BLTC Press Titles


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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll


Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll


The Bhagavad Gita

Anonymous


Some Experiences of an Irish R. M.

Edith Somerville and Martin Ross


Jurgen

by James Branch Cabell

Excerpt:

"Fie, brother!" says Jurgen, "and have not the devils enough to bear as it is?"

"I never held with Origen," replied the monk; "and besides, it hurt my great-toe confoundedly."

"None the less," observes Jurgen, "it does not behoove God-fearing persons to speak with disrespect of the divinely appointed Prince of Darkness. To your further confusion, consider this monarch's industry! day and night you may detect him toiling at the task Heaven set him. That is a thing can be said of few communicants and of no monks. Think, too, of his fine artistry, as evidenced in all the perilous and lovely snares of this world, which it is your business to combat, and mine to lend money upon. Why, but for him we would both be vocationless! Then, too, consider his philanthropy! and deliberate how insufferable would be our case if you and I, and all our fellow parishioners, were to-day hobnobbing with other beasts in the Garden which we pretend to desiderate on Sundays! To arise with swine and lie down with the hyena ?—oh, intolerable I"

Thus he ran on, devising reasons for not thinking too harshly of the Devil. Most of it was an abridgement of some verses Jurgen had composed, in the shop when business was slack.

"I consider that to be stuff and nonsense," was the monk's glose.

'No doubt your notion is sensible," observed the pawnbroker: "but mine is the prettier."

Then Jurgen passed the Cistercian Abbey, and was approaching Bellegarde, when he met a black gentleman, who saluted him and said:

"Thanks, Jurgen, for your good word."

"Who are you, and why do you thank me?" asks Jurgen.

"My name is no great matter. But you have a kind heart, Jurgen. May your life be free from care!"

"Save us from hurt and harm, friend, but I am already married."

"Eh, sirs, and a fine clever poet like you I"

"Yet it is a long while now since I was a practising poet."

"Why, to be sure! You have the artistic temperament, which is not exactly suited to the restrictions of domestic life. Then I suppose your wife has her own personal opinion about ooetry, Jurgen."

"Indeed, sir, her opinion would not bear repetition, for I am sure you are unaccustomed to such language."

"This is very sad. I am afraid your wife does not quite understand you, Jurgen."

"Sir," says Jurgen, astounded, "do you read people's inmost thoughts?"

The black gentleman seemed much dejected. He pursed his lips, and fell to counting upon his fingers: as they^moved his sharp nails glittered like flame-points.

"Now but this is a very deplorable thing," says the black gentleman, "to have befallen the first person I have found ready to speak a kind word for evil. And in all these centuries, too! Dear me, this is a most regrettable instance of mismanagement! No matter, Jurgen, the morning is brighter than the evening. How I will reward you, to be sure!"

So Jurgen thanked the simple old creature politely. And when Jurgen reached home his wife was nowhere to be seen. He looked on all sides and questioned everyone, but to no avail. Dame Lisa had vanished in the midst of getting supper ready—suddenly, completely and inexplicably, just as (in Jurgen's figure) a windstorm passes and leaves behind it a tranquillity which seems, by contrast, uncanny. Nothing could explain the mystery, short of magic: and Jurgen on a sudden recollected the black gentleman's queer promise. Jurgen crossed himself.

"How unjustly now," says Jurgen, "do some people get an ill name for gratitude! And now do I perceive how wise I am, always to speak pleasantly of everybody, in this world of tale-bearers."

Then Jurgen prepared his own supper, went to bed, and slept soundly.


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