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SHORT_STORIES_to_READ

 
 

 


Part One

 

1. Lost in the Post. A. Philips

2. Success Story. J.G. Cozzens

3. Hunting for a Job. S.S. McClure

4. A Foul Play. R. Ruark

5. Jimmy Valentine's Reformation. O. Henry

6. Letter in the Mail. E. Caldwell

7. The Brumble Bush. Ch. Mergendahl

8. The Beard. G. Clark

9. Lautisse Paints Again. H.A. Smith

10. A Good Start

11. The Filipino and The Drunkard. W. Saroyan

12. The Dinner Party. N. Monsarrat

13. Fair of Face. C. Hare

14. Caged. L.E. Reeve

15. The TV Blackout. Art Buchwald

16. Then in Triumph. Frank L. Parke

17. The Verger. W.S. Maugham

18. A Lion's Skin. W.S. Maugham

19. Footprints in the Jungle. W.S. Maugham

20. The Ant and the Grasshopper. W.S. Maugham

21. The Happy Man. W.S. Maugham

22. The Escape. W.S. Maugham

23. Mr. Know-All. W.S. Maugham

24. Art for Heart's Sake. R. Goldberg

25. Wager with Destiny. E.Z. Gatti

Lost in the Post

A. Philips

 

Ainsley, a post-office sorter, turned the envelope over and over in his hands. The letter was addressed to his vrife and had an Australian stamp.

Ainsley knew that the sender was Dicky Soames, his wife's cousin. It was the second letter Ainsley received after Dicky's departure. The first letter had come six months before, he did not read it and threw it into the fire. No man ever had less reason for jealousy than Ainsley. His wife was frank as the day, a splendid housekeeper, a very good mother to their two children. He knew that Dicky Soames had been fond of Adela and the fact that Dicky Soames had years back gone away to join his and Adela's uncle made no difference to him. He was afraid that some day Dicky would return and take Adela from him.

Ainsley did not take the letter when he was at work as his fellow-workers could see him do it. So when the working hours were over he went out of the post-office together with his fellow workers, then he returned to take the letter addressed to his wife. As the door of the post-office was locked, he had to get in through a window. When he was getting out of the window the postmaster saw him. He got angry and dismissed Ainsley. So another man was hired and Ainsley became unemployed. Their life became hard; they had to borrow money from their friends.

Several months had passed. One afternoon when Ainsley came home he saw the familiar face of Dicky Soames. "So he had turned up," Ainsley thought to himself.

Dicky Soames said he was delighted to see Ainsley. "I have missed all of you so much," he added with a friendly smile.

Ainsley looked at his wife. "Uncle Tom has died," she explained "and Dicky has come into his money".

"Congratulation," said Ainsley, "you are lucky."

Adela turned to Dicky. "Tell Arthur the rest," she said quietly. "Well, you see," said Dicky, "Uncle Tom had something over sixty thousand and he wished Adela to have half. But he got angry with you because Adela never answered the two letters I wrote to her for him. Then he changed his will and left her money to hospitals. I asked him not to do it, but he wouldn't listen to me!" Ainsley turned pale. "So those two letters were worth reading after all," he thought to himself. For some time everybody kept silence. Then Dicky Soames broke the silence, "It's strange about those two letters. I've often wondered why you didn't answer them?" Adela got up, came up to her husband and said, taking him by the hand. "The letters were evidently lost." At that moment Ansley realized that she knew everything.



 

 

Success Story

J. G. Cozzens

 

I met Richards ten or more years ago when I first went down to Cuba. He was a short, sharp-faced, agreeable chap, then about 22. He introduced himself to me on the boat and I was surprised to find that Panamerica Steel was sending us both to the same

Richards was from some not very good state university engineering schooP. Being the same age myself, and just out of technical college I saw at once that his knowledge was rather poor. In fact I couldn't imagine how he had managed to get this job.

Richards was naturally likable, and I liked him a lot. The firm had a contract for the construction of a private railroad. For Richards and me it was mostly an easy job of inspections and routine paper work. At least it was easy for me. It was harder for Richards, because he didn't appear to have mastered the use of a slide rule. When he asked me to check his figures I found his calculations awful. "Boy," I was at last obliged to say, "you are undoubtedly the silliest white man in this province. Look, stupid, didn't you evertake arithmetic? How much are seven times thirteen?" "Work that out," Richards said, "and let me have a report tomorrow."

So when I had time I checked his figures for him, and the inspector only caught him in a bad mistake about twice. In January several directors of the United Sugar Company came down to us on business, but mostly pleasure; a good excuse to 'get south on a vacation. Richards and I were to accompany them around the place. One of the directors, Mr. Prosset was asking a number of questions. I knew the job well enough to answer every sensible question – the sort of question that a trained engineer would be likely to ask. As it was Mr. Prosset was not an engineer and some of his questions put me at a loss. For the third time I was obliged to say, "I'm afraid I don't know, sir.

We haven't any calculations on that".

When suddenly Richards spoke up.

"I think, about nine million cubic feet, sir", he said. "I just happened to be working this out last night. Just for my own interest".

"Oh," said Mr. Prosset, turning in his seat and giving him a sharp look. "That's very interesting, Mr. -er- Richards, isn't it? Well, now, maybe you could tell me about".

Richards could. Richards knew everything. All the way up Mr. Prosset fired questions on him and he fired answers right back. When we reached the head of the rail, a motor was waiting for Mr. Prosset. He nodded absent-mindedly to me, shook hands with Richards. "Very interesting, indeed," he said. "Good-bye, Mr. Richards, and thank you."

"Not, at all, sir," Richards said. "Glad if I could be of service to you."

As soon as the car moved off, I exploded. "A little honest bluff doesn't hurt; but some of your figures...!"

"I like to please," said Richards grinning. "If a man like Prosset wants to know something, who am I to hold out on him?"

"What's he going to think when he looks up the figures or asks somebody who does know?"

"Listen, my son," said Richards kindly. "He wasn't asking for any information he was going to use. He doesn't want to know these figures. He won't remember them. I don't even remember them myself. What he is going to remember is you and me." "Yes," said Richards firmly. "He is going to remember that Panamerica Steel has a bright young man named Richards who could tell him everything, he wanted, – just the sort of chap he can use; not like that other fellow who took no interest in his work, couldn't answer the simplest question and who is going to be doing small-time contracting all his life."

It is true. I am still working for the Company, still doing a little work for the construction line. And Richards? I happened to read in a newspaper a few weeks ago that Richards had been made a vice-resident and director of Panamerica Steel when the Prosset group bought the old firm.

 

 

Hunting for a Job

S.S. McClure

 

I reached Boston late that night and got out at the South Station. I knew no one in Boston except Miss Bennet. She lived in Somerville, and I immediately started out for Somerville. Miss Bennet and her family did all they could to make me comfortable and help me to get myself established' in some way. I had only six dollars and their hospitality was of utmost importance to me.

My first application for a job in Boston was made in accordance with an idea of my own. Every boy in the Western states knew the Pope Manufacturing Company, which produced bicycles. When I published my first work "History of Western College Journalism" the Pope Company had given me an advertisement, and that seemed to be a "connection" of some kind. So I decided to go to the offices of the Pope Manufacturing Company to ask for a job. I walked into the general office and said that I wanted the president of the company.

"Colonel Pope?" asked the clerk.

I answered, "Yes, Colonel Pope."

I was taken to Colonel Pope, who was then an alert energetic man of thirty-nine. I told Colonel Pope, by way of introduction, that he had once given me an advertisement for a little book I had published, that I had been a College editor and out of a job. What I wanted was work and I wanted it badly.

He said he was sorry, but they were laying of hands. I still hung on4. It seemed to me that everything would be all up with me', if I had to go out of that room without a job. I asked him if there wasn't anything at all that I could do. My earnestness made him look at me sharply.

"Willing to wash windows and scrub floors?" he asked.

I told him that I was, and he turned to one of his clerks.

"Has Wilmot got anybody yet to help him in the downtown' rink?" he asked.

The clerk said he thought not.

"Very well", said Colonel Pope. "You can go to the rink and help Wilmot out for tomorrow."

The next day I went to the bicycle rink and found that what Wilmot wanted was a man to teach beginners to ride. I had never been on a bicycle in my life nor even very c}ose to one, but in a couple of hours I had learnt to ride a bicycle myself and was teaching other people.

Next day Mr. Wilmot paid me a dollar. He didn't say anything about my coming back the next morning, but I came and went to work, very much afraid that I vrould be told I wasn't needed. After that Mr. Wilmot did not exactly engage me, but he forgot to discharge me, and I came back every day and went to work. At the end of the week Colonel Pope sent for me and placed me in charge of the uptown' rink.

Colonel Pope was a man who watched his workmen. I hadn't been mistaken when I felt that a young man would have a chance with him. He often used to say that "water would find its level", and he kept an eye on us. One day he called me into his office and asked me if I could edit a magazine.

"Yes, sir," I replied quickly. I remember it flashed through my mind that I could do anything I was put at '96 that if I were required to run an ocean steamer I could somehow manage to do it. I could learn to do it as I went along'. I answered as quickly as I could get the words out of my mouth, afraid that Colonel Pope would change his mind before I could get them out.

This is how I got my first job. And I have never doubted ever since that one of the reasons why I got it was that I had been "willing to wash windows and scrub floors". I had been ready for anything.

 

A Foul Play

R. Ruark

 

In 1943 Lieutenant Alexander Barr was ordered into the Armed Guard aboard the merchant ship, like many other civillian officers with no real mechanical skills – teachers, writers, lawyers.

His men were the rag-tag' of merchant service and knew very little of it. Lieutenant Alec Barr had his crew well in hand except one particularly unpleasant character, a youngster called Zabinski. Every ship has its problem child, and Zabinski was Alec's cross. If anybody was drunk and in trouble ashore, it was Zabinski. If anybody was smoking on watch, or asleep on watch, it always was Zabinski. Discipline on board was hard to keep and Zabinski made it worse.

Alec called the boy to his cabin. "I've tried to reason with you'," he said. "I've punished you with everything from confinement to ship' to extra duty. I've come to the conclusion that the only thing you may understand is force. I've got some boxing gloves. Navy Regulations say they should be used for recreation.

We are going to have some.

"That's all right", Zabinski said smiling.

Alec announced the exhibition of boxing skill. A lot of people gathered on deck to watch the match.

It didn't take Lieutenant Barr long to discover that he was in the ring with a semiprofessional. They were fighting two-minute rounds. But from the first five seconds of the first round Alec knew that Zabinski could knock him out with a single punch if he wanted to. But Zabinski didn't want to, he was toying with his commander, and the snickers' grew into laughter.

In the third round Alec held up a glove. "Time out!", he said. "I'm going to my cabin, I'll soon be back". He turned and ran up to his cabin. In the cabin there was a safe. Alec's duty was to pay wages to his personnel. Alec Barr opened the safe and took out a paper-wrapped roll of ten-cent coins. He put this roll of silver coins into his glove and returned on deck.

"Let's go!" he said and touched gloves with Zabinski. It had pleased Zabinski before to allow the officer to knock him from time to time because it gave him a chance for a short and painful punch. But now the silver-weighted glove crashed into the boy's chin and Zabinski was out. He was lying on the floor motionless.

Alec Barr looked briefly at the boy. "Somebody throw some water on him," he said coldly to the seamen. And he went up to his room to clean his cuts' and put the roll of coins back to the safe. After that Lieutenant Alexander Barr had no more personnel trouble aboard ship.

 

Jimmy Valentine's Reformation

O. Henry

 

Jimmy Valentine was released' that day.

"Now, Valentine," said the warden', "you'll go out today. Make a man of yourself. You are not a bad fellow really. Stop breaking open safes and be honest."

"Me?" said Jimmy in surprise. "Why, I've never broken a safe in my life." The warden laughed. "Better think over my advice, Valentine."

In the evening Valentine arrived in his native town, went directly to the cafe of his old friend Mike and shook hands with Mike. Then he took the key of hisroom and went upstairs. Everything was just as he had left it. Jimmy removed a panel in the wall and dragged out a dust-covered suitcase. He opened it and looked fondly at the finest set of burglar's' tools. It was a complete set made of special steel. The set consisted of various tools of the latest design. Over nine hundreddollars they had cost him.

A week after the release of Valentine there was a new safe-burglary in Richmond. Two weeks after that another safe was opened. That began to interest the detectives. Ben Price, a famous detective, got interested in these cases.

"That's all Jimmy Valentine's work. He has resumed business. He has got the only tools that can open any safe without leaving the slightest trace."

One afternoon Jimmy Valentine came to Elmore, a little town in Arkansas. A young lady crossed the street, passed him at the corner and entered a door over which was the sign "The Elmore Bank". Jimmy Valentine looked into her eyes, forgot what he was and became another man. She lowered her eyes and blushed slightly. Young men of Jimmy's style and looks were not of ten met in Elmore. Jimmy called a boy who was standing on the steps of the bank and began to ask him questions about the town and the people of the town. From this boy he learnt that this girl was Annabel Adams and that her father was the owner of the bank.

Jimmy went to a hotel and registered as Ralf Spencer. To the clerk he said that he had come to Elmore to start business. The clerk was impressed by the clothes and manner of Jimmyand he was ready to give Jimmy any information. Soon Jimmy opened a shoe-store and made large profits. In all other respects he was also a success. He was popular with many important people and had many friends. And he accomplished the wish of his heart. He met Miss Annabel Adams and she fell in love with him too. Annabel's father, whowas a typical country banker approved of Spencer. The young people were to be married in two weeks. Jimmy gave up safe-burglary for ever. He was an honest man now. He decided to get rid of his tools.

At that time a new saf e was put in Mr. Adams' bank. The old man was very proud of it and insisted that everyone should inspect it. So one day the whole family with the children went to the bank. Mr. Adams enthusiastically explained the workings of the safe to Spencer. The two children were delighted to see the shining metal and the funny clock. While they were thus engaged Ben Price, the detective, walked into the bank and stood at the counter watching the scene. He told the cashier that he was just waiting for the man he knew. Suddenly there was a loud scream from the women. Unseen by the elders, May, the smallest girl had shut herself in the vault.

"It's impossible to open the door now," said Mr. Adams in a trembling voice, "because the clock of the safe hasn't been wound. Oh, what shall we do? That child – she can't stand it for long because there isn't enough air there!"

"Get away from the door, all of you," suddenly commanded Spencer. And it must be mentioned that Jimmy happened to have his suit-case with him because he was going to get rid of it that day. Very calmly he took out the tools and in ten minutes the vault was opened. The others watched him in amazement. The little girl, crying, rushed to her mother.

Jimmy took his suit-case and came up to Ben Price whom he had noticed long bef ore. "Hello, Ben", he said, "Let's go. I don't think it matters much now." And then suddenly Ben Price acted rather strangely. "I guess, you are mistaken Mr. Spencer," he said. "I don't seem to recognize you. I think your fiancee' is waiting for you, isn't she?" And Ben Price turned and walked out of the Bank.

 

 

Letters in the Mail

E. Caldwell

 

Almost everybody likes to receive letters. And perhaps nobody in Stillwater liked to get letters more than Ray Buffin. But unfortunately Ray received fewer letters in his box at the post-office than anybody else.

Guy Hodge and Ralph Barnhill were two young men in town who liked to play jokes on people. But they never meant anything bad. One afternoon they decided to play a joke on Ray Buffin. Their plan was to ask a girl in town to send Ray a love letter withoutsigning it, and then tell everybody in the post-office to watch Ray read the letter; then somebody was to ask Ray if he had received a love letter from a girl. After that somebody was to snatch the letter out of his hand and read it aloud.

They bought blue writing paper and went round the corner to the office of the telephone company where Grace Brooks worked as a night telephone operator. Grace was pretty though not very young. She had begun working for the company many years ago, after she had finished school. She had remained unmarried all those years, and because she worked at night and slept in the daytime it was very difficult for her to find a husband.

At first, after Guy and Ralf had explained to her what they wanted to do and had asked her to write the letter to Ray, Grace refused to do it.

"Now, be a good girl, Grace, do us a favour and writethe letter." Suddenly she turned away. She didn'twant the young men to see her crying. She remembered the time she had got acquainted with Ray. Ray wanted to marry her. But she had just finished school then and had started to work for the telephone company; she was very young then and did not want to marry anybody. Time passed. During all those years she had seen him a few times but only a polite word had passed between them, and each time he looked sadder and sadder.

Finally she agreed to write the letter for Guy and Ralph and said that she would send it in the morning.

After they left the telephone office Grace thought about Ray and cried. Late at night she wrote the letter.

The next day Guy and Ralph were in the post-of-fice at 4 o'clock. By that time there was a large crowd in the post-office. When Ray came in and saw a letter in his box he looked at it in surprise. He couldn't believe his eyes. He opened the box, took out the blue envelope and went to the corner of the room to read it. When he finished he behaved like mad. He smiled happily and ran out of the room before Guy and Ralph had time to say anything to stop him. Ray hurried round the corner to the telephone office.

When Guy and Ralph ran into the room where Grace worked they saw Ray Buffin standing near the girl with the widest and happiest smile they had ever seen on his face. It was clear they had not spoken a word yet. They just stood in silence, too happy to worry about Guy and Ralph watching them.

Find in the text English equivalents for the following words and expressions:

 

The Bramble Bush

Ch. Mergcndahl

 

As Fran Walker, one of the nurses of the Mills Memorial Hospital, was sitting between rounds behind her duty desk, she often recollected her childhood, which would return to her as it had existed in reality '96 bewildering, lonely, and frustrating.

Her father, Mr. Walker, had owned a small lumber business' in Sagamore, one of Indiana's numerous smaller towns, where Fran had lived in a large frame house on six acres of unused pasture land'. The first Mrs. Walker had died, when Fran was still a baby, so she did not remember her real mother at all. She remembered her stepmother, though – small, tight-lipped, thin-faced, extremely possessive of her new husband and the new house which had suddenly become her own. Fran had adored her father, tried desperately to please him. And since he desired nothing more than a good relationship between his daughter and his second wife, she had made endless attempts to win over her new mother. But her displays of affection had not been returned. Her stepmother had remained constantly jealous, resentful, without the slightest understanding of the small girl's motives and emotions.

Fran felt herself losing out, slipping away into an inferior position. She began to exaggerate – often lie about friends, feelings, grades at school, anything possible to keep herself high in her father's esteem, and at the same time gain some small bit of admiration from her mother. The exaggerations, though, had constantly turned back on her, until eventually a disgusted Mrs. Walker had insisted she be sent away to a nearby summer camp. "They award a badge of honour there," she had said, "and if you win it – not a single untruth all summer – then we'll know you've stopped lying and we'll do something very special for you."

"We'll give you a pony," her father had promised.

Fran wanted the pony. More than the pony, she vranted to prove herself. After two months of nearpainful honesty, she finally won the badge of honour, and brought it home clutched tight in her fist, hiddenin her pocket while she waited, waited, all the way from the station, all during the tea in the living-room for the exact proper moment to make her announcement of glorious victory.

"Well?" her mother had said finally. "Well, Fran?"

"Well – ", Fran began, with the excitement building higher and higher as she drew in her breath and thought of exactly how to say it.

"You can't hide it any longer, Fran." Her mother had sighed in hopeless resignation. "We know you didn't win it, so there's simply no point in lying about it now."

Fran had closed her mouth. She'd stared at her mother, then stood and gone out to the yard and looked across the green meadow where the pony was going to graze. She had taken the green badge from her pocket, fingered it tenderly, then buried it beneath a rock in the garden. She had gone back into the house and said, "No, I didn't win it," and her mother had said, "Well, at least you didn't lie this time," and her father had held her while she'd cried and known f inally that there was no further use in trying.

Her father had bought her an Irish setter as a consolation prize.

 

 

The Beard

G. Clark

 

I was going by train to London. I didn't have the trouble to take anything to eat with me and soon was very hungry. I decided to go to the dining-car to have a meal.

As I was about to seat myself, I saw that the gentleman I was to face wore a large beard. He was a young man. His beard was full, loose and very black. I glanced at him uneasily and noted that he was a big pleasant fellow with dark laughing eyes.

Indeed I could feel his eyes on me as I f umbled with the knives and forks. It was hard to pull myself together. It is not easy to face a beard. But when I could escape no longer, I raised my eyes and found the young man's on my face.

"Good evening," I said cheerily, "Good evening," he replied pleasantly, inserting a big buttered roll within the bush of his beard. Not even a crumb fell off. He ordered soup. It was a difficult soup for even the most barefaced of men to eat, but not a drop did he waste on his whiskers'. He kept his eyes on me in between bites. But I knew he knew that I was watching his every bite with acute fascination.

"I'm impressed," I said, "with your beard."

"I suspected as much," smiled the young man.

"Is it a wartime device?" I inquired.

"No," said he; "I'm too young to have been in the war. I grew this beard two years ago."

"It's magnificent," I informed him.

"Thank you," he replied. "As a matter of fact this beard is an experiment in psychology. I suffered horribly from shyness. I was so shy it amounted to a phobia. At university I took up psychology and began reading books on psychology'. And one day I came across a chapter on human defence mechanisms, explaining how so many of us resort to all kinds of tricks to escape from the world, or from conditions in the world which we f ind hatef ul. Well, I j ust turned a thing around. I decided to make other people shy of me. So I grew this beard.

The effect was astonishing. I found people, even tough, hard-boiled people, were shy of looking in the face. They were panicked by my whiskers. It made them uneasy. And my shyness vanished completely."

He pulled his fine black whiskers affectionately and said: "Psychology is a great thing. Unfortunately people don't know about it. Psychology should help people discover such most helpful tricks. Life is too short to be wasted in desperately striving to be normal."

"Tell me," I said finally. "How did you master eating the way you have? You never got a crumb or a drop on your beard, all through dinner."

"Nothing to it, sir," said he. "When you have a beard, you keep your eyes on those of your dinner partner. And whenever you note his eyes fixed in horror on your chin, you wipe it off."

 

Lautisse Paints Again

H.A. Smith

 

Everybody knows by this time that we met Lautisse on board a ship, but few people know that in the beginning, Betsy and I had no idea who he was.

At first he introduced himself as Monsieur Roland, but as we talked he asked me a lot of questions about myself and my business and finally he asked me if I could keep a secret and said: "I am Lautisse."

I had no idea who he was. I told Betsy and af ter lunch we went up and talked to the ship's librarian, asked him a few questions. And then we found out that my new friend was probably the world's best living painter. The librarian found a book with his biography and a photograph. Though the photograph was bad, we decided that our new acquaintance was Lautisse all right. The book said that he suddenly stopped painting at 53 and lived in a villa in Rivera. He hadn't painted anything in a dozen years and was heard to say he would never touch the brush again.

Well, we got to be real friends and Betsy invited him to come up to our place for a weekend.

Lautisse arrived on the noon train Saturday, and I met him at the station. We had promised him that wewouldn't have any people and that we wouldn't try to talk to him about art. It wasn't very difficult since we were not very keen on art.

I was up at seven-thirty the next morning and I remembered that I had a job to do. Our vegetable garden had a fence around it which needed a coat of paint. I took out a bucket half full of white paint and a brush and an old kitchen chair. I was sitting on the chair thinking, when I heard footsteps and there stood Lautisse. I said that I was getting ready to paint the garden fence but now that he was up, I would stop it. He protested, then took the brush from my hand and said, "First, I'll show you!" At that moment Betsy cried from the kitchen door that breakfast was ready. "No, no," he said. "No breakfast, – I will paint the fence." I argued with him but he wouldn't even look up from his work. Betsy laughed and assured me that he was having a good time. He spent three hours at it and fin-

back to town on the 9. 10 that evening and at the station he shook my hand and said that he hadn't enjoyed himself so much in years.

We didn't hear anything from him for about 10 days but the newspapers learnt about the visit and came to our place. I was out but Betsy told the reporters everything and about the fence too. The next day the papers had quite a story and the headlines said: LAUTISSE PAINTS AGAIN. On the same day three men came to my place from different art galleries and offered 4.000 dollars for the fence. I refused. The next day I was of f ered 25.000 and then 50.000. On the fourth day a sculptor named Gerston came to my place. He was a friend of Lautisse. He advised me to allow the Palmer Museum in New York to exhibit it for a few weeks. He said that the gallery people were interested in the fence because Lautisse had never before used a bit of white paint. I agreed. So the f ence was put in the Palmer Museum. I went down myself to have a look at it. Hundreds of people came to see the fence, and I couldn't help laughing when I saw my fence because it had a fence around it.

A week later Gerston telephoned me and asked to come to him. He had something important to tell me. It turned out that Lautisse visited the exhibition and signed all the thirty sections of my fence. "Now," said Gerston, "you have really got something to sell." And indeed with Gerston's help, 29 of the 30 sections were sold within a month's time and the price was 10.000 each section. I didn't want to sell the 30th section and it's hanging now in our living-room.

 

A Good Start

 

Bill liked painting more than anything in life. He started painting when he was 15 and people said that as a painter he had quite a lot of talent and had mastered most of the technical requirements. At 22 he had his first one-man show when he was discovered by the critics and his pictures were all sold out, With the money he could afford to marry Leila, rent a studio and stop being a student. To complete his education he went to Italy but after 5 months all the money was spent and he had to return.

Bill never had another show like the first one, though he became a better painter. The critics did not think him modern enough and said he was too academic. From time to time he managed to sell some of his paintings but eventually things had got very tight and he was obliged to look for a job.

The day before he went for an interview with his uncle Bill was especially gloomy. In the morning he went up to one of his unfinished pictures in the studio but he felt he couldn't paint. He threw down his brush and a bright red spot appeared on the board already covered with black and yellow paint from his previous work. The board had been used to protect the floor and was at that moment a mixture of bright colours.

When Bill left, Leila got down to cleaning the studio. She took up the board and put it against the wall to clean the floor. At that moment Garrad, Bill's dealer, came in. Bill had asked him to come, look at his work and arrange a show but the dealer had for some time been uncertain on the matter. So he was looking around the studio, explaining how the gallery was booked up for a year and how he could not really promise Bill a show yet for two years or so.

Suddenly the board against the wall attracted his attention.

"Leila, my dear," he exclaimed. "I felt that there must be something like this. Tell me, why is he keeping it away from us?"

Leila was too shocked to answer. But Garrad went on: "I think it's wonderful. I never doubted Bill would catch up with the modern trends. Now Leila, are there more pictures for a full show? I must go now but I'll be ringing him up. I'm going to change the whole plan and show his new work in the autumn. Tell him not to waste time. As to this one if he wants to sell it, I'll buy it myself."

Leila stayed in the studio till Bill came back. She was too excited to tell him the story clearly and Bill could not understand anything at first. When he realised what had happened he shook with laughter. "You didn't explain the whole thing about the board to him, did you?" he managed to say at last.

"No, I didn't. I couldn't really, I believe I should have, but it would have made him look too silly. I just said I didn't think you'd sell it".

What was Bill to do?

Think of your own ending.

(What was Bill to do? What a thing, he thought, to find waiting for you on your return from taking a job at two pounds a week. He could paint more for an exhibition that very evening and show them to Garrad the next day. After all, why not use it as a start for a good painter's career?)

The Filipino and the Drunkard

W. Saroyan

 

This loud-mouthed guy in the brown coat was not really mean', he was drunk. He took a sudden dislike to the small well-dressed Filipino and began to order him around the waiting-room, telling him to get back, not to crowd among the white people. They were waiting to get on the boat and cross the bay to Oakland. He was making a commotion in the waiting-room, and while everyone seemed to be in sympathy with the Filipino, no one seemed to want to come to his rescue, and the poor boy became very frightened.

He stood among the people, and this drunkard kept pushing up against him and saying: "I told you to get back. Now get back. I fought twenty-four months inFrance. I'm a real American. I don't want you standing up here among white people."

The boy kept squeezing politely out of the drunkard's way, hurrying through the crowd, not saying anything and trying his best to be as decent as possible. But the drunkard didn't leave him alone. He didn't like the fact that the Filipino was wearing good clothes.

When the big door opened to let everybody to the boat, the young Filipino moved quickly among the people, running from the drunkard. He sat down in a corner, but soon got up and began to look for a more hidden place. At the other end of the boat was the drunkard. He could hear the man swearing. The boy looked for a place to hide, and rushed into the lavatory. He went into one of the open compartments and bolted the door. The drunkard entered the lavatory and began asking others in the room if they had seen the boy. Finally he found the compartment where the boy was standing, and he began swearing and demanding that the boy come out.

"Go away," the boy said.

The drunkard began pounding on the door. "You got to come out some time," he said. "I'll wait here till

"Go away," said the boy. "I've done you nothing."

Behind the door the boy's bitterness grew to rage.

He began to tremble, not fearing the man but fearing the rage growing in himself. He brought the knife from his pocket.

"Go away," he said again. "I have a knif e. I don't want any trouble."

The drunkard said he was a real American, wounded twice. He wouldn't go away. He was afraid of no dirty little yellow-faced Filipino with a knife.

"I will kill you," said the boy. "I don't want any trouble. Go away. Please, don't make any trouble," he said earnestly.

He threw the door open and tried to rush beyond the man, the knife in his fist, but the drunkard caught him by the sleeve and drew him back. The sleeve of the boy's coat ripped, and the boy turned and thrust the knife into the side of the drunkard, feeling it scrape against the ribbone'. The drunkard shouted and screamed at once, then caught the boy by the throat, and the boy began to thrust the knife into the side of the man many times. When the drunkard could hold him no more and fell to the floor, the boy rushed from the room, the knife still in his hand.

Everyone knew what he had done, yet no one moved. The boy ran to the front of the boat, seeking some place to go, but there was no place to go, and before the officers of the boat arrived he stopped suddenly and began to shout at the people.

"I didn't want to hurt him, why didn't you stop him? Is it right to chase a man like a rat? You knew he was drunk. I didn't want to hurt him, but he wouldn't let me go. He tore my coat and tried to choke me. I told him I would kill him if he wouldn't go away. It is not my fault. I must go to Oakland to see my brother. He is sick. Do you thirik I'm looking for trouble when my brother is sick. Why didn't you stop him?"

 

 

The Dinner Party

N. Monsarrat

 

There are still some rich people in the world. Many of them lead lives of particular pleasure. But rich people do have their problems. They are seldom problems of finance, since most rich people have enough sense to hire other people to take care of their worries. But there are other, more genuine problems. They are the problems of behaviour.

Let me tell you a story which happened to my uncle Octavian a full thirty years ago. At that time I myself was fifteen. My uncle Octavian was then a rich man. He was a charming and accomplished host whose villa was an accepted rendezvous of the great. He was a hospitable and most amiable man – until January 3, 1925.

There was nothing special about that day in the life of my uncle Octavian, except that it was his fifty-fifth birthday. As usual on such a day he was giving a party, a party for twelve people. All of them were old friends.

I, myself, aged fifteen, was deeply privileged. I was staying with my uncle at his exquisite villa, on holiday from school, and as a special concession on this happy day, I was allowed to come down to dinner. It was exciting for me to be admitted to such company, which included a newspaper proprietor of exceptional intelligence and his fabulous' American wife, a recent prime-minister of France and a distinguished German prince and princess.

At that age, you will guess, I was dazzled. Even today, 30 years later, one may fairly admit that the company was distinguished. But I should also stress that they were all old and intimate friends of my uncle Octavian.

Towards the end of a wonderful dinner, when dessert had been brought in and the servants had left, my uncle leant forward to admire a magnificent diamond ring on the princess's hand. She was a handsome woman. She turned her hand gracefully towards my uncle. Across the table, the newspaper proprietor leant across and said: "May I also have a look?" She smiled and nodded. Then she took off the ring and held it out to him. "It was my grandmother's – the old empress," she said. "I have not worn it for many years. It is said to have once belonged to Genghis Khan."

There were exclamations of delight and admiration. The ring was passed from hand to hand. For a moment it rested on my own palm, gleaming splendidly. Then I passed it on to my neighbour. As I turned away again, I saw her pass it on.

It was some 20 minutes later when the princess stood up and said: "Before we leave you, may I have my ring back?" ... There was a pause, while each of us looked expectantly at his neighbour. Then there was silence.

The princess was still smiling, though less easily. She was unused to asking for things twice. The silence continued, I still thought that it could only be a practical joke, and that one of us – probably the prince himself – would produce the ring with a laugh. But when nothing happened at all, I knew that the rest of the night would be dreadful.

I am sure that you can guess the sort of scene that followed. There was the embarrassment of the guests – all of them old and valued friends. There was a nervous search of the whole room. But it did not bring the princess's ring back again. It had vanished – an irreplaceable thing, worth possibly two hundred thousand pounds – in a roomful of twelve people, all known to each other.

No servants had entered the room. No one had left it for a moment. The thief (for now it could only be theft) was one of us, one of my uncle Octavian's cherished friends.

I remember it was the French cabinet minister who was most insistent on being searched, indeed, in his excitement he had already started to turn out his pockets, before my uncle held up his hand and stopped him. "There will be no search in my house," he commanded. "You are all my friends. The ring can only be lost. If it is not found" – he bowed towards the princess – "I will naturally make amends myself."

The ring was never found, it never appeared, either then or later.

To our family's surprise, uncle Octavian was a comparatively poor man, when he died (which happened, in fact, a few weeks ago). And I should say that he died with the special sadness of a hospitable host who never gave a single lunch or dinner party for the last thirty years of his life.

 

 

Fair of Face

C.Hare

 

John Franklin, with whom I was at Oxford, invited me to stay with his people at Markhampton for the Markshire Hunt Ball'. He and his sister were arranging a small party for it, he said.

"I've never met your sister," I remarked. "What is she like?"

"She is a beauty," said John, seriously and simply.

I thought at the time that it was an odd, old-fashioned phrase, but it turned out to be strictly and literally true. Deborah Franklin was beautiful in the grand, classic manner. She didn't look in the least like a film star or a model. But looking at her you forgot everything. It was the sheer beauty of her face that took your breath away.

With looks like that, it would be asking too much to expect anything startling in the way of brains, and I found Deborah, a trifle dull. She was of course well aware of her extraordinary good looks, and was perfectly prepared to discuss them, just as a man seven feet high might talk about the advantages and inconveniences of being tall.

Most of our party were old friends of the Franklins, who took Deborah for granted as a local phenomenon, but among them was a newcomer – a young man with a beard named Aubrey Melcombe, who had latelytaken charge of the local museum. As soon as he set eyes on Deborah he said:

"We have never met before, but your face, of course, is perfectly familiar."

Deborah had evidently heard that one before.

"I never give sitting to photographers," she said, "but people will snap me in the street. It's such a nuisance."

"Photographs!" said Aubrey. "I mean your portrait – the one that was painted four hundred years ago. Has nobody ever told you that you are the living image of the Warbeck Titian?"

"I've never heard of the Warbeck Titian," said Deborah, "You shall judge for yourself," – said Aubrey. "I'll send you a ticket for the opening of the exhibition."

Then he went off to dance with Rosamund Clegg, his assistant at the museum, who was said to be his fiance'e.

I did not care much' for Aubrey, or for his young woman, but I had to admit that they knew, their job when I came to the opening of the exhibition a few months later. They had gathered in treasures of every sort from all over the county and arranged them admirably. The jewel of the show was, of course, the great Titian. It had a wall to itself at the end of the room and I was looking at it when Deborah came in.

The likeness was fantastic. Lord Warbeck had never had his paintings cleaned, so that Titian's flesh tints were golden and carmine, in vivid contrast to Deborah's pink and white. But the face behind the glass might have been hev mirror image. By a happy chance she had chosen to wear a very plain black dress, which matched up well to the portrait's dark clothes. She stood there still and silent, staring at her centuries-old likeness. I wondered what she felt.

A pressman's camera flashed and clicked. First one visitor and then another noticed the resemblance and presently the rest of the gallery was deserted. Everyone was crowding round the Titian to stare from the painted face to the real one and back again. The only clear space was round Deborah herself. People were moving to get a good view of her profile, without losing sight of the Titian, which fortunately was in profile also. It must have been horribly embarrassing for Deborah, but she never seemed to notice them. She went on peering into the picture, for a very long time. Then she turned round and walked quickly out of the building. As she passed me I saw that she was crying – a surprising display of emotion in one so calm.

About ten minutes later Aubrey discovered that a pair of Degas' statuettes was missing from a stand opposite the Titian. They were small objects and very valuable. The police were sent for and there was a considerable fuss, but nothing was found. I left as soon as I could and went to the Franklins. Deborah was in.

"Have you got the statuettes?" I asked.

She took them out of her handbag.

"How did you guess?"

"It seemed to me that your reception in front of the Titian was a performance," I explained. "It distracted attention from everything else in the room while the theft took place."

"Yes," said Deborah, "Aubrey arranged it very cleverly, didn't he? He thought of everything. He even helped me choose this dress to go with the one in the picture, you know."

"And the press photographer? Had he been laid on too?"

"Oh, yes. Aubrey arranged for someone to be there to photograph me. He thought it would help to collect a crowd."

Her coolness was astonishing. Even with the evidence of the statuettes in front of me I found it hard to believe that I was talking to a thief.

"It was a very clever scheme altogether," I said. "You and Aubrey must have put a lot of work into it. Ihad no idea that you were such friends."

There was a flush on her cheeks as she replied:

"Oh yes, I've been seeing a good deal of him lately.

Ever since the Hunt Ball, in fact."

After that there didn't seem to be much more to say.

"There's one thing I don't quite understand," I said finally. "People were surroundin'g you and staring at you up to the moment you left the gallery. How did Aubrey manage to pass the statuettes to you without anyone seeing?"

She rounded on me in a fury of surprise and indignation.

"Pass the statuettes to me?" she repeated. "Good God! Are you suggesting that I helped Aubrey to steal them?"

She looked like an angry goddess, and was about as charming.

"But – but – " I stammered. "But if you didn't who will?

"Rosamund, of course. Aubrey gave them to her while all was going on in front of the Titian. She simply put them in her bag and walked out. I'd only just gotthem back from her when you came in."

"Rosamund!" It was my turn to be surprised. "Then the whole thing was a put-up job between them?"

"Yes. They wanted to get married and hadn't any money, and she knew a dealer who would give a price for things like these with no questions asked and –and there you are."

"Then how did you come into it?" I asked.

"Aubrey said that if I posed in front of the Titian it would be wonderful publicity for the exhibition – and,of course, I fell for it." She laughed. "I've only just remembered. When Aubrey wanted to make fun of me he used to say I'd make a wonderful cover girl. That's just what I was – a cover girl for him and Rosamund."

She stood up and picked up the statuettes.

"These will have to go back to the gallery, I suppose," she said, "Can it be done without too much fuss? It's silly of me, I know, but I'd rather they didn't prosecute Aubrey."

I made sympathetic noises.

"It was Rosamund's idea in the first place," she went on. "I'm sure of that. Aubrey hasn't the wits to think of anything so clever."

"It was clever enough," I said. "But you saw through it at once. How was that?"

Deborah smiled.

"I'm not clever," she said. "But that old dark picture with the glass on it made a perfect mirror. Aubrey told me to stand in front of it, so I did. But I'm not interested in art, you know. I was looking at myself.And of course I couldn't help seeing what was happening just behind me..."

 

Caged

L.E. Reeve

 

Purcell was a small, fussy' man; red cheeks and a tight melonlike stomach. Large glasses so magnified his eyes as to give him the appearance of a wise and kind owl.

He owned a pet shop. He sold cats and dogs and monkeys; he dealt in fish food and bird seed, prescribed remedies for ailing canaries, on his shelves there were long rows of cages. He considered himself something of a professional man.

There was a constant stir of life in his shop. The customers who came in said:

"Aren't they cute'! Look at that little monkey! They're sweet."

And Mr. Purcell himself would smile and rub his hands and nod his head.

Each morning, when the routine of opening his shop was completed, it was the proprietor's custom to perch on a high stool, behind the counter, unfold his morning paper, and digest the day's news.

It was a raw, wintry day. Wind gusted against the high, plateglass windows. Having completed his usual tasks, Mr. Purceil again mounted the high stool and unfolded his morning paper. He adjusted his glasses, aad glanced at the day's headlines.

There was a bell over the door that rang whenever a customer entered. This morning, however, for the first time Mr. Purcell could recall, it failed to ring. Simply he glanced up, and there was the stranger, standing just inside the door, as if he had materialized out of thin air.

The storekeeper slid off his stool. From the first instant he knew instinctively, that the man hated him; but out of habit he rubbed his hands, smiled and nodded.

"Good morning," he beamed. "What can I do for you?"

The man's shiny shoes squeaked forward. His suit was cheap, ill-fitting, but obviously new. Ignoring Purcell for the moment, he looked around the shadowy shop.

"A nasty morning," volunteered the shopkeeper. He clasped both hands across his melonlike stomach, and smiled importantly. Now what was it you wanted?"

The man stared closely at Purcell, as though just now aware of his presence. He said, "I want something in a cage."

"Something in a cage?" Mr. Purcell was a bit confused. "You mean – some sort of pet?"

"I mean what I said!" snapped' the man. "Something in a cage. Something alive that's in a cage."

"I see," hastened the storekeeper, not at all certain that he did. "Now let me think. A white rat, perhaps? I have some very nice white rats."

"No!" said the xnan. "Not rats. Something with wings. Something that flies."

"A bird!" exclaimed Mr. Purcell.

"A bird's all right." The customer pointed suddenly to a cage which contained two snowy birds. "Doves? How much for those?"

"Five-fifty," came the prompt answer. "And a very reasonable price. They are a fine pair."

"Five-fifty?" The man was obviously disappointed. He produced a five-dollar bill. "I'1 like to have those birds. But this is all I've got. Just five dollars."

Mentally, Mr. Purcell made a quick calculation, which told him that at a fifty cent reduction he could still reap a tidy profit. He smiled kindly "My dear man, if you want them that badly, you can certainly have them for five dollars."

"I'll take them." He laid his five dollars on the counter. Mr. Purcell unhooked the cage, and handed it to his customer. "That noise!" The man said suddenly. "Doesn't it get on your nerves?"

"Noise? What noise?" Mr. Purcell looked surprised. He could hear nothing unusual.

"Listen." The staring eyes came closer. "How long d'you think it took me to make that five dollars?"

The merchant wanted to order him out of the shop. But oddly enough, he couldn't. He heard himself asking, "Why – why, how long did it take you?"

The other laughed. "Ten years! At hard labour. Ten years to earn five dollars. Fifty cents a year."

It was best, Purcell decided, to humor him. "My, my! Ten years. That's certainly a long time. Now"

"They give you five dollars," laughed the man, "and a cheap suit, and tell you not to get caught again."

The man swung around, and stalked abruptly from the store.

Purcell sighed with sudden relief. He walked to the window and stared out. Just outside, his peculiar customer had stopped. He was holding the cage shoulder-high, staring at his purchase. Then, opening the cage, he reached inside and drew out one of the doves.He tossed it into the air. He drew out the second and tossed it after the first. They rose like balls and were lost in the smoky gray of the wintry city. For an instant the liberator's silent gaze watched them. Then he dropped the cage and walked away.

The merchant was perplexed. So desperately had the man desired the doves that he had let him have them at a reduced price. And immediately he had turned them loose. "Now why," Mr. Purcell muttered, "did he do that?" He felt vaguely insulted.

 

 

The TV Blackout

Art Buchwald

 

A week ago Sunday New York city had a blackout and all nine television stations in the area went out for several hours. This created tremendous crises in families all over New York and proved that TV plays a much greater role in people's lives than anyone can imagine.

For example, when the TV went off in the Bufkins's house panic set in. First Bufkins thought it was his set in the living-room, so he rushed into his bedroom and turned on that set. Nothing. The phone rang, and Mrs. Bufkins heard her sister in Manhattan tell her that there was a blackout.

She hung up and said to her husband, "It isn't your set. Something's happened to the top of the Empire State Building."

Bufkins looked at her and said, "Who are you?"

"I'm your wife, Edith."

"Oh," Bufkins said. "Then I suppose those kids' in there are mine."

"That's right," Mrs. Bufkins said. "If you ever got out of that armchair in front of the TV set you'd know who we are."

"Oh! they've really grown," Bufkins said, looking at his son and daughter. "How old are they now?"

"Thirteen and fourteen," Mrs. Bufkins replied.

"Hi, kids!"

"Who's he?' Bufkins's son, Henry, asked.

"It's your father," Mrs. Bufkins said.

"I'm pleased to meet you," Bufkins's daughter,Mary, said shyly.

There was silence all around.

"Look," said Bufkins finally. "I know I haven't been

a good f ather but now that the TV's out I'd like to know you better."

"How?" asked Henry.

"Well, let's just talk," Bufkins said. "That's the best

way to get to know each other."

"What do you want to talk about?" Mary asked.

"Well, to begin with, what school do you go to?"

"We go to High School," Henry said.

"So you're both in high school!" There was a dead silence.

"What do you do?" Mary asked.

'abI m an accountant, ' Bufkins said.

"I thought you were a car salesman," Mrs. Bufkins said in surprise.

"That was two years ago. Didn't I tell you I changed jobs?" Bufkins said.

"No, you didn't. You haven't told me anything for two years."

"I'm doing quite well too," Bufkins said.

"Then why am I working in a department store?"

Mrs. Bufkins demanded.

"Oh, are you still working in a department store? If I had known that, I would have told you could quit last year. You should have mentioned it," Bufkins said.

There was more dead silence.

Finally Henry said, "Hey, you want to hear me play the guitar?"

"You know how to play the guitar? Say, didn't I have a daughter who played the guitar?"

"That was Susie," Mrs. Bufkins said.

"Where is she?"

"She got married a year ago, just about the time you were watching the World Series."

"You know," Bufkins said, very pleased. "I hope they don't fix the antenna for another couple hours.There's nothing better than a blackout for a man who really wants to know his family."

 

Then in Triumph

Frank L. Parke

 

There were cars in front of the house. Four of them. Clifford Oslow cut across the lawn and headed for the back steps. But not soon enough. The door of a big red car opened and a woman came rushing after him. She was a little person, smaller even than Clifford himself. But she was fast. She reached him just as he was getting through the hedge.

"You're Mr. Oslow, aren't you?" she said. She pulled out a little book and a pencil and held them under his nose. "I've been trying to get her autograph all week," she explained. "I want you to get it f or me. Just drop the book in a mail-box. It's stamped and the address is on it."

And then she was gone and Clifford was standing there holding the book and pencil in his hand.

He put the autographbook in his pocket and hurried up the steps.

There was a lot of noise coming f rom the living-room. Several male voices, a strange woman's voice breaking through now and then, rising above the noise. And Julia's voice, rising above the noise, clear and kindly and very sure.

"Yes," she was saying. And, "I'm very glad." And, "People have been very generous to me."

She sounded tired.

Clif f ord leaned against the wall while he finished the sandwich and the beer. He left the empty bottle on the table, turned off the kitchen light and pushed easily on the hall door.

A man grabbed him by the arm and pushed him along the hall and into the parlor . «Here he is,» somebody shouted. "Here's Mr. Oslow!"

There were a half-a-dozen people there, all with notebooks and busy pens. Julia was in the big chair by the fireplace, looking plumper than usual in her new green dress.

She smiled at him affectionately but, it seemed to him, a little distantly. He'd noticed that breach in herglance many times lately. He hoped that it wasn't superiority, but he was afraid that it was.

"Hello, Clifford," she said.

"Hello, Julia," he answered.

He didn't get a chance to go over and kiss her. A reporter had him right against the wall. How did itseem to go to bed a teller' at the Gas Company and to wake up the husband of a best-selling novelist? Excellent, he told them. Was he going to give up his job?No, he wasn't. Had he heard the news that "Welcome Tomorrow" was going to be translated into Turkish? No, he hadn't.

And then the woman came over. The one whose voice he'd heard back in the kitchen where he wished he'd stayed.

"How", she inquired briskly, "did you like the story?"

Clifford didn't answer immediately. He just looked at the woman. Everyone became very quiet. And everyone looked at him. The woman repeated the question. Clifford knew what he wanted to say. "I liked it very much," he wanted to say and then run. But theywouldn't let him run. They'd make him stay. And ask him more questions. Which he couldn't answer.

"I haven't," he mumbled, "had an opportunity to read it yet. But I'm going to," he promised. And then came a sudden inspiration. "I'm going to read it now!" There was a copy on the desk by the door. Clifford grabbed it and raced for the front stairs.

Before he reached the second flight, though, he could hear the woman's voice on the hall phone. "At last", she was saying, "we have discovered aΏ adult American who has not read "Welcome Tomorrow". He is, of all people, Clifford Oslow, white, 43, a native ,of this city and the husband of..."

On the s


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