**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Taxidermist
by [?]


One day a hummingbird got caught in a cobweb in our greenhouse. It had no real need to seek that damp, artificial heat. We were in the very heart of that Creole summer-time when bird-notes are many as the sunbeams. The flowers were in such multitude they seemed to follow one about, offering their honeys and perfumes and begging to be gathered. Our little boy saw the embodied joy fall, a joy no longer, seized it, and clasping it too tightly, brought it to me dead.

He cried so over the loss that I promised to have the body stuffed. This is how I came to know Manouvrier, the Taxidermist in St. Peter Street.

I passed his place twice before I found it. The front shop was very small, dingily clean and scornfully unmercantile. Of the very few specimens of his skill to be seen round about not one was on parade, yet everyone was somehow an achievement, a happy surprise, a lasting delight. I admit that taxidermy is not classed among the fine arts; but you know there is a way of making everything–anything–an art instead of a craft or a commerce, and such was the way of this shop’s big, dark, hairy-faced, shaggy-headed master. I saw his unsmiling face soften and his eye grow kind as mine lighted up with approbation of his handiwork.

When I handed him the hummingbird he held it tenderly in his wide palm, and as I was wondering to myself how so huge a hand as that could manipulate frail and tiny things and bring forth delicate results, he looked into my face and asked, with a sort of magisterial gentleness:

“How she git kill’, dat lill’ bird?”

I told him. I could feel my mood and words take their tone from him, though he outwardly heard me through with no show of feeling; and when I finished, I knew we were friends. I presently ventured to praise the specimen of his skill nearest at hand; a wild turkey listening alarmedly as if it would the next instant utter that ringing “quit!” which makes each separate drop of a hunter’s blood tingle. But with an odd languor in his gravity, he replied:

“Naw, dass not well make; lill’ bit worse, bad enough to put in front window. I take you inside; come.”


We passed through into a private workroom immediately behind the shop. His wife sat there sewing; a broad, motherly woman of forty-five, fat, tranquil, kind, with an old eye, a young voice, and a face that had got its general flabbiness through much paddling and gnawing from other women’s teething babes. She sat still, unintroduced, but welcomed me with a smile.

I was saying to her husband that a hummingbird was a very small thing to ask him to stuff. But he stopped me with his lifted palm.

“My fran’, a hummingbird has de pas-sione’–de ecstacie! One drop of blood wid the pas-sione in it”–He waved his hand with a jerk of the thumb in disdain of spoken words, and it was I who added,

“Is bigger than the sun?”

“Hah!” was all he uttered in approval, turning as if to go to work. I feared I had disappointed him.

“God measures by the soul, not by the size,” I suggested. But he would say no more, and his wife put in as softly as a kettle beginning to sing,

“Ah, ha, ha! I t’ink dass where de good God show varrie good sanse.”

I began looking here and there in heartiest admiration of the products of his art and presently we were again in full sympathy and talking eagerly. As I was going he touched my arm:

“You will say de soul is parted from dat lill’ bird. And–yass; but”–he let a gesture speak the rest.

“I know,” replied I; “you propose to make the soul seem to come back and leave us its portrait. I believe you will.” Whereupon he gave me his first, faint smile, and detained me with another touch.