Pauls Case by Willa Cather

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Paul hated school. He did not do his homework. He did not like his teachers. Pauls father did not know what to do with him. His teachers did not know either. One afternoon, all his teachers at Pittsburgh high school met together with him to discuss his case. Paul was late. When he entered the room his teachers sat waiting for him.

He was tall for his age and very thin. His clothes were too small for him, but they were clean. He had a bright red flower in the button hole of his black jacket. One of the teachers asked paul why he had come to the meeting. Paul said politely that he wanted to do better in school. This was a lie. Paul often lied.

His teachers began to speak. They had many complaints. One said Paul talked to the other students instead of paying attention to the lessons. Another said Paul always sat in class with his hands covering his eyes. A third teacher said Paul looked out the window instead of looking at her. His teachers attacked him without mercy.

Pauls eyesbrows moved up and down as his teachers spoke. His smile never left his face, but his fingers shook as he touched the flower on his coat. At last the meeting was over. Pauls smile got even wider. He bowed gracefully and left the room.

His teachers were angry and confused. The art teacher spoke for all of them when he said there was something about paul that he didnt understand. "I dont think he really means to be bad," he said. "Theres just something wrong with that boy." Then the art teacher remembered one warm afternoon when Paul had fallen asleep in his class. Pauls face was white with thin blue veins under the skin. The boys face looked tired and lined, like an old mans. His eyebrows moved up and down, even in his sleep.

After he left the meeting, Paul ran down the hill from the school whistling. He was late for his job at the concert hall. Paul was an usher there. He showed people to their seats. He carried messages for them. He brought them their programs with a polite bow. Everyone thought he was a charming boy and the best usher at the hall.

When Paul reached the concert hall that evening, he went immediately to the dressing room. About six boys were already there. Paul began changing his clothes with excited hands. He loved his green uniform with the gold pockets and design.

Paul rushed into the concert hall as soon as he had changed clothes. He ran up and down the hall, helping people. He became more and more excited. His face became pink and his eyes seemed larger and very bright. He looked almost handsome. At last everyone was seated. The orchestra began to play and Paul sat down with a sign of relief.

The music seemed to free something in Pauls spirit. Then a woman came out and began to sing. She had a rich, strong soprano voice. Paul felt truly happy for the first time that day.

At the end of the concert Paul went back to the dressing room. After he had changed his clothes again he went outside the concert hall. He decided to wait for the singer to come out. While he waited he looked across the street to the large hotel called "The Schenley." All the important people stayed at The Schenley when they visited Pittsburgh. Paul had never been inside it, but he used to stand near the hotels wide glass doors. He liked to watch the people enter and leave. He believed if he could only enter this kind of a hotel, he would be able to leave school, his teachers, and his ordinary, gray life behind him. . . forever.

At last the singer came out of the concert hall. Paul followed her as she walked to the hotel. He was part of a large crowd of admirers who had waited to see her. When they all reached the hotel, she turned and waved. Then the doors opened and she disappeared inside. Paul stared into the hotel as the doors slowly closed. He could feel the warm, sweet air inside. And for a moment, he felt part of a golden world of sparkling lights and marble floors. He thought about the mysterious dishes of food being served in the hotels dining room. He thought about green bottles of wine growing cold in silver buckets of ice.

He turned away from the hotel and walked home. He thought of his room with its horrible yellow wallpaper, the old bed with its ugly red cover. He shook his head.

Soon he was walking down the street where he lived. All the houses on Cordelia Street were exactly alike. Middle class businessmen had bought them for their families. All their children went to school and to church. They loved arithmetic. As Paul walked toward his house he felt as if he were drowning in ugliness. He longed for cool colors and soft lights and fresh flowers. He didnt want to see his ugly bedroom or the cold bathroom with its cracked mirror and gray floor.

Paul went around to the back of his fathers house. He found an open window and climbed into the kitchen. Then he went downstairs to the basement. He was afraid of rats. But he did not want to face his own bedroom. Paul couldnt sleep. He sat on the floor and stared into the darkness until morning came.

The following Sunday Paul had to go to church with his family. Afterwards, everyone came home and ate a big dinner. Then all the people who lived on Cordelia Street came outside to visit each other.

After supper Paul asked his father if he could visit a friend to get some help with his arithmetic. Paul left the house with his school books under his arm. But he didnt go to his friends house. Instead he went to see Charley Edwards. Charley was a young actor. Paul liked to spend as much time as he could at the theater where Charley Edwards and his group acted in their plays.

It was only at the theater and the concert hall that Paul felt really alive. The moment he smelled the air of these places he felt like a prisoner suddenly set free. As soon as he heard the concert hall orchestra play he forgot all the ugly, unpleasant events in his own life.

Paul had discovered that any kind of music awakened his imagination.

Paul didnt want to become a musician, however. He didnt want to become an actor, either. He only wanted to be near people who were actors and musicians. He wanted to see the kind of life these artists led.

Paul found a schoolroom even worse after a night at the theater or the concert hall. He hated the schools bare floors and cracked walls. He turned away from his dull teachers in their plain clothes. He tried to show them how little he thought of them and the studies they taught.

He would bring photographs of all the actors he knew to school. He would tell the other students that he spent his evenings with these people at elegant restaurants. Then he would announce that he was going away to Europe or to California, or to Egypt for a while. The next day he would come to school smiling nervously. His sister was ill, he would say. But he was still planning to make his trip next spring.

Pauls problems at school became worse. Even after the meeting with his teachers, things did not get better. He told them he had no time to study grammar and arithmetic. He told them he had to help the actors in the theater. They were old friends of his.

Finally, his teachers went to Pauls father. He took Paul out of school and made him get a job. He told the manager at the concert hall that Paul could not work there anymore. His father warned the doorman at the theater not to let Paul into the place. And Charley Edwards promised Pauls father not to see Paul again.

All the actors at the theater laughed when they heard about the stories Paul had been telling. The women thought it was funny that Paul had told people he took them out to nice restaurants and sent them flowers. They agreed with the teachers and with his father that Pauls was a bad case.

Paul was a student with a lot of problems. He hated school. He didnt like living with his family on Cordelia Street in the industrial city of Pittsburgh.

Paul wanted to be surrounded by beautiful things. He loved his part-time job as an usher at the concert hall. He helped people find their seats before the concert. Then he could listen to the music and dream of exciting places.

Paul also spent a lot of time at the local theater. He knew many of the actors who worked there. He used to do little jobs for them. And they would let him see plays for free.

Paul had little time left for his studies. So he was always in trouble with his teachers. Finally, Pauls teachers complained again to his father. His father took him out of school and made him take a job in a large company. He would not let Paul go near the concert hall or the theater.

Paul did not like his job as a messenger boy. He began to plan his escape.

A few weeks later, Pauls boss, Mr. Denny, gave Paul a large amount of money to take to the bank. He told Paul to hurry because it was Friday afternoon. He said the bank would close soon and would not open again until Monday. At the bank, Paul took the money out of his pocket. It was five thousand dollars. Paul put the money back in his coat pocket. And he walked out of the bank.

He went to the train station and bought a one way ticket for New York City. That afternoon Paul left Pittsburgh forever.

The train traveled slowly through a January snowstorm. The slow movement made Paul fall asleep. The train whistle blew just as the sun was coming up. Paul awoke, feeling dirty and uncomfortable. He quickly touched his coat pocket. The money was still there. It was not a dream. He really was on his way to New York City with five thousand dollars in his pocket.

Finally the train pulled into Central Station. Paul walked quickly out of the station and went immediately to an expensive clothing store for men.

The salesman was very polite when he saw Pauls money. Paul bought two suits, several white silk shirts, some silk ties of different colors. Then he bought a black tuxedo suit for the theater, a warm winter coat, a red bathrobe, and the finest silk underclothes. He told the salesman he wanted to wear one of the new suits and the coat immediately. The salesman bowed and smiled.

Paul then took a taxi to another shop where he bought several pairs of leather shoes and boots. Next, he went to the famous jewelry store, Tiffanys, and bought a tie pin and some brushes with silver handles. His last stop was a luggage store where he had all his new clothes put into several expensive suitcases.

It was a little before one oclock in the afternoon when Paul arrived at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The doormen opened the hotels glass doors for Paul and the boy entered. The thick carpet under his feet had the colors of a thousand jewels. The lights sparkled from crystal chandeliers.

Paul told the hotel clerk he was from Washington, D.C. He said his mother and father were arriving in a few days from Europe. He explained he was going to wait for them at the hotel.

In his dreams Paul had planned this trip to New York a hundred times. He knew all about the Waldorf-Astoria, one of New Yorks most expensive hotels. As soon as he entered his rooms, he saw that everything was perfect--except for one thing. He rang the bell and asked for fresh flowers to be sent quickly to his rooms.

When the flowers came, Paul put them in water and then he took a long, hot bath. He came out the bathroom, wearing the red silk bathrobe. Outside his windows, the snow was falling so fast that he could not see across the street. But inside, the air was warm and sweet. He lay down on the sofa in his sitting room.

It had all been so very simple, he thought. When they had shut him out of the theater and the concert hall, Paul knew he had to leave. But he was surprised that he had not been afraid to go. He could not remember a time when he had not been afraid of something. Even when he was a little boy. But now he felt free. He wasnt afraid anymore. He watched the snow until he fell asleep.

It was four oclock in the afternoon when Paul woke up. He spent nearly an hour getting dressed. He looked at himself often in the mirror. His dark blue suit fit him so well that he did not seem too thin. The white silk shirt and the blue and lilac tie felt cool and smooth under his fingers. He was exactly the kind of boy he had always wanted to be.

Paul put on his new winter coat and went downstairs. He got into a taxi and told the driver to take him for a ride along Fifth Avenue. Paul stared at the expensive stores.

As the taxi stopped for a red light Paul noticed a flower shop. Through the window, he could see all kinds of flowers. Paul thought the violets, roses, and lilies-of-the valley looked even more lovely because they were blooming in the middle of winter.

Paul began to feel hungry so he asked the taxi driver to take him back to the hotel. As he entered the dining room, the music of the hotel orchestra floated up to greet him. He sat at a table near a window. The fresh flowers, the white tablecloth, and the colored wine glasses pleased Pauls eyes. The soft music, the low voices of the people around him and the soft popping of champagne corks whispered into Pauls ears.

This is what everyone wants, he thought. He could not believed he had ever lived in Pittsburgh on Cordelia Street! That belonged to another time and place. Paul lifted the crystal glass of champagne and drank the cold, prescious, bubbling wine. He belonged here.

Later that evening, Paul put on his black tuxedo and went to the opera. He felt perfectly at ease. He had only to look at his tuxedo to know he belonged with all the other beautiful people in the opera house. He didnt talk to anyone. But his eyes recorded everything.

Pauls golden days went by without a shadow. He made each one as perfect as he could. On the eighth day after his arrival in New York, he found a report in the newspaper about his crime. It said that his father had paid the company the five thousand dollars that Paul had stolen. It said Paul had been seen in a New York hotel. And it said Pauls father was in New York. He was looking for Paul to bring him back to Pittsburgh.

Pauls knees became weak. He sat down in a chair and put his head in his hands. The dream was ended. He had to go back to Cordelia Street. Back to the yellow-papered bedroom, the smell of cooked cabbage, the daily ride to work on the crowded street cars.

Paul poured himself a glass of champagne and drank it quickly. He poured another glass and drank that one, too.

Paul had a taxi take him out of the city and into the country. The taxi left him near some railroad tracks. Paul suddenly remembered all the flowers he had seen in a shop window his first night in New York. He realized that by now every one of those flowers was dead. They had had only one splendid moment to challenge winter.

A train whistle broke into Pauls thoughts. He watched as the train grew bigger and bigger. As it came closer, Pauls body shook. His lips wore a frightened smile. Paul looked nervously around as if someone might be watching him.

When the right moment came, Paul jumped. And as he jumped, he realized his great mistake. The blue of the ocean and the yellow of the desert flashed through his brain. He had not seen them yet! There was so much he had not seen!

Paul felt something hit his chest. He felt his body fly through the air far and fast. Then everything turned black and Paul dropped back into the great design of things.

July 14, 2018by Виктория
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An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce


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The occurrence, or event, in our story takes place during the Civil War of the eighteen sixties between the American states of the north and the states of the south. A group of soldiers is hanging a southern farm owner for trying to stop northern military movements across the Owl Creek Bridge.

In the last moments of his life, the southern prisoner dreams he has escaped. And everything that happens in the story is really the images in the prisoners mind just before he dies.

Here is Shep O'Neal with our story.

Narrator: A man stood on a railroad bridge in Alabama looking down into the swift waters of the Owl Creek River below. The mans hands were tied behind his back. There was a rope around his neck. The rope was tied to part of the bridge above him. Three soldiers of the northern army stood near the prisoner, waiting for their captains orders to hang him.

Everybody was ready. The prisoner stood quietly. His eyes were not covered. He looked down and saw the water under the bridge. Now, he closed his eyes.

He wanted his last thoughts to be of his wife and children. But, as he tried to think of them, he heard sounds -- again and again. The sounds were soft. But they got louder and louder and started to hurt his ears. The pain was strong. He wanted to shout. But the sounds he heard were just those of the river running swiftly under the bridge.

The prisoner quickly opened his eyes and looked at the water. "If I could only free my hands," he thought. "Then I could get the rope off my neck and jump into the river. I could swim under the water and escape the fire of their guns. I could reach the other side of the river and get home through the forest. My house is outside of their military area, and my wife and children are safe there. I would be, too…"

While these thoughts raced through the prisoners mind, the captain gave the soldiers the order to hang him. A soldier quickly obeyed. He made the rope firm around the prisoners neck. Then he dropped him through a hole in the bridge.

As the prisoner fell, everything seemed black and empty. But then he felt a sharp pain in his neck and could not breathe. There were terrible pains running from his neck down through his body, his arms and his legs. He could not think. He could only feel, a feeling of living in a world of pain.

Then, suddenly, he heard a noise…something falling into the water. There was a big sound in his ears. Everything around him was cold and dark. Now he could think. He believed the rope had broken and that he was in the river.

But the rope was still around his neck, and his hands were tied. He thought: "How funny. How funny to die of hanging at the bottom of a river!" Then he felt his body moving up to the top of the water.

The prisoner did not know what he was doing. But his hands reached the rope on his neck and tore it off.

Now he felt the most violent pain he had ever known. He wanted to put the rope back on his neck. He tried but could not. His hands beat the water and pushed him up to the top. His head came out of the water. The light of the sun hurt his eyes. His mouth opened, and he swallowed air. It was too much for his lungs. He blew out the air with a scream.

Now the prisoner could think more clearly. All his senses had returned. They were even sharper than before. He heard sounds he never heard before -- that no mans ears ever heard -- the flying wings of small insects, the movement of a fish. His eyes saw more than just the trees along the river. They saw every leaf on the trees. And they saw the thin lines in the leaves.

And he saw the bridge, with the wall at one end. He saw the soldiers and the captain on the bridge. They shouted, and they pointed at him. They looked like giant monsters. As he looked, he heard gunfire. Something hit the water near his head. Now there was a second shot. He saw one soldier shooting at him.

He knew he had to get to the forest and escape. He heard an officer call to the other soldiers to shoot.

The prisoner went down into the river, deep, as far as he could. The water made a great noise in his ears, but he heard the shots.

As he came up to the top again, he saw the bullets hit the water. Some of them touched his face and hands.

One even fell into the top of his shirt. He felt the heat of the bullet on his back.

When his head came out of the water for air, he saw that he was farther away from the soldiers. And he began swimming strongly.

As he swam, the soldiers fired their rifles. Then they fired their cannon at him. But nothing hit him. Then, suddenly, he could not swim. He was caught in a whirlpool which kept turning him around and around. This was the end, he thought. Then, just as suddenly as it had caught him, the whirlpool lifted him and threw him out of the river. He was on land!

He kissed the ground. He looked around him. There was a pink light in the air. The wind seemed to make music as it blew through the trees. He wanted to stay there. But the cannon fired again, and he heard the bullets above his head. He got up and ran into the forest. At last, he found a road toward his house. It was a wide, straight road. Yet it looked like a road that never had any travelers on it. No farms. No houses on its sides, only tall black trees.

In the tall black trees, the prisoner heard strange voices. Some of them spoke in words that he could not understand.

His neck began to hurt. When he touched it, it felt very large. His eyes hurt so much that he could not close them. His feet moved, but he could not feel the road.

As he walked, he was in a kind of sleep. Now, half-awake, half asleep, he found himself at the door of his house. His lovely wife ran to him. Ah, at last.

He put his arms about his beautiful wife. And just then, he felt a terrible pain in the back of his neck. All around him there was a great white light and the sound of a cannon. And then…then…darkness and silence.

The prisoner was dead. His neck was broken. His body hung at the end of a rope. It kept swinging from side to side. Swinging gently under a hole in Owl Creek Bridge.

Announcer: You have just heard the American story "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." It was written by Ambrose Bierce. Your storyteller was Shep O'Neal.

Listen again next week at this same time for another American story told in Special English on the Voice of America. This is Faith Lapidus.

July 11, 2018by Виктория
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The Boarded Window by Ambrose Bierce

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In 1830, only a few miles away from what is now the great city of Cincinnati, Ohio, lay a huge and almost endless forest.

The area had a few settlements established by people of the frontier. Many of them had already left the area for settlements further to the west. But among those remaining was a man who had been one of the first people to arrive there.

He lived alone in a house of logs surrounded on all sides by the great forest. He seemed a part of the darkness and silence of the forest, for no one had ever known him to smile or speak an unnecessary word. His simple needs were supplied by selling or trading the skins of wild animals in the town.

His little log house had a single door. Directly opposite was a window. The window was boarded up. No one could remember a time when it was not. And no one knew why it had been closed. I imagine there are few people living today who ever knew the secret of that window. But I am one, as you shall see.

The man's name was said to be Murlock. He appeared to be seventy years old, but he was really fifty. Something other than years had been the cause of his aging.

His hair and long, full beard were white. His gray, lifeless eyes were sunken. His face was wrinkled. He was tall and thin with drooping shoulders—like someone with many problems.

I never saw him. These details I learned from my grandfather. He told me the man's story when I was a boy. He had known him when living nearby in that early day.

One day Murlock was found in his cabin, dead. It was not a time and place for medical examiners and newspapers. I suppose it was agreed that he had died from natural causes or I should have been told, and should remember.

I know only that the body was buried near the cabin, next to the burial place of his wife. She had died so many years before him that local tradition noted very little of her existence.

That closes the final part of this true story, except for the incident that followed many years later. With a fearless spirit I went to the place and got close enough to the ruined cabin to throw a stone against it. I ran away to avoid the ghost which every well-informed boy in the area knew haunted the spot.

But there is an earlier part to this story supplied by my grandfather.

When Murlock built his cabin he was young, strong and full of hope. He began the hard work of creating a farm. He kept a gun--a rifle—for hunting to support himself.

He had married a young woman, in all ways worthy of his honest love and loyalty. She shared the dangers of life with a willing spirit and a light heart. There is no known record of her name or details about her. They loved each other and were happy.

One day Murlock returned from hunting in a deep part of the forest. He found his wife sick with fever and confusion. There was no doctor or neighbor within miles. She was in no condition to be left alone while he went to find help. So Murlock tried to take care of his wife and return her to good health. But at the end of the third day she fell into unconsciousness and died.

From what we know about a man like Murlock, we may try to imagine some of the details of the story told by my grandfather.

When he was sure she was dead, Murlock had sense enough to remember that the dead must be prepared for burial. He made a mistake now and again while performing this special duty. He did certain things wrong. And others which he did correctly were done over and over again.

He was surprised that he did not cry — surprised and a little ashamed. Surely it is unkind not to cry for the dead.

"Tomorrow," he said out loud, "I shall have to make the coffin and dig the grave; and then I shall miss her, when she is no longer in sight. But now -- she is dead, of course, but it is all right — it must be all right, somehow. Things cannot be as bad as they seem."

He stood over the body of his wife in the disappearing light. He fixed the hair and made finishing touches to the rest. He did all of this without thinking but with care. And still through his mind ran a feeling that all was right -- that he should have her again as before, and everything would be explained.

Murlock had no experience in deep sadness. His heart could not contain it all. His imagination could not understand it. He did not know he was so hard struck. That knowledge would come later and never leave.

Deep sadness is an artist of powers that affects people in different ways. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, shocking all the emotions to a sharper life. To another, it comes as the blow of a crushing strike. We may believe Murlock to have been affected that way.

Soon after he had finished his work he sank into a chair by the side of the table upon which the body lay. He noted how white his wife's face looked in the deepening darkness. He laid his arms upon the table's edge and dropped his face into them, tearless and very sleepy.

At that moment a long, screaming sound came in through the open window. It was like the cry of a lost child in the far deep of the darkening forest! But the man did not move. He heard that unearthly cry upon his failing sense, again and nearer than before. Maybe it was a wild animal or maybe it was a dream. For Murlock was asleep.

Some hours later, he awoke, lifted his head from his arms and listened closely. He knew not why. There in the black darkness by the side of the body, he remembered everything without a shock. He strained his eyes to see -- he knew not what.

His senses were all alert. His breath was suspended. His blood was still as if to assist the silence. Who — what had awakened him and where was it!

Suddenly the table shook under his arms. At the same time he heard, or imagined he heard, a light, soft step and then another. The sounds were as bare feet walking upon the floor!

He was afraid beyond the power to cry out or move. He waited—waited there in the darkness through what seemed like centuries of such fear. Fear as one may know, but yet live to tell. He tried but failed to speak the dead woman's name. He tried but failed to stretch his hand across the table to learn if she was there. His throat was powerless. His arms and hands were like lead.

Then something most frightful happened. It seemed as if a heavy body was thrown against the table with a force that pushed against his chest. At the same time he heard and felt the fall of something upon the floor. It was so violent a crash that the whole house shook. A fight followed and a confusion of sounds impossible to describe.

Murlock had risen to his feet. Extreme fear had caused him to lose control of his senses. He threw his hands upon the table. Nothing was there!

There is a point at which fear may turn to insanity; and insanity incites to action. With no definite plan and acting like a madman, Murlock ran quickly to the wall. He seized his loaded rifle and without aim fired it.

The flash from the rifle lit the room with a clear brightness. He saw a huge fierce panther dragging the dead woman toward the window. The wild animal's teeth were fixed on her throat! Then there was darkness blacker than before, and silence.

When he returned to consciousness the sun was high and the forest was filled with the sounds of singing birds. The body lay near the window, where the animal had left it when frightened away by the light and sound of the rifle.

The clothing was ruined. The long hair was in disorder. The arms and legs lay in a careless way. And a pool of blood flowed from the horribly torn throat. The ribbon he had used to tie the wrists was broken. The hands were tightly closed.

And between the teeth was a piece of the animal's ear.

July 9, 2018by Виктория
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The Purloined Letter by Edgar Allan Poe

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One evening in Paris, during the autumn of 1845, I went to visit a friend, Auguste Dupin. We were smoking our pipes and talking when the door of his apartment opened. Mr. Germont, the head of the Paris police force, came into the room.

"I came to ask your advice," Germont said to my friend Dupin. "I am trying to solve a very important case. It is also a very simple case, so I really need your help. But I thought you would like to hear about it, because it is so strange.

"My men and I have worked on this case for three months," Germont said. "It is a very simple case of robbery. But we still cannot solve it."

Dupin took the pipe out of his mouth. "Perhaps the mystery is too simple," he said.

Germont began to laugh. "Too simple?" he said. "Who ever heard of such a thing?"

I looked at Germont. "Why don't you tell us the problem?" I said.

Germont stopped laughing and sat down.

"All right," he said. "But you must never tell anyone I told you this."

"The wife of a very important person needs help. I cannot tell you her name, because her husband is a powerful man in the French government. Let us just call her Madame X. Three months ago, someone stole a letter from Madame X. She is offering a large amount of money to anyone who can return the letter to her.

"We know that her husband's political enemy, Mr. D'Arcy, stole the letter. We also know it is somewhere in his apartment. D'Arcy plans to use the letter to embarrass Madame X's husband and destroy his political power.

"As you know, I have keys which can open any lock in Paris. For the last three months, my men and I have spent every evening looking for the letter in his apartment. But we cannot find it."

Dupin stopped smoking. "Tell me how you looked for it," he said. Germont moved forward in his chair.

"We took our time," he said. "First, we examined the furniture in every room. We opened all the drawers. We looked under the rugs. We searched behind all the paintings on the walls.

"We opened every book. We removed the boards of the floor. We even took the tops off the tables to see if he had hidden the letter in the table legs. But we cannot find it. What do you advise me to do?"

Dupin puffed on his pipe. "What does the letter look like?" he asked.

"It is in a white envelope with a red stamp," Germont said. "The address is written in large black letters."

Dupin puffed on his pipe again. "I advise you to go back and search the apartment again," he said.

About one month later, Germont came back to see us.

"I followed your advice," he said. "But I still have not found the letter."

Dupin smiled. "I knew you would not find it," he said. Germont became very red in the face. "Then why did you make me search the apartment again?" he shouted.

"My dear Germont," Dupin said. "Let me tell you a little story. Do you remember the famous doctor, Louis Abernathy?"

"No!" Germont shouted. "Get to the point, Dupin!"

"Of course! Of course," Dupin said. "Once, a rich old man met Abernathy at a party. The old man was not feeling very well. He decided he would get a medical opinion from the doctor without paying for it. So he described his problems to Abernathy. 'Now doctor,' the old man said, 'suppose you had a patient like that. What would you tell him to take?'"

"'Oh, that is quite simple,' said Abernathy. 'I would tell him to take my advice.'"

Germont looked embarrassed. "Look here, Dupin. I am perfectly willing to pay for advice."

Dupin smiled at Germont. "How much money did you say the reward was?" he asked. Germont sighed. "I do not want to tell you the exact amount. But I would give fifty thousand francs to the person who helps me find that letter."

"In that case," Dupin said, "take out your checkbook and write me a check for fifty thousand francs. When you have signed the check, I will give you the letter."

Germont looked at Dupin with his mouth open. His eyes seemed to jump out of his head. Then he took out his checkbook and pen, and wrote a check for fifty thousand francs. He gave it to Dupin.

My friend examined the check carefully and put it in his pocket. Then he unlocked a drawer of his desk, took out the letter, and gave it to Germont.

The policeman's hands shook as he opened the letter. He read it quickly. Then he put it in his pocket and ran out of the room without saying a word.

"Dupin!" I said, as I turned to my friend. "How did you solve the mystery?"

"It was simple, my friend," he said. "Germont and his policemen could not find the letter, because they did not try to understand the mind of the man who stole it. Instead, they looked for the letter where they would have hidden it.

"Mr. D'Arcy is not a policeman. He is, however, very intelligent. He knew the police would search his apartment. He also knew how police think. So, he did not hide the letter where he knew they would look for it.

"Do you remember how Germont laughed when I said the mystery was difficult for him to solve because it was so simple?"

Dupin filled his pipe with tobacco and lit it. "Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized the police could not find the letter because D'Arcy had not hidden it at all.

"So I went to visit D'Arcy in his apartment. I took a pair of dark green eyeglasses with me. I explained to him that I was having trouble with my eyes and needed to wear the dark glasses at all times. He believed me. The glasses permitted me to look around the apartment while I seemed only to be talking to him.

"I paid special attention to a large desk where there were a lot of papers and books. However, I saw nothing suspicious there. After a few minutes, however, I noticed a small shelf over the fireplace. A few postcards and a letter were lying on the shelf. The letter looked very old and dirty.

"As soon as I saw this letter, I decided it must be the one I was looking for. It must be, even though it was completely different from the one Germont had described.

"This letter had a large green stamp on it. The address was written in small letters in blue ink. I memorized every detail of the letter while I talked to D'Arcy. Then when he was not looking, I dropped one of my gloves on the floor under my chair.

"The next morning, I stopped at his apartment to look for my glove. While we were talking, we heard people shouting in the street. D'Arcy went to the window and looked out. Quickly, I stepped to the shelf and put the letter in my pocket. Then I replaced it with a letter that looked exactly like it, which I had taken with me. I had made it the night before.

"The trouble in the street was caused by a man who had almost been run over by a horse and carriage. He was not hurt. And soon the crowd of people went away. When it was over, D'Arcy came away from the window. I said good-bye and left.

"The man who almost had an accident was one of my servants. I had paid him to create the incident."

Dupin stopped talking to light his pipe. I did not understand. "But, Dupin," I said, "why did you go to the trouble of replacing the letter? Why not just take it and leave?"

Dupin smiled. "D'Arcy is a dangerous man," he said. "And he has many loyal servants. If I had taken the letter, I might never have left his apartment alive."

July 5, 2018by Виктория
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The Californians Tale by Mark Twain

Read 10 minutes. More stories on t.me/one_story


STORYTELLER: When I was young, I went looking for gold in California. I never found enough to make me rich. But I did discover a beautiful part of the country. It was called "the Stanislau." The Stanislau was like Heaven on Earth. It had bright green hills and deep forests where soft winds touched the trees.

Other men, also looking for gold, had reached the Stanislau hills of California many years before I did. They had built a town in the valley with sidewalks and stores, banks and schools. They had also built pretty little houses for their families.

At first, they found a lot of gold in the Stanislau hills. But their good luck did not last. After a few years, the gold disappeared. By the time I reached the Stanislau, all the people were gone, too.

Grass now grew in the streets. And the little houses were covered by wild rose bushes. Only the sound of insects filled the air as I walked through the empty town that summer day so long ago. Then, I realized I was not alone after all.

A man was smiling at me as he stood in front of one of the little houses. This house was not covered by wild rose bushes. A nice little garden in front of the house was full of blue and yellow flowers. White curtains hung from the windows and floated in the soft summer wind.

Still smiling, the man opened the door of his house and motioned to me. I went inside and could not believe my eyes. I had been living for weeks in rough mining camps with other gold miners. We slept on the hard ground, ate canned beans from cold metal plates and spent our days in the difficult search for gold.

Here in this little house, my spirit seemed to come to life again.

I saw a bright rug on the shining wooden floor. Pictures hung all around the room. And on little tables there were seashells, books and china vases full of flowers. A woman had made this house into a home.

The pleasure I felt in my heart must have shown on my face. The man read my thoughts. "Yes," he smiled, "it is all her work. Everything in this room has felt the touch of her hand."

One of the pictures on the wall was not hanging straight. He noticed it and went to fix it. He stepped back several times to make sure the picture was really straight. Then he gave it a gentle touch with his hand.

"She always does that," he explained to me. "It is like the finishing pat a mother gives her child's hair after she has brushed it. I have seen her fix all these things so often that I can do it just the way she does. I don't know why I do it. I just do it."

As he talked, I realized there was something in this room that he wanted me to discover. I looked around. When my eyes reached a corner of the room near the fireplace, he broke into a happy laugh and rubbed his hands together.

"That's it!" he cried out. "You have found it! I knew you would. It is her picture. I went to a little black shelf that held a small picture of the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. There was a sweetness and softness in the woman's expression that I had never seen before.

The man took the picture from my hands and stared at it. "She was nineteen on her last birthday. That was the day we were married. When you see her…oh, just wait until you meet her!"

"Where is she now?" I asked.

"Oh, she is away," the man sighed, putting the picture back on the little black shelf. "She went to visit her parents. They live forty or fifty miles from here. She has been gone two weeks today."

"When will she be back?" I asked. "Well, this is Wednesday," he said slowly. "She will be back on Saturday, in the evening."

I felt a sharp sense of regret. "I am sorry, because I will be gone by then," I said.

"Gone? No! Why should you go? Don't go. She will be so sorry. You see, she likes to have people come and stay with us."

"No, I really must leave," I said firmly.

He picked up her picture and held it before my eyes. "Here," he said. "Now you tell her to her face that you could have stayed to meet her and you would not."

Something made me change my mind as I looked at the picture for a second time. I decided to stay.

The man told me his name was Henry.

That night, Henry and I talked about many different things, but mainly about her. The next day passed quietly.

Thursday evening we had a visitor. He was a big, grey-haired miner named Tom. "I just came for a few minutes to ask when she is coming home," he explained. "Is there any news?"

"Oh yes," the man replied. "I got a letter. Would you like to hear it? He took a yellowed letter out of his shirt pocket and read it to us. It was full of loving messages to him and to other people – their close friends and neighbors. When the man finished reading it, he looked at his friend. "Oh no, you are doing it again, Tom! You always cry when I read a letter from her. I'm going to tell her this time!"

"No, you must not do that, Henry," the grey-haired miner said. "I am getting old. And any little sorrow makes me cry. I really was hoping she would be here tonight."

The next day, Friday, another old miner came to visit. He asked to hear the letter. The message in it made him cry, too. "We all miss her so much," he said.

Saturday finally came. I found I was looking at my watch very often. Henry noticed this. "You don't think something has happened to her, do you?" he asked me.

I smiled and said that I was sure she was just fine. But he did not seem satisfied.

I was glad to see his two friends, Tom and Joe, coming down the road as the sun began to set. The old miners were carrying guitars. They also brought flowers and a bottle of whiskey. They put the flowers in vases and began to play some fast and lively songs on their guitars.

Henry's friends kept giving him glasses of whiskey, which they made him drink. When I reached for one of the two glasses left on the table, Tom stopped my arm. "Drop that glass and take the other one!" he whispered. He gave the remaining glass of whiskey to Henry just as the clock began to strike midnight.

Henry emptied the glass. His face grew whiter and whiter. "Boys," he said, "I am feeling sick. I want to lie down."

Henry was asleep almost before the words were out of his mouth.

In a moment, his two friends had picked him up and carried him into the bedroom. They closed the door and came back. They seemed to be getting ready to leave. So I said, "Please don't go gentlemen. She will not know me. I am a stranger to her."

They looked at each other. "His wife has been dead for nineteen years," Tom said.

"Dead?" I whispered.

"Dead or worse," he said.

"She went to see her parents about six months after she got married. On her way back, on a Saturday evening in June, when she was almost here, the Indians captured her. No one ever saw her again. Henry lost his mind. He thinks she is still alive. When June comes, he thinks she has gone on her trip to see her parents. Then he begins to wait for her to come back. He gets out that old letter. And we come around to visit so he can read it to us.

"On the Saturday night she is supposed to come home, we come here to be with him. We put a sleeping drug in his drink so he will sleep through the night. Then he is all right for another year."

Joe picked up his hat and his guitar. "We have done this every June for nineteen years," he said. "The first year there were twenty-seven of us. Now just the two of us are left." He opened the door of the pretty little house. And the two old men disappeared into the darkness of the Stanislau.

ANNOUNCER: You have just heard the story "The Californian's Tale." It was written by Mark Twain and adapted for Special English by Donna de Sanctis. Your storyteller was Shep O'Neal. For VOA Special English, this is Shirley Griffith.

July 1, 2018by Виктория
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