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PAGE 2

A Mother Of Monsters
by [?]

She gave a start, and resuming her natural voice, and giving free play to her anger, she screamed:

“Was that why you came here? To insult me? Because my children are like animals, tell me? You shall not see him, no, no, you shall not see him! Go away, go away! I do not know why you all try to torment me like that.”

She walked over toward us, her hands on her hips. At the brutal tone of her voice, a sort of moaning, or rather a mewing, the lamentable cry of an idiot, came from the adjoining room. I shivered to the marrow of my bones. We retreated before her.

“Take care, Devil” (they called her the Devil); said my friend, “take care; some day you will get yourself into trouble through this.”

She began to tremble, beside herself with fury, shaking her fist and roaring:

“Be off with you! What will get me into trouble? Be off with you, miscreants!”

She was about to attack us, but we fled, saddened at what we had seen. When we got outside, my friend said:

“Well, you have seen her, what do you think of her?”

“Tell me the story of this brute,” I replied.

And this is what he told me as we walked along the white high road, with ripe crops on either side of it which rippled like the sea in the light breeze that passed over them.

“This woman was one a servant on a farm. She was an honest girl, steady and economical. She was never known to have an admirer, and never suspected of any frailty. But she went astray, as so many do.

“She soon found herself in trouble, and was tortured with fear and shame. Wishing to conceal her misfortune, she bound her body tightly with a corset of her own invention, made of boards and cord. The more she developed, the more she bound herself with this instrument of torture, suffering martyrdom, but brave in her sorrow, not allowing anyone to see, or suspect, anything. She maimed the little unborn being, cramping it with that frightful corset, and made a monster of it. Its head was squeezed and elongated to a point, and its large eyes seemed popping out of its head. Its limbs, exaggeratedly long, and twisted like the stalk of a vine, terminated in fingers like the claws of a spider. Its trunk was tiny, and round as a nut.

“The child was born in an open field, and when the weeders saw it, they fled away, screaming, and the report spread that she had given birth to a demon. From that time on, she was called ‘the Devil.’

“She was driven from the farm, and lived on charity, under a cloud. She brought up the monster, whom she hated with a savage hatred, and would have strangled, perhaps, if the priest had not threatened her with arrest.

“One day some travelling showmen heard about the frightful creature, and asked to see it, so that if it pleased them they might take it away. They were pleased, and counted out five hundred francs to the mother. At first, she had refused to let them see the little animal, as she was ashamed; but when she discovered it had a money value, and that these people were anxious to get it, she began to haggle with them, raising her price with all a peasant’s persistence.

“She made them draw up a paper, in which they promised to pay her four hundred francs a year besides, as though they had taken this deformity into their employ.

“Incited by the greed of gain, she continued to produce these phenomena, so as to have an assured income like a bourgeoise.

“Some of them were long, some short, some like crabs-all bodies-others like lizards. Several died, and she was heartbroken.

“The law tried to interfere, but as they had no proof they let her continue to produce her freaks.