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Arabesque: The Mouse
by [?]

"Mean—so mean," he mused, "to appeal to the hunger of any living thing just in order todestroy it. "

He picked up the empty trap as if to throw it in the fire.

"I suppose I had better leave it though—the place swarms with them. " He still hesitated. "Ihope that little beastie won’t go and do anything foolish. " He put the trap back quite carefully,closed the door of the cupboard, sat down again and extinguished the lamp.

Was there any one else in the world so squeamish and foolish about such things! Even hismother, mother so bright and beautiful, even she had laughed at his childish horrors. He recalledhow once in his childhood, not long after his sister Yosine was born, a friendly neighbour hadsent him home with a bundle of dead larks tied by the feet "for supper. " The pitiful inanimity ofthe birds had brought a gush of tears; he had run weeping home and into the kitchen, and there hehad found a strange thing doing. It was dusk; mother was kneeling before the fire. He droppedthe larks.

"Mother!" he exclaimed softly. She looked at his tearful face.

"What’s the matter, Filip?" she asked, smiling too at his astonishment.

"Mother! What you doing?"

Her bodice was open and she was squeezing her breasts; long thin streams of milk spurted intothe fire with a plunging noise.

"Weaning your little sister," laughed mother. She took his inquisitive face and pressed itagainst the delicate warmth of her bosom, and he forgot the dead birds behind him.

"Let me do it, mother," he cried, and doing so he discovered the throb of the heart in hismother’s breast. Wonderful it was for him to experience it, although she could not explain it tohim.

"Why does it do that?"

"If it did not beat, little son, I should die and the Holy Father would take me from you. "


She nodded. He put his hand upon his own breast. "Oh feel it, Mother!" he cried. Motherunbuttoned his little coat and felt the gentle tick tick with her warm palm.

"Beautiful!" she said.

"Is it a good one?"

She kissed his upsmiling lips. "It is good if it beats truly. Let it always beat truly, Filip, let italways beat truly. "

There was the echo of a sigh in her voice, and he had divined some grief, for he was very wise.

He kissed her bosom in his tiny ecstasy and whispered soothingly: "Little mother! little mother!"

In such joys he forgot his horror of the dead larks; indeed he helped mother to pluck them andspit them for supper.

It was a black day that succeeded, and full of tragedy for the child. A great bay horse with atawny mane had knocked down his mother in the lane, and a heavy cart had passed over her,crushing both her hands. She was borne away moaning with anguish to the surgeon who cut offthe two hands. She died in the night. For years the child’s dreams were filled with the horror ofthe stumps of arms, bleeding unendingly. Yet he had never seen them, for he was sleeping whenshe died.

While this old woe was come vividly before him he again became aware of the mouse. Hisnerves stretched upon him in repulsion, but he soon relaxed to a tolerant interest, for it was reallya most engaging little mouse. It moved with curious staccato scurries, stopping to rub its head orflicker with its ears; they seemed almost transparent ears. It spied a red cinder and skippedinnocently up to it…. sniffing…. sniffing … until it jumped back scorched. It would crouchas a cat does, blinking in the warmth, or scamper madly as if dancing, and then roll upon its siderubbing its head with those pliant paws. The melancholy man watched it until it came at last to rest and squatted meditatively upon its haunches, hunched up, looking curiously wise, apennyworth of philosophy; then once more the coals sank with a rattle and again the mouse wasgone.