Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin (1894)
Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.
It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband's friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard's name leading the list of "killed." He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.

She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.

There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.

She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.

She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will--as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under hte breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that owuld belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they ahve a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.

Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhold, imploring for admission. "Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door--you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven's sake open the door."

"Go away. I am not making myself ill." No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.

Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

She arose at length and opened the door to her sister's importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister's waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.

Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of the joy that kills.

1. What do you think is the actual reason for Mrs. Mallard's death?
2. What do you think is the significance of the story's title?
3. Irony is a contrast between what is stated and what is meant, or between what is expected to happen and what actually happens. Why is Mrs. Mallard's sudden death also an example of situational irony?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Ride Through Spain by Truman Capote

A Ride Through Spain
by Truman Capote
September 2, 1950
Certainly the train was old. The seats sagged like the jowls of a bulldog; windowpanes were out, and strips of adhesive held together those that were left; in the corridor a prowling cat appeared to be hunting mice, and it was not unreasonable to assume that his search would be rewarded. Slowly we crept out of Granada. The southern sky was as white and burning as a desert; in it was a single, tiny cloud. I was going to Algeciras, a Spanish seaport facing the coast of Africa. In my compartment there were five people, all told. One was a middle-aged Australian wearing a soiled linen suit; he had tobacco-colored teeth, and his fingernails were broken and dirty. Presently he informed us that he was a ship’s doctor. It seemed odd, there on the dry, dour plains of Spain, to meet someone connected with the sea. Then, there were two women, a mother and daughter. The mother was an overstuffed, dusty woman with sluggish, disapproving eyes and a faint mustache. The focus for her disapproval shifted from place to place. First, she eyed me rather strongly, because, as the sunlight fanned brighter, waves of heat blew through the broken windows and I removed my jacket—which she must have considered, perhaps rightly, discourteous. Later on, she took a dislike to the third man in our compartment, a young soldier. The soldier and the woman’s not very discreet daughter, a buxom girl with the scrappy features of a prizefighter, seemed to have tacitly agreed to flirt. Whenever the wandering cat appeared at our door, the daughter pretended to be frightened, and the soldier gallantly shooed the cat into the corridor; this byplay gave them frequent opportunities to touch each other.

The young soldier was one of many on the train. With their tasselled caps set at snappy angles, they hung about in the corridors smoking sweet, black cigarettes and laughing confidentially. They seemed to be having a good time, and apparently this was wrong of them, for when an officer appeared, they would stare fixedly out the windows, as though enraptured by the landslides of red rock, the olive fields, and the stern mountains. Their officers were dressed for a parade—many ribbons, much brass, and some wore gleaming, improbable swords strapped to their belts. They did not mix with the soldiers but sat together in a first-class compartment, looking bored and rather like unemployed actors. The compartment ahead of mine had been taken over by one family—a delicate, attenuated, exceptionally elegant man with a mourning ribbon sewed around his sleeve, and six thin, summery girls, his daughters. The girls, who resembled their father, were beautiful, all of them, and in the same way: hair that had a dark shine, lips the color of pimientos, eyes like sherry. In age, they ranged from about fourteen to twenty-one. The soldiers would glance into their compartment, then look away. It was as if they had seen straight into the sun.

Whenever the train stopped, the man’s two youngest daughters, carrying parasols, would descend from the carriage and stroll under their shade. They enjoyed many lengthy promenades, for the train spent the greater part of its time standing still. No one appeared to be exasperated by this except me. Several passengers seemed to have friends at every station with whom they could sit, usually around a fountain, and gossip long and lazily. One old woman was met by little groups in a dozen or so towns. Between these encounters, she wept, and with such abandon that the Australian doctor eventually became alarmed and asked, in Italian, if he could help her. Why, no, she said, there was nothing he could do; it was just that seeing all her relatives made her so happy.

At each stop, cyclones of barefooted women and more or less naked children ran the length of the train, sloshing earthen jars of water and furrily squalling “Agua! Agua!” For two pesetas, you could buy a whole basket of dark, runny figs, and there were trays of curious white-coated candy doughnuts that looked as though they should be eaten by young girls wearing Communion dresses. Toward noon, having collected a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, a sausage, and a small cheese, I was prepared for lunch. My companions in the compartment were hungry, too. Packages were produced, wine was uncorked, and for a while there was a pleasant, almost graceful festiveness. The soldier shared a pomegranate with the girl, the Australian told an amusing story, the witch-eyed mother pulled a paper-wrapped fish from her bosom and ate it with a glum relish.

Afterward, everyone was sleepy; the doctor went so solidly to sleep that a fly meandered undisturbed over his openmouthed face. Stillness etherized the whole train. In the next compartment, the lovely girls leaned against one another loosely, like six exhausted geraniums. Even the cat had ceased to prowl and lay dreaming in the corridor. We had climbed higher; the train moseyed across a plateau of rough yellow wheat, then between the granite walls of deep ravines, where strange, thorny trees quivered in the wind moving down from the mountains. Once, at a parting in the trees, there was something I’d wanted to see—a castle on a hill. It sat there like a crown.

It was a landscape for bandits. Earlier in the summer, a young Englishman I know (rather, know of) had been motoring through this part of Spain when, on the lonely side of a mountain, his car was surrounded by swarthy scoundrels. They robbed him, then tied him to a tree and tickled his throat with the blade of a knife. I was thinking of this when, without preface, a spatter of gunfire strafed the dozy silence. It was a machine gun. The train, with a wounded creak, slowed to a halt. For a moment, there was no sound except the machine gun’s cough. Then, in a loud, dreadful voice, I said, “Bandits!”

“Bandidos!” screamed the daughter.

“Bandidos!” echoed her mother, and the terrible word swept through the train.

The result was slapstick in a grim key. All of us in the compartment collapsed on the floor, one cringing heap of arms and legs, except for the mother, who kept her head. She stood up and systematically stashed away her treasures. She stuck a ring into the bun of her hair, and, without shame, hiked up her skirts and dropped a pearl-studded comb into her bloomers. Airy twitterings of distress came from the charming girls in the next compartment. In the corridor, the officers bumped about, yapping orders and knocking into one another.

Suddenly, within the train, silence. Outside, there was the murmur of wind in the leaves, of voices. Just as the weight of the doctor’s body was becoming too much for me, the outer door of our compartment swung open and a young man stood there. He did not look clever enough to be a bandit. “Hay un médico en el tren?” he asked, smiling.

The Australian, removing his elbow from my stomach, climbed to his feet. “I’m a doctor,” he admitted, dusting himself. “Has someone been wounded?”

“Si, señor. An old man. He is hurt in the head,” said the Spaniard, who was not a bandit, alas, but merely another passenger.

Getting back in our seats, the rest of us listened, expressionless with embarrassment, to the story of what had happened. It seemed that for the last several hours an old man had been stealing a ride by clinging to the rear of the train. Just now, he’d lost his hold, and a soldier, seeing him fall, had started firing a machine gun as a signal for the engineer to stop the train. My only hope was that no one remembered who had first mentioned bandits. There was no indication that anyone did. The doctor, after acquiring a clean shirt of mine to use as a bandage, went off to his patient, and the mother, turning her back with sour prudery, reclaimed her pearl comb.

Her daughter, the soldier, and I got out of the carriage and strolled under the trees of a small wood that smelled of oranges, where many of the passengers had gathered to discuss the incident. Two more soldiers appeared, carrying the old man. My shirt had been wrapped around his head. They propped him under a tree, and all the women clustered about, vying with each other to lend him a rosary; someone brought a bottle of wine, which pleased him more. He seemed quite happy, and moaned a great deal. Some children from the train circled around him, giggling. A path led to a shaded promontory, from which one looked across a valley where sweeping stretches of scorched golden grass shivered as though the earth were trembling. Admiring the valley and the shadowy changes of light on the hills beyond, the six sisters, escorted by their elegant father, sat on the grass with their parasols raised above them, like guests at a fête champêtre. The soldiers moved around them in a vague, ambitious manner; they did not dare to approach, though one brash, sassy fellow went to the edge of the promontory and called, “Yo te quiero mucho!” The words returned with the hollow sub-music of a perfect echo, and the sisters, blushing, looked more deeply into the valley.

A large cloud, sombre as the rocky hills, had massed in the sky, and the grass below was stirring like the sea before a storm. Someone said he thought it would rain. But no one wanted to go, including the injured man, who was well on his way through a second bottle of wine, and the children, who, having discovered the echo, stood happily carolling into the valley. It was like a party, and we all drifted back to the train as though each of us wished to be the last to leave. The old man, with my shirt like a grand turban on his head, was put into a first-class carriage, and several eager ladies attended him.

In our compartment, the dusty mother, who had not seen fit to join the party, sat just as we had left her. She gave me a long, glittering look. “Bandidos!” she said, with a surly, unnecessary vigor. The train moved on so slowly that butterflies blew in and out the windows. ♦

A simile is a comparison using the words "like" or "as."
1. Find 5 similes used by Capote in this selection.
2. Explain how each of these similes creates a vivid image, or word picture.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Devil and Tom Walker by Washington Irving

A few miles from Boston, in Massachusetts, there is a deep inlet winding several miles into the interior of the country from Charles Bay, and terminating in a thickly wooded swamp, or morass. On one side of this inlet is a beautiful dark grove; on the opposite side the land rises abruptly from the water's edge, into a high ridge on which grow a few scattered oaks of great age and immense size. Under one of these gigantic trees, according to old stories, there was a great amount of treasure buried by Kidd the pirate. The inlet allowed a facility to bring the money in a boat secretly and at night to the very foot of the hill. The elevation of the place permitted a good look out to be kept that no one was at hand, while the remarkable trees formed good landmarks by which the place might easily be found again. The old stories add, moreover, that the devil presided at the hiding of the money, and took it under his guardianship; but this, it is well known, he always does with buried treasure, particularly when it has been ill gotten. Be that as it may, Kidd never returned to recover his wealth; being shortly after seized at Boston, sent out to England, and there hanged for a pirate.

About the year 1727, just at the time when earthquakes were prevalent in New England, and shook many tall sinners down upon their knees, there lived near this place a meagre miserly fellow of the name of Tom Walker. He had a wife as miserly as himself; they were so miserly that they even conspired to cheat each other. Whatever the woman could lay hands on she hid away: a hen could not cackle but she was on the alert to secure the new-laid egg. Her husband was continually prying about to detect her secret hoards, and many and fierce were the conflicts that took place about what ought to have been common property. They lived in a forlorn looking house, that stood alone and had an air of starvation. A few straggling savin trees, emblems of sterility, grew near it; no smoke ever curled from its chimney; no traveller stopped at its door. A miserable horse, whose ribs were as articulate as the bars of a gridiron, stalked about a field where a thin carpet of moss, scarcely covering the ragged beds of pudding stone, tantalized and balked his hunger; and sometimes he would lean his head over the fence, look piteously at the passer by, and seem to petition deliverance from this land of famine. The house and its inmates had altogether a bad name. Tom's wife was a tall termagant, fierce of temper, loud of tongue, and strong of arm. Her voice was often heard in wordy warfare with her husband; and his face sometimes showed signs that their conflicts were not confined to words. No one ventured, however, to interfere between them; the lonely wayfarer shrunk within himself at the horrid clamour and clapper clawing; eyed the den of discord askance, and hurried on his way, rejoicing, if a bachelor, in his celibacy.

One day that Tom Walker had been to a distant part of the neighbourhood, he took what he considered a short cut homewards through the swamp. Like most short cuts, it was an ill chosen route. The swamp was thickly grown with great gloomy pines and hemlocks, some of them ninety feet high; which made it dark at noonday, and a retreat for all the owls of the neighbourhood. It was full of pits and quagmires, partly covered with weeds and mosses; where the green surface often betrayed the traveller into a gulf of black smothering mud; there were also dark and stagnant pools, the abodes of the tadpole, the bull-frog, and the water snake, and where trunks of pines and hemlocks lay half drowned, half rotting, looking like alligators, sleeping in the mire.

Tom had long been picking his way cautiously through this treacherous forest; stepping from tuft to tuft of rushes and roots which afforded precarious footholds among deep sloughs; or pacing carefully, like a cat, along the prostrate trunks of trees; startled now and then by the sudden screaming of the bittern, or the quacking of a wild duck, rising on the wing from some solitary pool. At length he arrived at a piece of firm ground, which ran out like a peninsula into the deep bosom of the swamp. It had been one of the strong holds of the Indians during their wars with the first colonists. Here they had thrown up a kind of fort which they had looked upon as almost impregnable, and had used as a place of refuge for their squaws and children. Nothing remained of the Indian fort but a few embankments gradually sinking to the level of the surrounding earth, and already overgrown in part by oaks and other forest trees, the foliage of which formed a contrast to the dark pines and hemlocks of the swamp.

It was late in the dusk of evening that Tom Walker reached the old fort, and he paused there for a while to rest himself. Any one but he would have felt unwilling to linger in this lonely melancholy place, for the common people had a bad opinion of it from the stories handed down from the time of the Indian wars; when it was asserted that the savages held incantations here and made sacrifices to the evil spirit. Tom Walker, however, was not a man to be troubled with any fears of the kind.

He reposed himself for some time on the trunk of a fallen hemlock, listening to the boding cry of the tree toad, and delving with his walking staff into a mound of black mould at his feet. As he turned up the soil unconsciously, his staff struck against something hard. He raked it out of the vegetable mould, and lo! a cloven skull with an Indian tomahawk buried deep in it, lay before him. The rust on the weapon showed the time that had elapsed since this death blow had been given. It was a dreary memento of the fierce struggle that had taken place in this last foothold of the Indian warriors.

"Humph!" said Tom Walker, as he gave the skull a kick to shake the dirt from it.

"Let that skull alone!" said a gruff voice.

Tom lifted up his eyes and beheld a great black man, seated directly opposite him on the stump of a tree. He was exceedingly surprised, having neither seen nor heard any one approach, and he was still more perplexed on observing, as well as the gathering gloom would permit, that the stranger was neither negro nor Indian. It is true, he was dressed in a rude, half Indian garb, and had a red belt or sash swathed round his body, but his face was neither black nor copper colour, but swarthy and dingy and begrimed with soot, as if he had been accustomed to toil among fires and forges. He had a shock of coarse black hair, that stood out from his head in all directions; and bore an axe on his shoulder.

He scowled for a moment at Tom with a pair of great red eyes.

"What are you doing in my grounds?" said the black man, with a hoarse growling voice.

"Your grounds?" said Tom, with a sneer; "no more your grounds than mine: they belong to Deacon Peabody."

"Deacon Peabody be d——d," said the stranger, "as I flatter myself he will be, if he does not look more to his own sins and less to his neighbour's. Look yonder, and see how Deacon Peabody is faring."

Tom looked in the direction that the stranger pointed, and beheld one of the great trees, fair and flourishing without, but rotten at the core, and saw that it had been nearly hewn through, so that the first high wind was likely to below it down. On the bark of the tree was scored the name of Deacon Peabody. He now looked round and found most of the tall trees marked with the name of some great men of the colony, and all more or less scored by the axe. The one on which he had been seated, and which had evidently just been hewn down, bore the name of Crowninshield; and he recollected a mighty rich man of that name, who made a vulgar display of wealth, which it was whispered he had acquired by buccaneering.

"He's just ready for burning!" said the black man, with a growl of triumph. "You see I am likely to have a good stock of firewood for winter."

"But what right have you," said Tom, "to cut down Deacon Peabody's timber?"

"The right of prior claim," said the other. "This woodland belonged to me long before one of your white faced race put foot upon the soil."

"And pray, who are you, if I may be so bold?" said Tom.

"Oh, I go by various names. I am the Wild Huntsman in some countries; the Black Miner in others. In this neighbourhood I am known by the name of the Black Woodsman. I am he to whom the red men devoted this spot, and now and then roasted a white man by way of sweet smelling sacrifice. Since the red men have been exterminated by you white savages, I amuse myself by presiding at the persecutions of quakers and anabaptists; I am the great patron and prompter of slave dealers, and the grand master of the Salem witches."

"The upshot of all which is, that, if I mistake not," said Tom, sturdily, "you are he commonly called Old Scratch."

"The same at your service!" replied the black man, with a half civil nod.

Such was the opening of this interview, according to the old story, though it has almost too familiar an air to be credited. One would think that to meet with such a singular personage in this wild lonely place, would have shaken any man's nerves: but Tom was a hard-minded fellow, not easily daunted, and he had lived so long with a termagant wife, that he did not even fear the devil.

It is said that after this commencement, they had a long and earnest conversation together, as Tom returned homewards. The black man told him of great sums of money which had been buried by Kidd the pirate, under the oak trees on the high ridge not far from the morass. All these were under his command and protected by his power, so that none could find them but such as propitiated his favour. These he offered to place within Tom Walker's reach, having conceived an especial kindness for him: but they were to be had only on certain conditions. What these conditions were, may easily be surmised, though Tom never disclosed them publicly. They must have been very hard, for he required time to think of them, and he was not a man to stick at trifles where money was in view. When they had reached the edge of the swamp the stranger paused.

"What proof have I that all you have been telling me is true?" said Tom.

"There is my signature," said the black man, pressing his finger on Tom's forehead. So saying, he turned off among the thickets of the swamp, and seemed, as Tom said, to go down, down, down, into the earth, until nothing but his head and shoulders could be seen, and so on until he totally disappeared.

When Tom reached home he found the black print of a finger burnt, as it were, into his forehead, which nothing could obliterate.

The first news his wife had to tell him was the sudden death of Absalom Crowninshield the rich buccaneer. It was announced in the papers with the usual flourish, that "a great man had fallen in Israel."

Tom recollected the tree which his black friend had just hewn down, and which was ready for burning. "Let the freebooter roast," said Tom, "who cares!" He now felt convinced that all he had heard and seen was no illusion.

He was not prone to let his wife into his confidence; but as this was an uneasy secret, he willingly shared it with her. All her avarice was awakened at the mention of hidden gold, and she urged her husband to comply with the black man's terms and secure what would make them wealthy for life. However Tom might have felt disposed to sell himself to the devil, he was determined not to do so to oblige his wife; so he flatly refused out of the mere spirit of contradiction. Many and bitter were the quarrels they had on the subject, but the more she talked the more resolute was Tom not to be damned to please her. At length she determined to drive the bargain on her own account, and if she succeeded, to keep all the gain to herself.

Being of the same fearless temper as her husband, she set off for the old Indian fort towards the close of a summer's day. She was many hours absent. When she came back she was reserved and sullen in her replies. She spoke something of a black man whom she had met about twilight, hewing at the root of a tall tree. He was sulky, however, and would not come to terms; she was to go again with a propitiatory offering, but what it was she forebore to say.

The next evening she set off again for the swamp, with her apron heavily laden. Tom waited and waited for her, but in vain: midnight came, but she did not make her appearance; morning, noon, night returned, but still she did not come. Tom now grew uneasy for her safety; especially as he found she had carried off in her apron the silver teapot and spoons and every portable article of value. Another night elapsed, another morning came; but no wife. In a word, she was never heard of more.

What was her real fate nobody knows, in consequence of so many pretending to know. It is one of those facts that have become confounded by a variety of historians. Some asserted that she lost her way among the tangled mazes of the swamp and sunk into some pit or slough; others, more uncharitable, hinted that she had eloped with the household booty, and made off to some other province; while others assert that the tempter had decoyed her into a dismal quagmire on top of which her hat was found lying. In confirmation of this, it was said a great black man with an axe on his shoulder was seen late that very evening coming out of the swamp, carrying a bundle tied in a check apron, with an air of surly triumph.

The most current and probable story, however, observes that Tom Walker grew so anxious about the fate of his wife and his property that he sat out at length to seek them both at the Indian fort. During a long summer's afternoon he searched about the gloomy place, but no wife was to be seen. He called her name repeatedly, but she was no where to be heard. The bittern alone responded to his voice, as he flew screaming by; or the bull frog croaked dolefully from a neighbouring pool. At length, it is said, just in the brown hour of twilight, when the owls began to hoot and the bats to flit about, his attention was attracted by the clamour of carrion crows that were hovering about a cypress tree. He looked and beheld a bundle tied in a check apron and hanging in the branches of the tree; with a great vulture perched hard by, as if keeping watch upon it. He leaped with joy, for he recognized his wife's apron, and supposed it to contain the household valuables.

"Let us get hold of the property," said he, consolingly to himself, "and we will endeavour to do without the woman."

As he scrambled up the tree the vulture spread its wide wings, and sailed off screaming into the deep shadows of the forest. Tom seized the check apron, but, woful sight! found nothing but a heart and liver tied up in it.

Such, according to the most authentic old story, was all that was to be found of Tom's wife. She had probably attempted to deal with the black man as she had been accustomed to deal with her husband; but though a female scold is generally considered a match for the devil, yet in this instance she appears to have had the worst of it. She must have died game however; for it is said Tom noticed many prints of cloven feet deeply stamped about the tree, and several handsful of hair, that looked as if they had been plucked from the coarse black shock of the woodsman. Tom knew his wife's prowess by experience. He shrugged his shoulders as he looked at the signs of a fierce clapper clawing. "Egad," said he to himself, "Old Scratch must have had a tough time of it!"

Tom consoled himself for the loss of his property with the loss of his wife; for he was a man of fortitude. He even felt something like gratitude towards the black woodsman, who he considered had done him a kindness. He sought, therefore, to cultivate a farther acquaintance with him, but for some time without success; the old black legs played shy, for whatever people may think, he is not always to be had for calling for; he knows how to play his cards when pretty sure of his game.

At length, it is said, when delay had whetted Tom's eagerness to the quick, and prepared him to agree to any thing rather than not gain the promised treasure, he met the black man one evening in his usual woodman dress, with his axe on his shoulder, sauntering along the edge of the swamp, and humming a tune. He affected to receive Tom's advance with great indifference, made brief replies, and went on humming his tune.

By degrees, however, Tom brought him to business, and they began to haggle about the terms on which the former was to have the pirate's treasure. There was one condition which need not be mentioned, being generally understood in all cases where the devil grants favours; but there were others about which, though of less importance, he was inflexibly obstinate. He insisted that the money found through his means should be employed in his service. He proposed, therefore, that Tom should employ it in the black traffick; that is to say, that he should fit out a slave ship. This, however, Tom resolutely refused; he was bad enough in all conscience; but the devil himself could not tempt him to turn slave dealer.

Finding Tom so squeamish on this point, he did not insist upon it, but proposed instead that he should turn usurer; the devil being extremely anxious for the increase of usurers, looking upon them as his peculiar people.

To this no objections were made, for it was just to Tom's taste.

"You shall open a broker's shop in Boston next month," said the black man.

"I'll do it to-morrow, if you wish," said Tom Walker.

"You shall lend money at two per cent. a month."

"Egad, I'll charge four!" replied Tom Walker.

"You shall extort bonds, foreclose mortgages, drive the merchant to bankruptcy—"

"I'll drive him to the d——l," cried Tom Walker, eagerly.

"You are the usurer for my money!" said the black legs, with delight. "When will you want the rhino?"

"This very night."

"Done!" said the devil.

"Done!" said Tom Walker. —So they shook hands, and struck a bargain.

A few days' time saw Tom Walker seated behind his desk in a counting house in Boston. His reputation for a ready moneyed man, who would lend money out for a good consideration, soon spread abroad. Every body remembers the days of Governor Belcher, when money was particularly scarce. It was a time of paper credit. The country had been deluged with government bills; the famous Land Bank had been established; there had been a rage for speculating; the people had run mad with schemes for new settlements; for building cities in the wilderness; land jobbers went about with maps of grants, and townships, and Eldorados, lying nobody knew where, but which every body was ready to purchase. In a word, the great speculating fever which breaks out every now and then in the country, had raged to an alarming degree, and every body was dreaming of making sudden fortunes from nothing. As usual the fever had subsided; the dream had gone off, and the imaginary fortunes with it; the patients were left in doleful plight, and the whole country resounded with the consequent cry of "hard times."

At this propitious time of public distress did Tom Walker set up as a usurer in Boston. His door was soon thronged by customers. The needy and the adventurous; the gambling speculator; the dreaming land jobber; the thriftless tradesman; the merchant with cracked credit; in short, every one driven to raise money by desperate means and desperate sacrifices, hurried to Tom Walker.

Thus Tom was the universal friend of the needy, and he acted like a "friend in need;" that is to say, he always exacted good pay and good security. In proportion to the distress of the applicant was the hardness of his terms. He accumulated bonds and mortgages; gradually squeezed his customers closer and closer; and sent them at length, dry as a sponge from his door.

In this way he made money hand over hand; became a rich and mighty man, and exalted his cocked hat upon change. He built himself, as usual, a vast house, out of ostentation; but left the greater part of it unfinished and unfurnished out of parsimony. He even set up a carriage in the fullness of his vain glory, though he nearly starved the horses which drew it; and as the ungreased wheels groaned and screeched on the axle trees, you would have thought you heard the souls of the poor debtors he was squeezing.

As Tom waxed old, however, he grew thoughtful. Having secured the good things of this world, he began to feel anxious about those of the next. He thought with regret on the bargain he had made with his black friend, and set his wits to work to cheat him out of the conditions. He became, therefore, all of a sudden, a violent church goer. He prayed loudly and strenuously as if heaven were to be taken by force of lungs. Indeed, one might always tell when he had sinned most during the week, by the clamour of his Sunday devotion. The quiet christians who had been modestly and steadfastly travelling Zionward, were struck with self reproach at seeing themselves so suddenly outstripped in their career by this new-made convert. Tom was as rigid in religious, as in money matters; he was a stern supervisor and censurer of his neighbours, and seemed to think every sin entered up to their account became a credit on his own side of the page. He even talked of the expediency of reviving the persecution of quakers and anabaptists. In a word, Tom's zeal became as notorious as his riches.

Still, in spite of all this strenuous attention to forms, Tom had a lurking dread that the devil, after all, would have his due. That he might not be taken unawares, therefore, it is said he always carried a small bible in his coat pocket. He had also a great folio bible on his counting house desk, and would frequently be found reading it when people called on business; on such occasions he would lay his green spectacles on the book, to mark the place, while he turned round to drive some usurious bargain.

Some say that Tom grew a little crack brained in his old days, and that fancying his end approaching, he had his horse new shod, saddled and bridled, and buried with his feet uppermost; because he supposed that at the last day the world would be turned upside down; in which case he should find his horse standing ready for mounting, and he was determined at the worst to give his old friend a run for it. This, however, is probably a mere old wives fable. If he really did take such a precaution it was totally superfluous; at least so says the authentic old legend which closes his story in the following manner.

On one hot afternoon in the dog days, just as a terrible black thundergust was coming up, Tom sat in his counting house in his white linen cap and India silk morning gown. He was on the point of foreclosing a mortgage, by which he would complete the ruin of an unlucky land speculator for whom he had professed the greatest friendship. The poor land jobber begged him to grant a few months indulgence. Tom had grown testy and irritated and refused another day.

"My family will be ruined and brought upon the parish," said the land jobber. "Charity begins at home," replied Tom, "I must take care of myself in these hard times."

"You have made so much money out of me," said the speculator.

Tom lost his patience and his piety—"The devil take me," said he, "if I have made a farthing!"

Just then there were three loud knocks at the street door. He stepped out to see who was there. A black man was holding a black horse which neighed and stamped with impatience.

"Tom, you're come for!" said the black fellow, gruffly. Tom shrunk back, but too late. He had left his little bible at the bottom of his coat pocket, and his big bible on the desk buried under the mortgage he was about to forclose: never was sinner taken more unawares. The black man whisked him like a child astride the horse and away he galloped in the midst of a thunder storm. The clerks stuck their pens behind their ears and stared after him from the windows. Away went Tom Walker, dashing down the streets; his white cap bobbing up and down; his morning gown fluttering in the wind, and his steed striking fire out of the pavement at every bound. When the clerks turned to look for the black man he had disappeared.

Tom Walker never returned to foreclose the mortgage. A countryman who lived on the borders of the swamp, reported that in the height of the thunder gust he had heard a great clattering of hoofs and a howling along the road, and that when he ran to the window he just caught sight of a figure, such as I have described, on a horse that galloped like mad across the fields, over the hills and down into the black hemlock swamp towards the old Indian fort; and that shortly after a thunderbolt fell in that direction which seemed to set the whole forest in a blaze.

The good people of Boston shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders, but had been so much accustomed to witches and goblins and tricks of the devil in all kinds of shapes from the first settlement of the colony, that they were not so much horror struck as might have been expected. Trustees were appointed to take charge of Tom's effects. There was nothing, however, to administer upon. On searching his coffers all his bonds and mortgages were found reduced to cinders. In place of gold and silver his iron chest was filled with chips and shavings; two skeletons lay in his stable instead of his half starved horses, and the very next day his great house took fire and was burnt to the ground.

Such was the end of Tom Walker and his ill gotten wealth. Let all griping money brokers lay this story to heart. The truth of it is not to be doubted. The very hole under the oak trees, from whence he dug Kidd's money is to be seen to this day; and the neighbouring swamp and old Indian fort is often haunted in stormy nights by a figure on horseback, in a morning gown and white cap, which is doubtless the troubled spirit of the usurer. In fact, the story has resolved itself into a proverb, and is the origin of that popular saying, prevalent throughout New-England, of "The Devil and Tom Walker."


Monday, December 10, 2007

The Night the Ghost Got In by James Thurber

Adapted from “The Night the Ghost Got In” by James Thurber(1) The ghost that got into our house on the night of November 17, 1915, raised such a hullabaloo of misunderstanding that I am sorry I didn’t just let it keep on walking, and go to bed. Its advent caused my mother to throw a shoe through a window of the house next door and ended up with my grandfather shooting a gun. I am sorry, therefore, as I have said, that I ever paid any attention to the footsteps.
(2) They began about a quarter past one o’clock in the morning, a rhythmic, quick-cadenced walking around the dining room table. My mother was asleep in one room upstairs; my brother Herman in another; and grandfather was in the attic. I had just stepped out of the bathtub and was busily rubbing myself with a towel when I heard the steps. They were the steps of a man walking rapidly around the dining room table downstairs. The light from the bathroom shone down the back steps, which dropped directly into the dining room. The steps kept going round and round the table; at regular intervals a board creaked, when it was trod upon. I supposed at first that it was my father or my brother Roy, who had gone to Indianapolis but were expected home at any time. I suspected next that it was a burglar. It did not enter my mind until later that it was a ghost.
(3) After the walking had gone on for perhaps three minutes, I tiptoed to Herman’s room. “Psst!” I hissed in the dark, shaking him. “There’s something downstairs!” I said. Instantly the steps began again, circled the dining room table like a man running, and started up the stairs toward us, heavily, two at a time. The light still shone palely down the stairs; we saw nothing coming; we only heard the steps. Herman rushed to his room and slammed the door. I slammed shut the door at the stairs top and held my knee against it. After a long minute, I slowly opened it again. There was nothing there. There was no sound. None of us ever heard the ghost again.
(4) The slamming of the doors had awoken mother; she peered out of her room. “What on earth are you boys doing?” she demanded. “What was all that running around downstairs?” said mother. So she had heard the steps, too! We just looked at her. “Burglars!” she shouted intuitively. I tried to quiet her by starting lightly downstairs.
(5) “Come on, Herman,” I said.
(6) “I’ll stay with mother,” he said. “She’s all excited.”
(7) I stepped back onto the landing.
(8) Don’t either of you go a step,” said mother. “We’ll call the police.” Since the phone was downstairs, I didn’t see how we were going to call the police-nor did I want the police-but mother made one of her quick decisions. She flung up a window of her bedroom which faced the bedroom windows of the house of a neighbor, picked up a shoe, and whammed it through a pane of glass across the narrow space occupied by a retired engraver named Bodwell and his wife.
(9) It was now about two o’clock of a moonless night; clouds hung black and low. Bodwell was at the window in a minute, shouting, frothing a little, shaking his fist. “We’ll sell the house and go back to Peoria,” we could hear Mrs. Bodwell saying. It was some time before mother “got through” to Bodwell. “Burglars!” she shouted. “Burglars in the house!” Herman and I hadn’t dared to tell her that it was not burglars but ghosts, for she was even more afraid of ghosts than of burglars. Bodwell at first thought that she meant that there were burglars in his house, but finally he quieted down and called the police for us over an extension phone by his bed. After he had disappeared from the window, mother made as if to throw another shoe, not because there was further need of it but, as she later explained, because the thrill of heaving a shoe through a window glass had enormously taken her fancy. I prevented her.
(10) The police were on hand in a commendably short time. “Open up!” cried a hoarse voice. “We’re men from Headquarters!” I wanted to go down and let them in, since there they were, but mother wouldn’t hear of it. “You haven’t a stitch on,” she pointed out. “You’d catch your death.” I wound the towel around me again. Finally the cops put their shoulders to our big heavy front door with its thick beveled glass and broke it in: I could hear a rending of wood and a splash of glass on the floor of the hall. Their lights played all over the living room and crisscrossed nervously in the dining room, stabbed into hallways, shot up the front stairs and finally up the back. They caught me standing in my towel at the top. A heavy policeman bounded up the steps. “Who are you?” he demanded. “I live here,” I said. “Well whattsa matta, ya hot?” he asked. It was, as a matter of fact,
cold; I went to my room and pulled on some trousers. On my way out, a cop stuck a gun into my ribs. “Whatta you doin’ here?” he demanded. “I live here,” I said.
(11) The officer in charge reported to mother. “No sign of nobody, lady,” he said. “Musta got away-whatt’d he look like?” “There were two or three of them,” mother said, “whooping and carrying on and slamming doors. “Funny,” said the cop. “All ya windows and doors was locked on the inside tight as a tick.”
(12) “No sign o’ nothing,” said the cop who had first spoken to mother. “This guy,” he explained to the others, jerking a thumb at me, “was nekked. The lady seems historical.” They all nodded, but said nothing; just looked at me. In the small silence we all heard a creaking in the attic. Grandfather was turning over in bed. “What’s ‘at?” snapped a policeman. Five or six cops sprang for the attic door before I could intervene or explain. I realized that it would be bad if they burst in on grandfather unannounced, or even announced. He was going through a phase in which he believed that General Meade’s men, under steady hammering by Stonewall Jackson, were beginning to retreat and even desert.
(13) When I got to the attic, things were pretty confused. Grandfather had evidently jumped to the conclusion that the police were deserters from Meade’s army, trying to hide away in his attic. He bounded out of bed wearing a long flannel nightgown over long woolen underwear, a nightcap, and a leather jacket around his chest. The cops must have realized at once that the indignant, white-haired old man belonged in the house, but they had no chance to say so. “Back, ye cowardly dogs!” roared grandfather. “Back t’ the lines, ye lily-livered cattle!” With that, he fetched an officer a flat-handed smack alongside his head that sent him sprawling. The others beat a retreat, but not fast enough; grandfather grabbed an officer’s gun from its holster and let fly. The report seemed to crack the rafters; smoke filled the attic. Somehow, we all finally got downstairs again and locked the door against the old gentleman. He fired once or twice more in the darkness and then went back to bed. “That was grandfather,” I explained to one officer, out of breath. “He thinks you’re deserters.” “I’ll say he does,” said the officer.
(14) The cops were reluctant to leave without getting their hands on somebody besides grandfather; the night had been distinctly a defeat for them. Furthermore, they obviously didn’t like the “layout”; something looked-and I can see their viewpoint- phony.
(15) “What was the matter with those policemen?” mother asked, after they had gone. “Grandfather shot at them,” I said. “What for?” she demanded. I told her they were deserters. “Of all things!” said mother. “They were such nice-looking young men.”
(16) Grandfather was fresh as a daisy and full of jokes at breakfast next morning. We thought at first he had forgotten all about what had happened, but he hadn’t. Over his third cup of coffee, he glared at Herman and me. “What was the idée of all them cops tarryhootin’ round the house last night?” he demanded. He had us there.

Thinking About the Selection
5. What role does the lack of communication between the characters play in precipitating the events described?
6. a) What does the mother's desire to throw a second shoe through her neighbors' windo reveal about her character? b) What does her response to her son's explanation of the grandfather's actions reveal about her character?
7. a) What is surprising about the question the grandfather asks at breakfast the next morning? b) What does it reveal about his character?
8. How is thurber's depiction of himself different from his depiction of other characters?
9. Thurber's stories are often filled with eccentrics - people whose idiosyncracies or peculiarities make them humorously unique. How do people react to eccentrics in real life? Explain your answer.

Analyzing Literature
In literature, humor refers to writing which attempts to evoke laughter. Humorists achieve this purpose by depicting comical incidents, situations, or personalities.
1. What makes Thurber's mother an unusual and amusing character?
2. What makes Thurber's grandfather an unusual and amusing character?
3. What is comical about the behavior of the police officers?
4. What malapropism, or humorous misuse of words, does the policeman commit when he describes the mother's behavior?
5. a) What is the usual reaction to hearing footsteps in the middle of the night? b) How does the contrast between the usual reaction and the Thurber family's reaction add to the humor of the story?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

CP English 11 - Writing Assignment 3!!!

Prompt: Choose from one of the four following prompts. Then follow the outline to begin work on your paper.

Option 1: Discuss the role of women in the novel. How does the language reinforce or challenge stereotypes of women?

Option 2: Discuss the role of the disabled – physically, mentally, or both – in the novel. How does the language reinforce or challenge stereotypes of the disabled?

Friday, November 2, 2007

The Minister's Black Veil

Copy this link into your browser for the full text of "The Minister's Black Veil."

Questions...Answer all in complete sentences.
Thinking About the Selection
1. How do the members of the parish react when they first see Parson Hooper wearing his black veil?
2. What is different about PArson Hooper's sermon on the first day he wears the veil? What is the subject of the sermon?
3. How does Elizabeth react when PArson Hooper refuses to remove his veil?
4. What is its "one desirable effect?"
5. What happens when Reverend Mr. Clark tries to remove the veil while Parson Hooper is lying on his deathbed? What does PArson Hooper suggest is the reason that people have been terrified by his veil?
6. How does the black veil affect PArson Hooper's perceptions of the world? In what ways does it isolate him from the rest of the world? Why does it make him a more effective minister?
7. What does Parson Hooper mean when he tells Elizabeth, "There is an hour to come...when all of us shall cast asides our veils"?
8. Why does the black veil ahve such a powerful effect on people? What do you think it represents?
9. Why do you think Hawthorne chooses not to reveal the reason that Hooper begins wearing the veil?
10. Hawthorne suggests that all people have certain secrets that they choose not to reveal to anyone. Explain why you either do or do not agree with this suggestion.

Analyzing Literature
1. In what ways does the story reflect the Anti-transcendentalists' belief that people possess the potential for both good and evil?
2. The Anti-transcendentalists believed that the truths of existence tend to be elusive and disturbing. What disturbing truth does Hawthorne convey through Hooper and his black veil?
3. How does the parishioners' inability to grasp the meaning of Hooper's veil reflect the Anti-transcendentalists' belief in the elusiveness ofthe truth?

Critical Thinking and Reading
Hawthorne had a gloomy vision that was possibly shaped by his awareness of the intolerance and cruelty of his Puritan ancestors. Therefore, he was unable to accept the optimistic views of the Transcendentalists. Like a number of Hawthorne's works, this story is set in Puritan New England. Judging from the story, do you think Hawthorne had a negative attitude toward the Puritans? Explain your answer.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Accel English 11 - Writing Assignment 2!!!

The Requirements:
Basics: 2-3 pages, typed, double-spaced, complete sentences, underlining book titles, spelling, proper grammar, logical organization, written in third person..........20 points
Quotations: Uses three quotes properly (cited, introduced, explained)..........25 points
Content: Presents a thesis statement and thoroughly addresses, supports, and analyzes it..........35 points
Intro/Conclusion: Intro grabs the reader's attention, conclusion wraps it all up and leaves the reader thinking..........20 points

The Options: (Choose one)
1. How does Arthur Miller portray the idea of power in this play? Who has it and who doesn't? How does that affect the events of the play?
2. In The Crucible, Miller suggests that sacrifices may be necessary to restore the social order. Discuss the sacrifices made by two characters and whether they were necessary to restore social order?
3. Is maintaining a good name more important than the truth? Analyze the actions of one or two characters to support your discussion.