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Arabesque: The Mouse
by [?]

The man sat on before the fire and his mind filled again with unaccountable sadness. He hadgrown into manhood with a burning generosity of spirit and rifts of rebellion in him that provedtoo exacting for his fellows and seemed mere wantonness to men of casual rectitudes. "Justiceand Sin," he would cry, "Property and Virtue—incompatibilities! There can be no sin in a worldof justice, no property in a world of virtue!" With an engaging extravagance and a certain clear-eyedhonesty of mind he had put his two and two together and seemed then to rejoice, as in sometopsy-turvy dream, in having rendered unto Caesar, as you might say, the things that were due to Napoleon! But this kind of thing could not pass unexpiated in a world of men living an infiniteregard for Property and a pride in their traditions of Virtue and Justice. They could indeedforgive him his sins but they could not forgive him his compassions. So he had to go seek formore melodious-minded men and fair unambiguous women. But rebuffs can deal more deadlyblows than daggers; he became timid—a timidity not of fear but of pride—and grew with theyears into misanthropy, susceptible to trivial griefs and despairs, a vessel of emotion that emptiedas easily as it filled, until he came at last to know that his griefs were half deliberate, his despairshalf unreal, and to live but for beauty—which is tranquillity—to put her wooing hand upon him.

Now, while the mouse hunts in the cupboard, one fair recollection stirs in the man’s mind—of Cassia and the harmony of their only meeting, Cassia who had such rich red hair, and eyes, yes,her eyes were full of starry enquiry like the eyes of mice. It was so long ago that he had forgottenhow he came to be in it, that unaccustomed orbit of vain vivid things—a village festival, alloranges and houp-là. He could not remember how he came to be there, but at night, in the court hall, he had danced with Cassia—fai
r and unambiguous indeed!—who had come like the windfrom among the roses and swept into his heart.

"It is easy to guess," he had said to her, "what you like most in the world. "

She laughed; "To dance? Yes, and you … ?"

"To find a friend. "

"I know, I know," she cried, caressing him with recognitions. "Ah, at times I quite love myfriends—until I begin to wonder how much they hate me!"

He had loved at once that cool pale face, the abundance of her strange hair as light as theautumn’s clustered bronze, her lilac dress and all the sweetness about her like a bush of lilies.

How they had laughed at the two old peasants whom they had overheard gabbling of trifles likesickness and appetite!

"There’s a lot of nature in a parsnip," said one, a fat person of the kind that swells grosslywhen stung by a bee, "a lot of nature when it’s young, but when it’s old it’s like everything else. "

"True it is. "

"And I’m very fond of vegetables, yes, and I’m very fond of bread. "

"Come out with me," whispered Cassia to Filip, and they walked out in the blackness ofmidnight into what must have been a garden.

"Cool it is here," she said, "and quiet, but too dark even to see your face—can you see mine?"

"The moon will not rise until after dawn," said he, "it will be white in the sky when thestarlings whistle in your chimney. "

They walked silently and warily about until they felt the chill of the air. A dull echo of themusic came to them through the walls, then stopped, and they heard the bark of a fox away in thewoods.