles Darwin, born at Shrewsbury on the 12th of February, 1809, who showed that this was just a legend. As a boy Darwin loved to walk in the countryside, collecting insects, flowers and minerals. He liked to watch his elder brother making chemical experiments. These hobbies interested him imuch more than Greek and Latin, which were his main subjects at school.

His father, a doctor, sent Charles to Edinburgh University to study medicine. But Charles did not like this. He spent a lot of time with a zoologist friend, watching birds and other animals, and collecting insects in the countryside.

Then his father sent him to Cambridge to be trained as a parson. But Darwin didn't want to be a doctor or a parson. He wanted to be a biologist.

In 1831 he set sail in the Beagle for South America to make maps of the coastline there. Darwin went in the ship to see the animals and plants of other lands. On his voyage round the world he looked carefully at thousands of living things in the sea and on land and came to very important conclusions.

This is what he came to believe. Once there were only simple jelly-like creatures living in the sea. Very slowly, taking hundreds millions of years, these have developed to produce all the different kinds of animals and plants we know today. But Darwin waited over twenty years before he let the world know his great ideas. During that time he was carefully collecting more information. It showed how right he was that all living things had developed from simpler creatures.

He wrote a famous book 'The Origin of Species'.

People who knew nothing about living things tried to make fun of Darwin's ideas.

The development of science has shown that Darwin's idea of evolution was correct.


  1. ^ Great Britain


The British Isles lie in the north-west of Europe. They consist of two large islands, Great Britain and Ireland, and many smaller ones. Great Britain, the largest island in Europe, includes England, Scotland, and Wales. It is separated from Ireland by the Irish Sea, and from the Continent by the English Channel and the Straits of Dover. Great Britain and Northern Ireland form the United Kingdom (UK).

The surface of England and Ireland is flat, but the surface of Scotland and Wales is mountainous. The mountains are almost all in the western part. The highest mountain in the United Kingdom is Ben Nevis in Scotland (1343 m). The longest river is the Severn. It is in the south-west of England. The Thames is not so long as the Severn, it is shorter. The sea enters deeply into the land and has a great influence on the climate, which is damp but rather mild: the winter is not very cold and the summer is not very hot.

Over 57 million people live in the United Kingdom. Most of the people of Great Britain live in big towns and cities.

The capital of the country is London. The main industrial centres are Sheffield and Birmingham where iron goods are made, Manchester, the cotton centre of England, and others.

The important ports of the country are London, Liverpool, Glasgow and others


  1. Meals


There are four meals a day in an English home: breakfast, lunch, tea, and dinner.

Breakfast is the first meal of the day. It is at about 8 o'clock in the morning, and consists of porridge with milk and salt or sugar, eggs — boiled or fried, bread and butter with marmalade or jam. Some people like to drink tea, but others prefer coffee. Instead of porridge they may have fruit juice, or they may prefer biscuits.

The usual time for lunch is 1 o'clock. This meal starts with soup or fruit juice. Then follows some meat or poultry with potatoes — boiled or fried, carrots and beans. Then a pudding comes. Instead of the pudding they may prefer cheese and biscuits. Last of all coffee — black or white. Englishmen often drink something at lunch. Water is usually on the table. Some prefer juice or lemonade.

Tea is the third meal of the day. It is between 4 or 5 o'clock, the so-called 5 o'clock tea. On the table there is tea, milk or cream, sugar, bread and butter, cakes and jam. Friends and visitors are often present at tea.

Dinner is the fourth meal of the day. The usual time is about 7 o'clock, and all the members of the family sit down together.

Dinner usually consists of soup, fish or meat with vegetables — potatoes, green beans, carrot and cabbage, sweet pudding, fruit salad, ice-cream or cheese and biscuits. Then after a talk they have black or white coffee.

This is the order of meals among English families, But the greater part of the people in the towns, and nearly all country-people, have dinner in the middle of the day instead of lunch. They have tea a little later — between 5 and 6 o'clock, and then in the evening, before going to bed, they have supper.

So the four meals of the day are either breakfast, dinner, tea, supper; or breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner.


  1. New York


In 1607 Captain Henry Hudson left Europe to search for the famous North-West Passage. He didn't find it, because it didn't exist, but he reached a river to which he gave his name. Interested by the stories told them by the captain on his return, the Dutch sent other boats to take possession of the land discovered by Hudson and gave it the name 'New Netherland'. Two men dominate the history of this colony. The first bought the island of Manhattan from the Indians in 1626. The second arrived in 1647 as governor of New Amsterdam, the capital of New Netherland.

In 1664 this territory was taken over by the English and they changed the name of New Amsterdam to New York.

New York is one of the largest cities in the world. Its population is over 11 million people. New York is an industrial and cultural centre of the country. Most business is centred in Manhattan Island. The whole area is very small, that's why the skyscrapers were invented in New York and, especially, in Wall Street. Wall Street is a narrow street with big houses, but it is well known all over the world as the busiest street in the USA. People do business there.

There are two more world-famous streets — Broadway and Fifth Avenue. Broadway is the centre of the theatres and night life. It is known as The Great White Way because of the electric signs which turn night into day. It is the city that never goes to sleep. Buses and subway run all night. There are many drugstores and restaurants which never close their doors. There are cinemas with films that start at midnight.

Fifth Avenue is the great shopping, hotel, and club avenue. If you go along this avenue, you come to Harlem, where the black people of New York live, the coloured workers, teachers, doctors and musicians.

New York is the largest port in America. More than half the trade of the United States goes through this city.

There are many places of interest in New York. They are: the Statue of Liberty, the United Nations Building, Empire State Building, Columbia University, City Hall, New York Public Library and others.


  1. Scotland


Scotland lies to the north of England. People who live in Scotland arc Scots.

The capital of Scotland is Edinburgh, but Scotland has no separate Parliament, for the Scottish MPs (Members of Parliament) sit with the English ones in Westminster in London.

Edinburgh is not the largest city in Scotland. Glasgow, which lias a population of over one million, is twice as large as Edinburgh.

Even so, Edinburgh remains the centre of the life of Scotland. Here are the administrative centres of the Navy, the Army, and tlie Air Force, the chief banks and offices; and the famous university.

Edinburgh, unlike Glasgow, has no large factories. Publishing is its well-known industry. It has been famous for its printers since the early years of the sixteenth century, when the first Scottish printing-press was set up within its walls. The publishing of books is today a very important industry. Much printing is done for London publishing houses, and there are many paper-mills near Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city. The first thing you see in Edinburgh is the Rock -— the very large hill in the middle of the city, on which stands Edinburgh Castle.. The Castle looks like a castle from a fairy-tale, and parts of it are more than a thousand years old. From the top of the Castle there is a beautiful view of the hill and the sea.

Besides the Castle there are many other interesting buildings, such as Holyrood Palace which is the old royal residence, the Art Gallery, the University of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is famous for many things: its festivals (plays and music), its college of medicine, its museums and libraries, and for its writers Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and others.


  1. ^ The United Nations


The United Nations is an organization of sovereign nations representing almost all of humanity. It has as its central goal the maintenance of international peace and security. Additionally, its purposes call for the development of friendly relations among nations based on equal rights and self-determination of peoples and, through international co-operation, the solution of problems of an economic, social, cultural and humanitarian nature.

The United Nations is the meeting-place where representatives of all member states — great and small, rich and poor, with varying political views and social systems — have a voice and an equal vote in shaping a common course of action.

The United Nations has played, and continues to play, an active role in reducing tension in the world, preventing conflicts and putting an end to fighting already under way.

There are six main organs of the United Nations — the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the Secretariat and the International Court of Justice. The Court has its seat at the Hague, Netherlands. All other organs are based at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Members of the General Assembly talk to each other in many languages, but officially there are only six - Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.

The Secretariat services the other organs of the United Nations and administers the programmes and policies laid down by them. Over 20,000 men and women are employed by the United Nations with about one-third of them at the Headquarters and the other two-thirds stationed around the globe. Staff members are recruited primarily from member states and are drawn from more than 140 nations. As international civil servants, each takes an oath not to seek or receive instructions from any government or outside authority.

Working for the United Nations, mostly "behind the scenes" at the Headquarters, are linguists, econbmists, editors, social scientists, legal experts, librarians, journalists, statisticians, broadcasters, personnel officers, administrators and experts in all the varied fields of activity covered by the United Nations. They prepare the reports and studies requested by various bodies of the United Nations; they issue press releases and produce publications, broadcasts and films giving information about the United Nations; and they perform the administrative duties needed to implement resolutions adopted by the various organs. In addition, there are stenographers, clerks, engineers and technicians, tour guides and also a body of security officers in blue-grey uniforms who arc responsible for the security of the United Nations Headquarters. At the head of the Secretariat is the Secretary-General.

The main Headquarters of the United Nations are based in New York. The United Nations Organization Secretariat occupies the higher building. The General Assembly is held in the lower building.


  1. Weather


The weather is a subject we can always talk about. It often changes and brings cold and heat, sunshine and rain, frost and snow. One day is often unlike the next. In summer the sun shines, often there is no wind and there are no clouds in the sky which is blue and beautiful. We can see stars and the moon at night and people like walks, outdoor games and sports in the fresh air.

When autumn comes, the days become shorter and colder. It gets dark earlier and often heavy clouds cover the sky bringing rain with them.

Sometimes there is heavy rain, so that an umbrella or a raincoat is necessary if we don't want to get wet through. Then you can hear people say, "What bad weather! When is this rain going to stop?" Many people then catch cold and must go to bed. Then a fire at home is so pleasant. At last frost and snow come.

Fields, forests and houses are covered with snow and rivers and lakes with ice. But spring again brings sunshine and warm winds. Sometimes it snows but snow will not remain long, it will melt in the warm sun. Spring will bring bright sunshine, green grass and flowers.

We usually say: "A nice day", "Not a bad day" or "It's nice weather for the time of the year" if the weather is fine.

We can say: "It looks like rain", "It looks like snow" of "It's bad weather" when the weather is bad.


  1. ^ Yuri Gagarin


It was on the 12th of April, 1961, when the first flight by man into cosmic space took place. Yuri Gagarin, the first cosmonaut in the world, was a 27-year old Air Force pilot at that time.

The spaceship flew at the speed of 300 miles a minute. That's six times faster than man ever travelled before. His flight lasted 108 minutes, but a circuit round the Earth took 89 minutes.

It was a brilliant achievement on the part of our scientists and technologists, and on the part of Yuri Gagarin who risked his life to achieve a victory for his country and mankind.

This is what Yuri Gagarin said at his press conferenc : "On my flight the 'day' side of the Earth was clearly seen: the continents, islands, seas, and big rivers. Flying over the land I could clearly see the big squares of fields, and it was possible to distinguish which was meadow and which was forest. I could not see as well as from an airplane, but very, very well though.

I saw for the first time with my own eyes the Earth's spherical shape. I must say that the view of the horizon is very beautiful. You can see the noticeable change from the light surface of the Earth to trie completely black sky in which you can see the stars. This transition, from light blue to dark, is very gradual and lovely.

I did not see the Moon. In space the sun shines ten times more brightly than on the Earth. The stars can be seen very well.

I felt excellent as I entered space. When weightlessness developed, everything was easier to do. My legs and arms weighed nothing. Objects swam in the cabin. During this state of weightlessness, I ate and drank, and everything was the same as on the Earth. My handwriting did not change, though my hand was weightless. But I had to hold my notebook or it would have floated away.

The passage back from weightlessness to the force of gravity happened smoothly. Arms and legs feel the same as during weightlessness, but now they have weight.

I ceased to be suspended over the chair, then I sat in it.

When I returned to the Earth I was full of joy."


^ Сложные английские тексты для чтения


  1. Michelangelo


Michelangelo, the famous Italian sculptor, lived in Florence. Once a beautiful piece of white marble was brought to Florence, and the governor of the city told Michelangelo that he wanted him to make a statue out of the marble. He said that Michelangelo was the only man in Italy who could do it.

The sculptor worked for two years to make the statue as beautiful as possible. When the statue was ready, a lot of people gathered in the square where it stood. Everybody was waiting for the governor. At last he came, accompanied by the richest people of the city. The governor looked pleased, and seeing the expression on his face the people thought that he liked the statue. So they were all surprised to hear him say that he didn't like the sculptor's work at all because the statue's nose was too long.

"Can you make the nose shorter?' the governor asked Michelangelo.

Those who heard the question expected the sculptor to get angry, but to their great surprise Michelangelo answered calmly that he didn't mind changing the shape of the nose.

When the governor was not looking, he picked up a handful of marble dust and went up to the statue. He pretended to work hard. Standing with his back to the governor, he dropped the marble dust he had picked up little by little to make the governor believe that he was really changing the shape of the nose. The governor thought that the sculptor was doing as he had been told, and so when Michelangelo finished working, he said proudly, "Now the statue is wonderful."

The people, who had kept silent while the sculptor was working, realized now that he hadn't done anything to the statue, and shouted with joy.

The statue, which is called David, is one of Michelangelo's best works. We have a copy of it in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.


  1. ^ Pop, Jazz and Country


Of all the cultural influences that have come out of the United States in the 20th century, it's likely that none has been so far-reaching as popular music.

But the sound of jazz and rock and roll and more recently, country music, can be heard on records, tapes, radio and television in the big cities and in the most remote villages of almost every nation on Earth.

What, precisely, is popular music? In the United States this term has acquired a variety of meanings but it refers to the kinds of music enjoyed by a broad public and stands in contrast to the classical music of the Western European tradition.

During the present century, the dominant strain of popular music coexisted with regional pockets of folk music kept alive by the nation's many immigrant groups — Scots, Irish, German, French Canadians, Italians, Jews, Poles, His-panics. Since popular songwriters have always looked for fresh approaches, each of these ethnic music would eventually contribute its flavour to the rich stew of contemporary American music.

As the 20th century progressed, the line between popular and serious music became blurred. George Gershwin, for example, was a popular composer whose music has always been admitted in cultivated circles.

Jazz has always been a music of freedom, and maybe that is why it's been called the most truly American art form. The sense of freedom is inherent in its improvising, in the way each musician defines himself in his own turn, in the feeling that the possibilities are limitless.

In terms of its fountainhead, jazz remains the creation of the black American, but today more than ever the rapid spread of communications has established it as a world-wide art form, one that will be characterized by future generations as the genuine classical music of the 20th century.

The growing international enthusiasm for American country music overseas is an extension of what has happened in the US since 1950s: music that was strictly regional in its appeal has gained currency across the nation.

It was created by the rural people of the Appalachian Mountain region who were by large isolated from the industrial growth and urbanization of much of America. They began with the English and Scottish ballads of their immigrant ancestors and built upon them, often with instruments they made themselves. They sang about the things that touched them most intimately: their poverty, their God, their crops, their families. They found consolation and common ties In the music.

The classic rock 'n' roll of the 1950s with its hard-driving guitar beat, the music of Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and others, has long since evolved into a profusion of styles.

Today, for example, among the music's myriad subgenres are the black variants, soul music, heavy metal and its opposite, soft rock, country rock, folk rock and rockabilly; the Caribbean influences, and the most recent attempts to recapture rock's rhythmic power, rap music and art rock.

Contemporary American pop-rock music can be shaped into high art for which there is a large and appreciative audience.


  1. ^ The creative impulse (by W. S. Maugham)


William Somerset Maugham was born in 1874 After graduating from Heidelberg University he worked at a hospital, but the success of his first novel "Liza of Lambeth" (1897) encouraged him to give up medicine and become a professional writer.

Somerset Maugham is the author of several well-known novels and plays, and a lot of short stories.

He died in 1966 at the age of ninety-two.


When Mrs Forrester's first detective story "The Achilles Statue" was published, she had reached the respectable age of fifty-seven, and the number of her work^ was considerable. Her great talent, however, remained undiscovered by ordinary readers and this was the reason (her books did not sell, though they were highly praised by the critics.

Mrs Forrester was deeply interested in politics and even thought of going into Parliament. Her only difficulty was that she did not know which party to choose.

A lot of people very much wanted to be invited to the parties she gave every Saturday, but only a, few were among her guests.

The only person who spoiled these parties was Mr Albert Forrester, her husband. All her friends considered him a bore and often asked one another how she had ever married him. He was known among them as the Philatelist because a young writer hajj once said that he was collecting stamps.

Albert, I should explain, was an ordinary businessman and not a very rich one. The suits he wore always looked shabby, the expression on his face was gloomy and he never said anything worth listening to. Mrs Forrester, however, was kind to him and always knew how to put to shame anyone who tried to make fun of him in her presence.

The event that had such a great influence on Mrs For-rester's literary activities happened towards the end of one of her most successful parties. The guests sat in a circle of which Mrs Forrester was the centre. She was talking and the rest of the company were listening with great attention, only interrupting her from time to time to ask a question. Suddenly there came a noise as if something heavy had fallen, and then came the sound of voices.

"Well, Carter, what is it?" Mrs Forrester asked the maid. "Is the house falling down?"

"It's the new cook's box, ma'am," answered the maid. "The porter dropped it as he was bringing it in and the cook got all upset about it."

"What do you mean by 'the new cook'?"

"Mrs Bullfinch went away this afternoon, ma'am," said the maid.

"Does Mr Forrester know about it?" Mrs Forrester asked, for matters like that were his responsibility. "The moment Mr Forrester comes in, tell him that I want to speak to him."

"Mr Forrester's gone, ma'am," answered the maid. "He said I was to give you this letter when you asked for him."

The maid left the room, and Mrs Forrester opened the letter. One of her lady friends told me that at the sight of Mrs Forrester reading the letter she thought that Albert, feeling responsible for the cook's departure, and being afraid he would be punished, had thrown himself in the Thames.

Mrs Forrester read the letter and cried out: "Oh, how unfair! How terrible!"

"What is it, Mrs Forrester?" asked Mr Simmons, her agent. "Read it", she said. "Just read it."

The short-sighted Mr Simmons put on his glasses, and holding the letter very close to his eyes read this: 'My Dear,Mrs Bullfinch needs a change and has decided to leave, and as I do not wish to stay on without her I'm going, too. I have had all the literature I can stand and I am sick and tired of art. Mrs Bullfinch does not care about marriage but if you wish to divorce me, she's willing to marry me.

I've hired a new cook instead of Mrs Bullfinch and I hope you will be pleased with her. Mrs Bullfinch and I are living at 411, Kennington Road, S. E. Albert.

The silence that followed was broken by Mr Simmons, who said: "You must get him back."

"I will never see him again as long as I live!" Mrs Forrester cried out. But Mr Simmons continued calmly: "I've been your agent for twenty years, and you can consider me one of your best friends. But if you think you can make your living by writing the sort of books you do, I must tell you that you haven't a chance."

"But I can't fight with my cook for him!" Mrs Forrester cried out.

"I was just coming to that," said Mr Simmons coldly. "A dancer or a lady of title wouldn't do you any harm, but a cook would finish you."

"He's quite right", said one of her guests. "The Philatelist must come back".

"You will go and see him tomorrow, won't you?" asked Mr Simmons. Mrs Forrester didn't answer for some time and finally said:

"For my art's sake, not for mine!"

It was rather late in the afternoon of the next day when Mrs Forrester set out on her journey to Kennington Road. Mr Simmons had explained to her by telephone how to get there, and it did not take her long to find the house she wanted. She rang the bell, and when the door opened, she recognized her cook.

(to be continued)


4. ^ The creative impulse - 2

(continued)

"Good afternoon, Bullfinch," said Mrs Forrester. "I wish to see your master".

Mrs Bullfinch hesitated for a second, then held the door wide open. "Come in, ma'am." She turned her head, "Albert, here's Mrs Forrester to see you."

Mrs Forrester went in quickly and there was Albert sitting by the fire, leaning back in an old armchair and reading the evening paper.

"How are you, my dear?" said Albert cheerfully, putting aside the paper. " Keeping well, I hope?"

"Won't you sit down, ma'am?" said Mrs Bullfinch, pushing a chair forward.

"Could I see you alone, Albert?" Mrs Forrester asked, sitting down.

"I'm afraid noj," Albert answered, "because of Mrs Bullfinch. I think she should be present."

"As you wish."

"Well, my dear, what have you to say to me?" Albert asked.

Mrs Forrester gave him her best smile. "I don't blame you for anything, Albert, I know it isn't your fault and I'm not angry with you, but a joke's a joke and should not be carried too far. I've come to take you home."

"Then I think you're wasting your time, my dear," said Albert. "Nothing will ever make me live with you again."

"Have you noj been happy with me, Albert?" asked Mrs Forrester in a deeper tone, trying not to show that her feelings were hurt.

"We have been married for thirty-five years, my dear. It's a very long time, isn't it? You're a good woman in your own way1, but not suitable for me. You're literary and I'm not. You're artistic and I'm not."

"But all this time I've been doing everything in my power to interest you in art and literature," said Mrs Forrester.

"That's true, and I can only blame myself if I didn't react properly. But I don't like the books you write. And I don't like the people who surround you. Let me tell you a secret, my dear. At your parties I often very much wanted to take off my clothes just to see what would happen."

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself, Albert?" asked Mrs Bullfinch. "You haven't got the right figure for that at all!"

"Mrs Bullfinch wants me to retire," Albert continued. "I discussed the matter with my partners today, and they agree to settle everything nicely. They will buy me out2, and I shall have an income of just under nine hundred pounds. There are three of us, so it gives us nearly three hundred a year each."

"How am I to live on that?" cried Mrs Forrester, using the last argument she could think of.

"You have a wonderful pen, my dear."

"You know very well that my books don't bring me any money. The publishers always say that they lose by them."

And just then Mrs Bullfinch suddenly asked:

"Why don't you write a good detective story?"

Mrs Forrester burst out laughing. "Me?" she exclaimed. "What a wild idea! I could never hope to please the masses and I have never read a detective story in my life."

"It's not a bad idea at all," said Albert.

"I love a detective story," said Mrs Bullfinch, "Give me a lady in evening dress lying dead on the library floor and I know I'm going to enjoy it."

"Personally, I prefer a respectable gentleman with a gold watch chain, lying dead in Hyde Park," said Albert. "There's something particularly interesting to the reader in the murder of a respectable gentleman!"

"I see exactly what you mean," said Mrs Bullfinch. "He knew an important secret, and his murderers had said they would kill him unless he kept his mouth shut. He just didn't manage to run away from them."

"We can give you all the advice you need, my dear," said Albert, smiling kindly at Mrs Forrester. "I've read hundreds of detective stories."

"You!"

"That's what first brought Mrs Bullfinch and me together. I gave them to her when I'd finished them. And I must say you can't find two stories that are alike. There's always a difference when you compare them."

Mrs Forrester rose to her feet. "Now I see what a gulf separates us3," she said and her voice shook a little. "You've been surrounded for thirty years with all that was best in English literature and all this time you've been reading detective novels! I came here willing to come to a reasonable agreement and take you back home. Now I wish it no longer."

"Very well, my dear," said Albert. "But you think over the detective story."

Mrs Forrester walked downstairs, and when Mrs Bullfinch opened the door and asked if she would like to hire a taxi, she shook her head. "I shall take the tram."

"You needn't be afraid4 that I won't look after Mr Forrester properly, ma'am," said Mrs Bullfinch, seeing Mrs Forrester to the tram stop. "I know how to run a house and I'm not a bad cook, as you know. And of course, he'll have a hobby. He's going to collect postage stamps." Mrs Forrester was about to say something, but just then a tram pulled up at the stop and she got in.

Wondering what time it was, she looked up at the man sitting opposite her to see whether he was the kind of person she could ask and suddenly started; as sitting there was a respectable-looking gentleman5 wearing a gold watch chain. It was the very man6 Albert had described lying dead in Hyde Park. He asked the conductor to stop and she saw him go down a small, dark street. Why? Alp, why? At Hyde Park Corner she suddenly made up her mind to get out. She could not sit still any longer. She felt she must walk. As she passed the Achilles Statue she stopped for a minute and looked at it. Her heart was beating fast. After all Edgar Allan Poe had written detective stories ...

When she reached her flat at last and opened the door, she saw several hats in the hall. They were all there. She went into the drawing-room.

"Oh, you poor things, I've kept you waiting so long!" she cried out. "Have you had no tea?"

"Well," they said. "Well? Did you manage to get hold of him?"

"My dears, I've got something quite wonderful to tell you, I'm going to write a detective story."

They looked at her with open mouths.

"I'm going to raise the detective story to the level of art. It came to me suddenly in Hyde Park. It's a murder story and I shall call it 'The Achilles Statue'!"

"But what about Albert?" the young writer asked.

"Albert?" repeated Mrs Forrester. "I knew I went out to do something about Albert, but I've quite forgotten what it was."

"Then you haven't seen Albert?"

"My dear, I say I forgot all about him."

She gave a laugh. "Let Albert keep his cook. I can't bother about Albert now. I'm going to write a detective story."

"My dear, you're too, too wonderful!" the guests cried out.


  1. ^ The last leaf (by O. Henry)


At the top of an old brick house in New York two young painters Sue and Johnsy had their studio. They had met in a cheap restaurant and soon discovered that though their characters differed, their views on life and art were the same. Some time later they found a room that was suitable for a studio and began to live even more economically than before.

That was in May. In November a cold, unseen stranger, whom the doctors called Pneumonia, went from place to place in the district where they lived, touching people here and there with his icy fingers. Mr Pneumonia was not what you would call a kind old gentleman. It was hardly fair of him to pick out a little woman like Johnsy who was obviously unfit to stand the strain of the suffering, but he did, and she lay on her narrow bed, with no strength to move, looking at the next brick house.

After examining Johnsy one morning the doctor called Sue out of the room and gave her a prescription, saying: "I don't want to frighten you, but at present she has one chance in, let us say, ten, and that chance is for her to want to live. But your little lady has made up her mind that she isn't going to get well, and if a patient loses interest in life, it takes away 50 per cent from the power of medicine. If you could somehow get her to ask one question about the new winter styles in hats, I would promise you a one-in-five chance for her."

After the doctor had gone, Sue went out into the hall and cried. As soon as she could manage to check her tears, she walked gaily back into the room, whistling a merry tune. Johnsy lay with her eyes towards the window. Thinking that Johnsy was asleep, Sue stopped whistling. She arranged her drawing board and began working. Soon she heard a low sound, several time repeated. She went quickly to the bedside. Johnsy's eyes were wide open. She was looking out of the window and counting — counting backward. "Twelve," she said, and a little later, "eleven;" then "ten" and "nine", and then "eight" and "seven" almost together.

Sue looked out of the window. What was there to count? There was only the blank side of the brick house twenty feet away. An old grape-vine climbed half way up the brick wall The cold autumn winds had blown off its leaves until it was almost bare.

"What is it, dear?" asked Sue.

"Six," said Johnsy almost in a whisper. "They're falling faster now, I can hardly keep up with them. There goes another one. There are only five left now."

"Five what, darling? Tell me."

"Leaves. On the grape-vine. When the last one goes, I must go, too. I've known that for three days. Didn't the doctor tell you?"

"How can the doctor have told me this nonsense?" Sue said, trying to control her voice. "He told me this morning your chances were ten to one. Anyhow, let me finish my drawing so that I can sell it and buy some port wine for you."

"You needn't buy any more wine," said Johnsy with her eyes still on the window. "There goes another. That leaves just four. I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I'll go, too."

"Johnsy, dear," said Sue, bending over her. "I must go and call Behrman to be my model. Will you promise me to keep your eyes closed and not look at those leaves until I come back? I'll be back in a minute."

"Tell me when I may open my eyes," Johnsy said, "because I want to see the last one fall. I'm tired of waiting. I want to go sailing down like one of those poor tired leaves."

Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor below them. He was past sixty and had been a painter for forty years, but he hadn't achieved anything in art. However, he wasn't disappointed, and hoped he would some day paint a masterpiece. Meantime he earned his living by doing various jobs, often serving as a model to those young painters who could not pay the price of a professional. He sincerely thought it his duty to protect the two girls upstairs.

Sue found Behrman in his poorly-lighted room and told him of Johnsy's fancy, and that she didn't know how to handle the situation.

"I can't keep her from looking at those leaves! I just can't!" she cried out. "And I can't draw the curtains in the daytime. I need the light for my work!"

"What!" the old man shouted. "Why do you allow such silly ideas to come into her head? No, I won't pose for you! Oh, that poor little Miss Johnsy!"

"Very well, Mr Behrman," Sue said, "If you don't want to pose for me, you needn't. I wish I hadn't asked you. But I think you're a nasty old — old — " And she walked towards the door with her chin in the air.

"Who said I wouldn't pose?" shouted Behrman. "I'm coming with you. This isn't a place for Miss Johnsy to be ill in! Some day I'll paint a masterpiece, and we'll all go away!"

Johnsy was asleep when they went upstairs. Sue and Behrman looked out of the window at the grape-vine. Then they looked at each other without speaking. A cold rain was falling, mixed with snow. They started working...

When Sue woke up next morning, she found Johnsy looking at the drawn curtains with wide-open eyes.

"Open the curtains; I want to see!" she commanded in a whisper.

Sue obeyed.

The rain was beating against the windows and a strong wind was blowing, but one leaf still stood out against the brick wall. It was the last on the vine. It hung bravely from a branch about twenty feet above the ground.

The day wore away, and even through the twilight they could see the lonely leaf on its branch against the wall. And then with the coming of the night the north wind blew again with greater force, and the rain still beat against the windows.

When it was light enough, Johnsy ordered Sue to open the curtains. The vine leaf was still there.

Johnsy lay for a long time looking at it and then said:

"I've been a bad girl, Sue. I wish I hadn't been so wicked. Something has made that last leaf stay there to show me how wicked I was when I wanted to die. You may bring me a little soup now and some milk with a little port wine in it, and — no, bring me a hand-mirror first and pack some pillows about me, I want to sit and watch you cook."

The doctor came in the afternoon and said Johnsy was out of danger. "And now I must see another patient downstairs," he added. "His name's Behrman — some kind of artist, I believe. He's a weak old man and there's obviously no hope for him."

Next day Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay and put one arm around her.

"I've something to tell you, white mouse," she said. "I got a note this morning. Mr Behrman died of pneumonia in hospital. He was only ill two days, so he didn't suffer long. The janitor found him in the morning of the first day in his room helpless with pain. His shoes and clothes were wet through and icy cold. They couldn't imagine where he had been on such a terrible night. And then they found a lantern still lighted, and a ladder that had been taken from its place, and some brushes lying here and there, and green and yellow paint, and — look out of the window, dear, at the last leaf on the wall. Didn't you wonder why it never moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it's Behrman's masterpiece — he painted it there the night the last leaf fell."


  1. ^ The name (by Henry Cecil)


Henry Cecil (1901— ) is an English writer. He was born in Middlesex before the First World War, the author of many successful books: "Alibi for a Judge", "Friends at Court", "Sober as a Judge", and "Settled out of Court".

THE NAME

"GEORGE ELEPHANT!" called the Clerk in Court Number One; and a small man with glasses was brought.

"Are you George Elephant?" asked the Clerk.

"I am."

"You are charged with murder; that you at Golders Green on the 19th day of January 1948, murdered Jane Elephant. How say you, George Elephant, are you guilty or not guilty?"

"Not guilty."

"Very well," said the Judge. "You may sit down."

Except for a few remarks on the curious name of the prisoner, few people were interested in the case. The facts as stated were very simple. On the 20th January the prisoner had walked into a police station. "I have cut my wife's throat," he said. "She's quite dead."

It seemed true enough. Her throat seemed to have been cut with a razor which was near her body.

No defence was put forward at the police court. It seemed a clear case. The prisoner was, however, later defended by Sir Gordon Macintosh, who seldom accepted facts as they seemed. He never accepted more than one case at a time and he went into that case very thoroughly indeed. These are the facts that he discovered about George Elephant.

George was born of ordinary middle-class parents at the end of the nineteenth century. There was no sign of madness in the family. On leaving school George had gone into his father's business, and after that he had married and settled down to an ordinary life. Jane was not a particularly attractive wife. Although she was pretty, she grew fat as she grew older. She took a good deal of pleasure in laughing at George, and one of the subjects of which she never seemed to get tired was his last name. George was a little ashamed of his name, but he had never had the courage to change it.

I have known a man called Sidebottom very reasonably change his name to Edgedale when he had grown impatient of the telephone calls of jokers.

Usually, however, the owners of unfortunate names just bear them. George had certainly suffered a great deal. When he first went to school and was asked his name in front of the other boys, he replied, "George Elephant."

"Olliphant?" said the master.

"No, sir, Elephant."

"What, Elephant? Like the animals?"

"Yes, sir, like the animals."

After that at school he was called by the names of all known, and some unknown, animals. George was modest, and boys at school are merciless. He was not happy there and was thankful when he left. But his troubles did not end when he left school. Like Mr. Sidebottom, he received many calls from the people who have nothing better to do than to use the telephone as a means of annoyance.

You Smiths and Robinsons, who have never suffered in this way, may smile. These unwelcome attentions from impolite strangers may seem to you unimportant. But change your name to a foolish one — even for two weeks — and see what happens to you. Some of the Elephant family did, in fact, change their name to Olliphant; but George's father said that what was good enough for his father was also good enough for him. He kept the name Elephant.

George, indeed, had no pride in his name but, for no exact reason, was unwilling to change it. So he suffered the smiles of shopgirls when he gave his name, and the continual jokes of the people on the telephone. He even thought of giving up the telephone, but he needed it and so he kept it.

When he married Jane he had hoped she would make his difficulties lighter. But Jane did not mind being called Elephant; in fact she told everyone her new name, particularly if her husband was near. Even when she was being loving she used to call him "my elephant boy", and so he was not allowed to forget.

When Sir Gordon Macintosh had discovered these facts, he had no doubt at all of the proper defence to raise in the court. He immediately had George examined by famous doctors. He claimed that either the prisoner had been driven mad by his early sufferings and his wife's behaviour; or that he had entirely lost control of himself.

In putting forward the defence of madness he did not say that the prisoner had imagined he was really an elephant. He simply said that the man's mind had given way. It was proved that George was a quiet little man who had never offered violence to anyone. Relations and friends said that his behaviour towards his wife was without fault.

"Why," said Sir Gordon, "should this mild little man kill his wife unless he was mad? I listened to all your names as they were read out in court. You will pardon me if I say that they were all ordinary names. How happy you must be that they are. I do not, however, ask you to find the prisoner not guilty out of thankfulness or pity. I ask you to listen the words of famous doctors. They will tell you that the mind of the prisoner has been affected from his earliest childhood by this extraordinary name. These doctors have discovered that the boy's nurses and teachers used to make him angry by laughing at his name. At that time he probably did not know the fact, but the effect on his mind was increased by the boys at school, by those whom he met in business, by jokers, and finally by his unfortunate wife. These doctors are ready to say that, in their opinion, the mind of the accused man may have been in such a state that he was not, at the time when he killed his wife, fully responsible for his actions."

Sir Gordon said much more of the same kind and then called his witnesses. The doctors said that the accused was not mad, but that his mind was very much affected by jokes about his name. They thought that he would not have killed his wife if a policeman had been in the room at the time. They agreed that he realized that it was wrong to kill a wife. But the doctors for the defence said that the prisoner might have been made so angry by his wife's jokes that he could not control himself.

George was not found quilty of murder, but he was sent to prison with hard labour for seven years. That, however, was not the end of the matter, because the case by this time caused great public interest.

A law was suggested to make it a serious offence to use the telephone for making jokes about names. Letters were written to the newspapers by those who had unusual names. Doctors wrote articles, and the case of George Elephant became quite famous. In the end, so much sympathy was shown for George and so much pressure was put on the Government, that George's time in prison was reduced from seven years to three. This meant that George would be set free after a little more than two years if he behaved himself well.

Two years later, just before he was let out, a priest arrived at the prison where George was. He had a talk with George.

"Before you leave," said the visitor, "would you like to say anything to me in secret, so that you may feel, when you leave these walls, that you are starting life again with a clean soul?"

George hesitated. "You can trust me, you know", said the man. "And I feel that there may be something — even something quite small — that is a load on your mind. Perhaps you would like to lay down the load, and perhaps I can help you. Start telling me in your own words the story of your crime; for although there may have been an excuse for it, it was a crime. Tell me, for example, what was it that actually led you to kill your wife?"

"Well, as a matter of fact," said George, "I was fond of another woman."


  1. ^ The open window (after H. Munro)


"My aunt will come down in a few minutes, Mr Nuttel," said a girl of fifteen, showing him into the sitting-room. Mr Nuttel was a young painter who had recently had a nervous breakdown. The doctors had told him that he should go away for a holiday. They warned him, however, against crowded resorts and recommended a complete rest in a quiet country-place. So here he was, in a little village, with letters of introduction from his sister to some of the people she knew.

"Some of the people there are quite nice," his sister had said to him. "I advise you to call on Mrs Sappleton as soon as you arrive. I owe the wonderful holiday I had to her."

"Do you know many of the people round here?" asked the girl when they were sitting comfortably on the sofa.

"No, I'm afraid I don't," answered Mr Nuttel. "I've never been here before. My sister stayed here four years ago, you know, and she gave me letters of introduction to some of the people here."

"Then you know nothing about my aunt, do you?" asked the girl.

"Only her name and address," said the visitor.

"Her great tragedy happened just three years ago," said the child.

"Her tragedy?" asked Mr Nuttel.

"You may wonder why we keep that window wide open on an October afternoon," went on the girl, pointing to a large French window.

"It's quite warm for this time of year," said Mr Nuttel. "But has that window anything to do with the tragedy?"

"Exactly three years ago my aunt's husband and her two young brothers walked out through that window. They went shooting and never came back. When they were crossing the river their boat probably turned over and they were all drowned. Their bodies were never found. That was the most horrible part of the tragedy." Here the girl stopped. There were tears in her eyes and she drew a handkerchief out of her pocket. "Three years have passed, but my poor aunt still thinks that they will come back some day, they and the little brown dog that was drowned with them, and walk in through that window just as they always did. That is why the window is kept open every evening till it's quite dark. Poor dear aunt, she can't understand that they've left forever. She's growing worse day by day, so let me give you some advice. Don't be surprised at anything she says or does: she will start telling you all over again how they went out — her husband, with his coat over his arm, and her youngest brother, singing 'Bertie, why don't you come?...' as she once told me. You know, sometimes, on quiet evenings like this, I almost get a feeling that they will all walk in through that window, and the whole family will be gathered in here again." The young girl finished her sad story. There was a long pause, and Mr Nuttel was glad when Mrs Sappleton at last entered the room.

"I'm sorry I'm late," she said, "but I hope my niece has entertained you well."

"Yes, she's been very amusing," said Mr Nuttel.

"D'you mind the open window?" asked Mrs Sappleton. "My husband and brothers will soon be home from shooting and they always come into the house this way." And she went on speaking gaily about shooting. After what Mr Nuttel had just heard, he looked worried.

"The doctors told me," he said, trying to change the subject, "to have a rest here and to avoid anything that would make me feel nervous."

"Did they?" said Mrs Sappleton in a voice which showed that she was not at all interested in what Mr Nuttel was saying. She never took her eyes off the open window and suddenly cried out:

"Here they are at last! Just in time for tea. How tired they look."

Mr Nuttel looked at the girl and saw that she was looking out through the open window with horror in her eyes. Mr Nuttel turned round slowly in his seat, looked in the same direction and saw three figures walking across the garden towards the window. They all carried guns and one of them had a coat over his shoulder. A tired brown dog was following them. Noiselessly they approached the house, and then a young voice began to sing. "Bertie, why don't you come?"

Mr Nuttel seized his hat and ran out of the house like mad.

"Here we are, my dear," said Mrs Sappleton's husband, coming in through the window. "We've enjoyed ourselves very much. I wonder what made that gentleman run out so quickly when we came up? Who is he?"

"A very strange young man, called Nuttel. He could only talk about his illness. He didn't say a single interesting thing. I don't understand why he ran out that way without saying good-bye," said his wife.

"I think it was the dog," said the niece calmly. "He told me that he was afraid of dogs. Once when he was attacked by a pack of dogs somewhere in India, he was so frightened that he started running like mad, and finding himself in a cemetery, climbed down into a newly-dug grave, where he had to spend the night. Since then he has always been afraid of dogs."

She was very good at inventing stories and did it artistically.


8. ^ Time (by H.E.Bates)


H.E.Bates (1905—1974), a modern English writer, was born in 1905 in Rushden, Northampton, England. He was educated at a grammar school, then worked on a local newspaper. Disliking the drudgery of journalism, he became a clerk in a leather warehouse. His new job gave him leisure to write fiction and in 1925 he attained his majority and publication of his first novel together. The author of a number of novels, plays and essays H. E. Bates is also a prolific and widely anthologized short-story writer.


TIME


Sitting on an iron seat fixed about the body of a great chestnut tree breaking into pink-flushed blossom, two old men gazed dumbly at the sunlit emptiness of a town square.

The morning sun burned in a sky of marvellous blue serenity, making the drooping leaves of the tree most brilliant and the pale blossoms expand to fullest beauty. The eyes of the old men were also blue, but the brilliance of the summer sky made a mockery of the dim and somnolent light in them. Their thin white hair and drooping skin, their faltering lips and rusted clothes, the huddling bones of their bodies had come to winter. Their hands tottered, their lips were wet and dribbling, and they stared with a kind of earnest vacancy, seeing the world as a stillness of amber mist. They were perpetually silent, for the deafness of one made speech a ghastly effort of shouting and misinterpretation. With their worn sticks between their knees and their worn hands knotted over their sticks they sat as though time had ceased to exist for them.

Nevertheless every movement across the square was an event. Their eyes missed nothing that came within sight. It was as if the passing of every vehicle held for them the possibility of catastrophe; the appearance of a strange face was a revolution; the apparitions of young ladies in light summer dresses gliding on legs of shellpink silk had on them something of the effect of goddesses on the minds of young heroes. There were, sometimes, subtle changes of light in their eyes. 138

Across the square, they observed an approaching figure. They watched it with a new intensity, exchanging also, for the first time, a glance with one another. For the first time also they spoke.

"Who is it?" said one.

"Duke, ain't it?"

"Looks like Duke," the other said. "But I can't see that far."

Leaning forward on their sticks, they watched the approach of this figure with intent expectancy. He, too, was old. Beside him, indeed, it was as if they were adolescent. He was patriarchal. He resembled a Biblical prophet, bearded and white and immemorial. He was timeless.

But though he looked like a patriarch he came across the square with the haste of a man in a walking race. He moved with a nimbleness and airiness that were miraculous. Seeing the old men on the seat he waved his stick with an amazing gaiety at them. It was like the brandishing of a youthful sword. Ten yards away he bellowed their names lustily in greeting.

"Well, Reuben boy! Well, Shepherd!"

They mumbled somberly in reply. He shouted stentoriously about the weather, wagging his white beard strongly. They shifted stiffly along the seat and he sat down. A look of secret relief came over their dim faces, for he had towered above them like a statue in silver and bronze.

"Thought maybe you warn't coming," mumbled Reuben.

"Ah! been for a sharp walk!" he half-shouted. "A sharp walk." They had not the courage to ask where he had walked, but in his clear brisk voice he told them, and deducing that he could not have travelled less than six or seven miles they sat in gloomy silence, as though shamed. With relief they saw him fumble in his pockets and bring out a bag of peppermints, black-and-white balls sticky and strong from the heat of his strenuous body and having one by one popped peppermints into their mouths they sucked for a long time with toothless and dumb solemnity, contemplating the sunshine.

As they sucked, the two old men waited for Duke to speak, and they waited like men awaiting an oracle, since he was, in their eyes, a masterpiece of a man. Long ago, when they had been napkinned and at the breast, he had been a man with a beard, and before they had reached their youth he had passed into a lusty maturity. All their lives they had felt infantile beside him.

Now, in old age, he persisted in shaming them by the lustiness of his achievements and his vitality. He had the secret of devilish perpetual youth. To them the world across the square was veiled in sunny mistiness, but Duke could detect the swiftness of a rabbit on a hill-side a mile away.

They heard the sounds of the world as though through a stone wall, but he could hear the crisp bark of a fox in another parish. They were condemned to an existence of memory because they could not read, but Duke devoured the papers. He had an infinite knowledge of the world and the freshest affairs of men. He brought them, every morning, news of earthquakes in Peru, of wars in China, of assassinations in Spain, of scandals among the clergy. He understood the obscurest movements of politicians and explained to them the newest laws of the land. They listened to him with the devoutness of worshippers listening to a preacher, regarding him with awe and believing in him with humble astonishment. There were times when he lied to them blatantly. They never suspected.

As they sat there, blissfully sucking, the shadow of the chestnut tree began to shorten, its westward edge creeping up, like a tide, towards their feet. Beyond, the sun continued to blaze with unbroken brilliance on the white square. Swallowing the last smooth grain of peppermint, Reuben wondered aloud what time it could be.

"Time?" said Duke. He spoke ominously. "Time?" he repeated.

They watched his hand solemnly uplift itself and vanish into his breast. They had no watches. Duke alone could tell them the passage of time while appearing to mock at it himself. Very slowly he drew out an immense watch, held it out at length on its silver chain, and regarded it steadfastly.

They regarded it also, at first with humble solemnity and then with quiet astonishment. They leaned forward to stare at it. Their eyes were filled with a great light of unbelief. The watch had stopped.

The three old men continued to stare at the watch in silence. The stopping of this watch was like the stopping of some perfect automaton. It resembled almost the stopping of time itself. Duke shook the watch urgently. The hands moved onwards for a second or two from half-past three and then were dead again. He lifted it to his ear and listened. It was silent.

For a moment or two longer the old man sat in lugubrious contemplation. The watch, like Duke, was a masterpiece, incredibly ancient, older even than Duke himself. They did not know how often he had boasted to them of its age and efficiency, its beauty and pricelessness. They remembered that it had once belonged to his father, that he had been offered incredible sums for it, that it had never stopped since the battle of Waterloo.

Finally Duke spoke. He spoke with the mysterious air of a man about to unravel a mystery, "Know what't is?"

They could only shake their heads and stare with the blankness of ignorance and curiosity. They could not know.

Duke made an ominous gesture, almost a flourish, with the hand that held the watch.

"It's the lectric."

They stared at him with dim-eyed amazement.

"It's the lectric" he repeated. "The lectric in me body."

Shepherd was deaf. "Eh?" he said.

"The lectric," said Duke significantly, in a louder voice.

"Lectric?" They did not understand, and they waited.

The oracle spoke at last, repeating with one hand the ominous gesture that was like a flourish.

"It stopped yesterday. Stopped in the middle of my dinner," he said. He was briefly silent. "Never stopped as long as I can remember. Never. And then stopped like that, all of a sudden, just at pudden-time. Couldn't understand it. Couldn't understand it for the life of me."

"Take it to the watchmaker's?" Reuben said.

"I did," he said. "I did. This watch is older'n me, I said, and it's never stopped as long as I can remember. So he squinted at it and poked it and that's what he said." "What?"

"It's the lectric, he says, that's what it is. It's the lectric — the lectric in your body. That's what he said. The lectric."

"Lectric light?"

"That's what he said. Lectric. You're full o'lectric, he says. You go home and leave your watch on the shelf and it'll go again. So I did."

The eyes of the old men seemed to signal intense questions. There was an ominous silence. Finally, with the watch still in his hand, Duke made an immense flourish, a gesture of serene triumph.

"And it went," he said. "It went!"

The old men murmured in wonder.

"It went all right. Right as a cricket! Beautiful!"

The eyes of the old men flickered with fresh amazement. The fickleness of the watch was beyond the weakness of their ancient comprehension. They groped for understanding as they might have searched with their dim eyes for a balloon far up in the sky. Staring and murmuring they could only pretend to understand.

"Solid truth," said Duke. "Goes on the shelf but it won't go on me. It's the lectric."

"That's what licks me," said Reuben, "the lectric."

"It's me body," urged Duke. "It's full of it."

"Lectric light?"

"Full of it. Alive with it."

He spoke like a man who had won a prize. Bursting with glory, he feigned humility. His white beard wagged lustily with pride, but the hand still bearing the watch seemed to droop with modesty.

"It's the lectric," he boasted softly.

They accepted the words in silence. It was as though they began to understand at last the lustiness of Duke's life, the nimbleness of his mind, the amazing youthful-ness of his patriarchal limbs.

The shadow of the chestnut tree had dwindled to a small dark circle about their seat. The rays of the sun were brilliantly perpendicular. On the chestnut tree itself the countless candelabra of blossoms were a pure blaze of white and rose. A clock began to chime for noon.

Duke, at that moment, looked at his watch, still lying in his hand.

He stared with instant guilt. The hands had moved miraculously to four o'clock, and in the stillness of the summer air he could hear the tick of wheels.

With hasty gesture of resignation he dropped the watch into his pocket again. He looked quickly at the old men, but they were sunk in sombre meditation. They had not seen or heard.

Abruptly he rose. "That's what it is," he said. "The, lectric." He made a last gesture as though to indicate that he was the victim of some divine manifestation. "The lectric," he said.

He retreated nimbly across the square in the hot sunshine and the old men sat staring after him with the innocence of solemn wonder. His limbs moved with the haste of a clockwork doll, and he vanished with incredible swiftness from sight.

The sun had crept beyond the zenith and the feet of the old men were bathed in sunshine.




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