sábado, 31 de agosto de 2013

Miriam (short story) by Truman Capote

Miriam (short story)

by Truman Capote

Miriam is a short story written by Truman Capote.  It was originally published in 1945 in Mademoiselle  and reprinted in 1982 and was later included to The Selected Writings of Truman Capote. Miriam is one of Capote's first published short stories and he was awarded the O. Henry Awaed for the short story.

Miriam is about a 61-year-old widow named Mrs. H. T. Miller who wants to spend the remaining years of her life alone in her apartment on Park Avenue  after her husband H. T. Miller died. She is very lonely, she has no friends to speak of and does not keep in touch with any of her relatives.

 One day while she is going into a movie theater, she meets this young but intelligent girl named Miriam. Miriam asks Mrs. Miller to buy her a movie ticket because the usher would not let her in. She gives Mrs. Miller twenty five cents and she buys the girl a ticket. They say goodbye as Mrs. Miller goes in search of a seat. When the movie ends, Mrs. Miller returns home. The following week, there is a knock on Mrs. Miller's door. When she answers it, she finds out it is Miriam, the girl she met at the movie theater. Mrs. Miller askes Miriam to go home but Miriam refuses and asks Mrs. Miller to make her a sandwich. After Miriam agrees to leave if given the sandwich, she goes into Mrs. Millers bedroom and finds a cameo brooch that was given to Mrs. Miller by her deceased husband. She asks Mrs. Miller if she can have it, and Mrs. Miller, despite her desire to stop her from taking it, relents in helplessness. Miriam then goes back to the couch and finishes her sandwich. Before leaving, Miriam asks Mrs. Miller for a kiss goodnight, but Mrs. Miller refuses. Miriam walks over to a nearby vase and smashes it on the floor and steps on the bouquet, then leaves. The next morning, Mrs. Miller leaves her apartment and spends the next day shopping at various stores around New York City. Upon arriving home, Miriam returns and proceeds to ring the doorbell. Mrs. Miller refuses to open the door. After the doorbell ringing ended, Mrs. Miller went to her door to see if she left. Miriam did not leave and rushed inside the house before Mrs. Miller could close the door. Miriam perches upon the couch and tells Mrs. Miller to bring in the large box she brought with her. Out of curiosity, she does. While commenting on the cherries, almond cakes, and white flowers that Mrs. Miller bought while she was shopping, Miriam tells Mrs. Miller to open the box. All she finds are clothes and a second doll similar to the one Miriam was holding. Miriam then tells Mrs. Miller that she is going to live with her.

 A frightened Mrs. Miller goes to the apartment downstairs where a young couple lives. Mrs. Miller tells them that a young girl keeps on appearing and won't leave her alone. She convinces the man living there to check upstairs while his wife comforts Mrs. Miller. The man returns downstairs and says that there is no girl upstairs. Mrs. Miller asks if there was a large box, and the man says that there wasn't. Mrs. Miller goes back upstairs and notices that no one is there. Scared more than ever at the startling emptiness of the house, she slumps onto the couch with no energy left. She closes her eyes and calms down, remembering that she is Mrs. H. T. Miller, the woman who lives alone and does everything for herself. She then becomes aware of another sound, the sound of a silk dress ruffling. She stiffens and fearfully opens her eyes to see Miriam staring at her. Miriam then says "Hello"

CAPOTE, Truman. Miriam, in: The Complete Stories of Truman Capote. New  York: Vintage International. 2004: 37-50.

Retrieved from www.wikipedia.com

A Humble Drama by Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893) - Translators: Albert M.C. McMaster, A.E. Henderson, Mme. Quesada, & others.

A Humble Drama
by Guy de Maupassant

Translators: Albert M.C. McMaster, A.E. Henderson, Mme. Quesada, & others.

Meetings that are unexpected constitute the charm of traveling. Who has not experienced the joy of suddenly coming across a Parisian, a college friend, or a neighbor, five hundred miles from home? Who has not passed a night awake in one of those small, rattling country stagecoaches, in regions where steam is still a thing unknown, beside a strange young woman, of whom one has caught only a glimpse in the dim light of the lantern, as she entered the carriage in front of a white house in some small country town?
And the next morning, when one's head and ears feel numb with the continuous tinkling of the bells and the loud rattling of the windows, what a charming sensation it is to see your pretty neighbor open her eyes, startled, glance around her, arrange her rebellious hair with her slender fingers, adjust her hat, feel with sure hand whether her corset is still in place, her waist straight, and her skirt not too wrinkled.
She glances at you coldly and curiously. Then she leans back and no longer seems interested in anything but the country.
In spite of yourself, you watch her; and in spite of yourself you keep on thinking of her. Who is she? Whence does she come? Where is she going? In spite of yourself you spin a little romance around her. She is pretty; she seems charming! Happy he who . . . Life might be delightful with her. Who knows? She is perhaps the woman of our dreams, the one suited to our disposition, the one for whom our heart calls.
And how delicious even the disappointment at seeing her get out at the gate of a country house! A man stands there, who is awaiting her, with two children and two maids. He takes her in his arms and kisses as he lifts her out. Then she stoops over the little ones, who hold up their hands to her; she kisses them tenderly; and then they all go away together, down a path, while the maids catch the packages which the driver throws down to them from the coach.
Adieu! It is all over. You never will see her again! Adieu to the young woman who has passed the night by your side. You know her no more, you have not spoken to her; all the same, you feel a little sad to see her go. Adieu!
I have had many of these souvenirs of travel, some joyous and some sad.
Once I was in Auvergne, tramping through those delightful French mountains, that are not too high, not too steep, but friendly and familiar. I had climbed the Sancy, and entered a little inn, near a pilgrim's chapel called Notre-Dame de Vassiviere, when I saw a queer, ridiculous-looking old woman breakfasting alone at the end table.
She was at least seventy years old, tall, skinny, and angular, and her white hair was puffed around her temples in the old-fashioned style. She was dressed like a traveling Englishwoman, in awkward, queer clothing, like a person who is indifferent to dress. She was eating an omelet and drinking water.
Her face was peculiar, with restless eyes and the expression of one with whom fate has dealt unkindly. I watched her, in spite of myself, thinking: "Who is she? What is the life of this woman? Why is she wandering alone through these mountains?"
She paid and rose to leave, drawing up over her shoulders an astonishing little shawl, the two ends of which hung over her arms. From a corner of the room she took an alpenstock, which was covered with names traced with a hot iron; then she went out, straight, erect, with the long steps of a letter-carrier who is setting out on his route.
A guide was waiting for her at the door, and both went away. I watched them go down the valley, along the road marked by a line of high wooden crosses. She was taller than her companion, and seemed to walk faster than he.
Two hours later I was climbing the edge of the deep funnel that incloses Lake Pavin in a marvelous and enormous basin of verdure, full of trees, bushes, rocks, and flowers. This lake is so round that it seems as if the outline had been drawn with a pair of compasses, so clear and blue that one might deem it a flood of azure come down from the sky, so charming that one would like to live in a but on the wooded slope which dominates this crater, where the cold, still water is sleeping. The Englishwoman was standing there like a statue, gazing upon the transparent sheet down in the dead volcano. She was straining her eyes to penetrate below the surface down to the unknown depths, where monstrous trout which have devoured all the other fish are said to live. As I was passing close by her, it seemed to me that two big tears were brimming her eyes. But she departed at a great pace, to rejoin her guide, who had stayed behind in an inn at the foot of the path leading to the lake.
I did not see her again that day.
The next day, at nightfall, I came to the chateau of Murol. The old fortress, an enormous tower standing on a peak in the midst of a large valley, where three valleys intersect, rears its brown, uneven, cracked surface into the sky; it is round, from its large circular base to the crumbling turrets on its pinnacles.
It astonishes the eye more than any other ruin by its simple mass, its majesty, its grave and imposing air of antiquity. It stands there, alone, high as a mountain, a dead queen, but still the queen of the valleys stretched out beneath it. You go up by a slope planted with firs, then you enter a narrow gate, and stop at the foot of the walls, in the first inclosure, in full view of the entire country.
Inside there are ruined halls, crumbling stairways, unknown cavities, dungeons, walls cut through in the middle, vaulted roofs held up one knows not how, and a mass of stones and crevices, overgrown with grass, where animals glide in and out.
I was exploring this ruin alone.
Suddenly I perceived behind a bit of wall a being, a kind of phantom, like the spirit of this ancient and crumbling habitation.
I was taken aback with surprise, almost with fear, when I recognized the old lady whom I had seen twice.
She was weeping, with big tears in her eyes, and held her handkerchief in her hand.
I turned around to go away, when she spoke to me, apparently ashamed to have been surprised in her grief.
"Yes, monsieur, I am crying. That does not happen often to me."
"Pardon me, madame, for having disturbed you," I stammered, confused, not knowing what to say. "Some misfortune has doubtless come to you."
"Yes. No--I am like a lost dog," she murmured, and began to sob, with her handkerchief over her eyes.
Moved by these contagious tears, I took her hand, trying to calm her. Then brusquely she told me her history, as if no longer ably to bear her grief alone.
"Oh! Oh! Monsieur--if you knew--the sorrow in which I live--in what sorrow.
"Once I was happy. I have a house down there--a home. I cannot go back to it any more; I shall never go back to it again, it is too hard to bear.
"I have a son. It is he! it is he! Children don't know. Oh, one has such a short time to live! If I should see him now I should perhaps not recognize him. How I loved him? How I loved him! Even before he was born, when I felt him move. And after that! How I have kissed and caressed and cherished him! If you knew how many nights I have passed in watching him sleep, and how many in thinking of him. I was crazy about him. When he was eight years old his father sent him to boarding-school. That was the end. He no longer belonged to me. Oh, heavens! He came to see me every Sunday. That was all!
"He went to college in Paris. Then he came only four times a year, and every time I was astonished to see how he had changed, to find him taller without having seen him grow. They stole his childhood from me, his confidence, and his love which otherwise would not have gone away from me; they stole my joy in seeing him grow, in seeing him become a little man.
"I saw him four times a year. Think of it! And at every one of his visits his body, his eye, his movements, his voice his laugh, were no longer the same, were no longer mine. All these things change so quickly in a child; and it is so sad if one is not there to see them change; one no longer recognizes him.
"One year he came with down on his cheek! He! my son! I was dumfounded --would you believe it? I hardly dared to kiss him. Was it really he, my little, little curly head of old, my dear; dear child, whom I had held in his diapers or my knee, and who had nursed at my breast with his little greedy lips--was it he, this tall, brown boy, who no longer knew how to kiss me, who seemed to love me as a matter of duty, who called me 'mother' for the sake of politeness, and who kissed me on the forehead, when I felt like crushing him in my arms?
"My husband died. Then my parents, and then my two sisters. When Death enters a house it seems as if he were hurrying to do his utmost, so as not to have to return for a long time after that. He spares only one or two to mourn the others.
"I remained alone. My tall son was then studying law. I was hoping to live and die near him, and I went to him so that we could live together. But he had fallen into the ways of young men, and he gave me to understand that I was in his way. So I left. I was wrong in doing so, but I suffered too much in feeling myself in his way, I, his mother! And I came back home.
"I hardly ever saw him again.
'He married. What a joy! At last we should be together for good. I should have grandchildren. His wife was an Englishwoman, who took a dislike to me. Why? Perhaps she thought that I loved him too much.
"Again I was obliged to go away. And I was alone. Yes, monsieur.
"Then he went to England, to live with them, with his wife's parents. Do you understand? They have him--they have my son for themselves. They have stolen him from me. He writes to me once a month. At first he came to see me. But now he no longer comes.
"It is now four years since I saw him last. His face then was wrinkled and his hair white. Was that possible? This man, my son, almost an old man? My little rosy child of old? No doubt I shall never see him again.
"And so I travel about all the year. I go east and west, as you see, with no companion.
"I am like a lost dog. Adieu, monsieur! don't stay here with me for it hurts me to have told you all this."
I went down the hill, and on turning round to glance back, I saw the old woman standing on a broken wall, looking out upon the mountains, the long valley and Lake Chambon in the distance.
And her skirt and the queer little shawl which she wore around her thin shoulders were fluttering tike a flag in the wind.

Julie Romaine by Guy de Maupassant -Translators: Albert M.C. McMaster, A.E. Henderson, Mme. Quesada, & others.

Julie Romaine
by Guy de Maupassant

Translators: Albert M.C. McMaster, A.E. Henderson, Mme. Quesada, & others.
Two years ago this spring I was making a walking tour along the shore of the Mediterranean. Is there anything more pleasant than to meditate while walking at a good pace along a highway? One walks in the sunlight, through the caressing breeze, at the foot of the mountains, along the coast of the sea. And one dreams! What a flood of illusions, loves, adventures pass through a pedestrian's mind during a two hours' march! What a crowd of confused and joyous hopes enter into you with the mild, light air! You drink them in with the breeze, and they awaken in your heart a longing for happiness which increases with the hun ger induced by walking. The fleeting, charming ideas fly and sing like birds.
I was following that long road which goes from Saint Raphael to Italy, or, rather, that long, splendid panoramic highway which seems made for the representation of all the love-poems of earth. And I thought that from Cannes, where one poses, to Monaco, where one gambles, people come to this spot of the earth for hardly any other purpose than to get embroiled or to throw away money on chance games, displaying under this delicious sky and in this garden of roses and oranges all base vanities and foolish pretensions and vile lusts, showing up the human mind such as it is, servile, ignorant, arrogant and full of cupidity.
Suddenly I saw some villas in one of those ravishing bays that one meets at every turn of the mountain; there were only four or five fronting the sea at the foot of the mountains, and behind them a wild fir wood slopes into two great valleys, that were untraversed by roads. I stopped short before one of these chalets, it was so pretty: a small white house with brown trimmings, overrun with rambler roses up to the top.
The garden was a mass of flowers, of all colors and all kinds, mixed in a coquettish, well-planned disorder. The lawn was full of them, big pots flanked each side of every step of the porch, pink or yellow clusters framed each window, and the terrace with the stone balustrade, which enclosed this pretty little dwelling, had a garland of enormous red bells, like drops of blood. Behind the house I saw a long avenue of orange trees in blossom, which went up to the foot of the mountain.
Over the door appeared the name, "Villa d'Antan," in small gold letters.
I asked myself what poet or what fairy was living there, what inspired, solitary being had discovered this spot and created this dream house, which seemed to nestle in a nosegay.
A workman was breaking stones up the street, and I went to him to ask the name of the proprietor of this jewel.
"It is Madame Julie Romain," he replied.
Julie Romain! In my childhood, long ago, I had heard them speak of this great actress, the rival of Rachel.
No woman ever was more applauded and more loved--especially more loved! What duets and suicides on her account and what sensational adventures! How old was this seductive woman now? Sixty, seventy, seventy-five! Julie Romain here, in this house! The woman who had been adored by the greatest musician and the most exquisite poet of our land! I still remember the sensation (I was then twelve years of age) which her flight to Sicily with the latter, after her rupture with the former, caused throughout France.
She had left one evening, after a premiere, where the audience had applauded her for a whole half hour, and had recalled her eleven times in succession. She had gone away with the poet, in a post-chaise, as was the fashion then; they had crossed the sea, to love each other in that antique island, the daughter of Greece, in that immense orange wood which surrounds Palermo, and which is called the "Shell of Gold."
People told of their ascension of Mount Etna and how they had leaned over the immense crater, arm in arm, cheek to cheek, as if to throw themselves into the very abyss.
Now he was dead, that maker of verses so touching and so profound that they turned, the heads of a whole generation, so subtle and so mysterious that they opened a new world to the younger poets.
The other one also was dead--the deserted one, who had attained through her musical periods that are alive in the memories of all, periods of triumph and of despair, intoxicating triumph and heartrending despair.
And she was there, in that house veiled by flowers.
I did not hesitate, but rang the bell.
A small servant answered, a boy of eighteen with awkward mien and clumsy hands. I wrote in pencil on my card a gallant compliment to the actress, begging her to receive me. Perhaps, if she knew my name, she would open her door to me.
The little valet took it in, and then came back, asking me to follow him. He led me to a neat and decorous salon, furnished in the Louis-Philippe style, with stiff and heavy furniture, from which a little maid of sixteen, slender but not pretty, took off the covers in my honor.
Then I was left alone.
On the walls hung three portraits, that of the actress in one of her roles, that of the poet in his close-fitting greatcoat and the ruffled shirt then in style, and that of the musician seated at a piano.
She, blond, charming, but affected, according to the fashion of her day, was smiling, with her pretty mouth and blue eyes; the painting was careful, fine, elegant, but lifeless.
Those faces seemed to be already looking upon posterity.
The whole place had the air of a bygone time, of days that were done and men who had vanished.
A door opened and a little woman entered, old, very old, very small, with white hair and white eyebrows, a veritable white mouse, and as quick and furtive of movement.
She held out her hand to me, saying in a voice still fresh, sonorous and vibrant:
"Thank you, monsieur. How kind it is of the men of to-day to remember the women of yesterday! Sit down."
I told her that her house had attracted me, that I had inquired for the proprietor's name, and that, on learning it, I could not resist the desire to ring her bell.
"This gives me all the more pleasure, monsieur," she replied, "as it is the first time that such a thing has happened. When I received your card, with the gracious note, I trembled as if an old friend who had disappeared for twenty years had been announced to me. I am like a dead body, whom no one remembers, of whom no one will think until the day when I shall actually die; then the newspapers will mention Julie Romain for three days, relating anecdotes and details of my life, reviving memories, and praising me greatly. Then all will be over with me."
After a few moments of silence, she continued:
"And this will not be so very long now. In a few months, in a few days, nothing will remain but a little skeleton of this little woman who is now alive."
She raised her eyes toward her portrait, which smiled down upon this caricature of herself; then she looked at those of the two men, the disdainful poet and the inspired musician, who seemed to say: "What does this ruin want of us?"
An indefinable, poignant, irresistible sadness overwhelmed my heart, the sadness of existences that have had their day, but who are still debating with their memories, like a person drowning in deep water.
From my seat I could see on the highroad the handsome carriages that were whirling from Nice to Monaco; inside them I saw young, pretty, rich and happy women and smiling, satisfied men. Following my eye, she understood my thought and murmured with a smile of resignation:
"One cannot both be and have been."
"How beautiful life must have been for you!" I said.
She heaved a great sigh.
"Beautiful and sweet! And for that reason I regret it so much."
I saw that she was disposed to talk of herself, so I began to question her, gently and discreetly, as one might touch bruised flesh.
She spoke of her successes, her intoxications and her friends, of her whole triumphant existence.
"Was it on the stage that you found your most intense joys, your true happiness?" I asked.
"Oh, no!" she replied quickly.
I smiled; then, raising her eyes to the two portraits, she said, with a sad glance:
"It was with them."
"Which one?" I could not help asking.
"Both. I even confuse them up a little now in my old woman's memory, and then I feel remorse."
"Then, madame, your acknowledgment is not to them, but to Love itself. They were merely its interpreters."
"That is possible. But what interpreters!"
"Are you sure that you have not been, or that you might not have been, loved as well or better by a simple man, but not a great man, who would have offered to you his whole life and heart, all his thoughts, all his days, his whole being, while these gave you two redoubtable rivals, Music and Poetry?"
"No, monsieur, no!" she exclaimed emphatically, with that still youthful voice, which caused the soul to vibrate. "Another one might perhaps have loved me more, but he would not have loved me as these did. Ah! those two sang to me of the music of love as no one else in the world could have sung of it. How they intoxicated me! Could any other man express what they knew so well how to express in tones and in words? Is it enough merely to love if one cannot put all the poetry and all the music of heaven and earth into love? And they knew how to make a woman delirious with songs and with words. Yes, perhaps there was more of illusion than of reality in our passion; but these illusions lift you into the clouds, while realities always leave you trailing in the dust. If others have loved me more, through these two I have understood, felt and worshipped love."
Suddenly she began to weep.
She wept silently, shedding tears of despair.
I pretended not to see, looking off into the distance. She resumed, after a few minutes:
"You see, monsieur, with nearly every one the heart ages with the body. But this has not happened with me. My body is sixty-nine years old, while my poor heart is only twenty. And that is the reason why I live all alone, with my flowers and my dreams."
There was a long silence between us. She grew calmer and continued, smiling:
"How you would laugh at me, if you knew, if you knew how I pass my evenings, when the weather is fine. I am ashamed and I pity myself at the same time."
Beg as I might, she would not tell me what she did. Then I rose to leave.
"Already!" she exclaimed.
And as I said that I wished to dine at Monte Carlo, she asked timidly:
"Will you not dine with me? It would give me a great deal of pleasure."
I accepted at once. She rang, delighted, and after giving some orders to the little maid she took me over her house.
A kind of glass-enclosed veranda, filled with shrubs, opened into the dining-room, revealing at the farther end the long avenue of orange trees extending to the foot of the mountain. A low seat, hidden by plants, indicated that the old actress often came there to sit down.
Then we went into the garden, to look at the flowers. Evening fell softly, one of those calm, moist evenings when the earth breathes forth all her perfumes. Daylight was almost gone when we sat down at table. The dinner was good and it lasted a long time, and we became intimate friends, she and I, when she understood what a profound sympathy she had aroused in my heart. She had taken two thimblefuls of wine, as the phrase goes, and had grown more confiding and expansive.
"Come, let us look at the moon," she said. "I adore the good moon. She has been the witness of my most intense joys. It seems to me that all my memories are there, and that I need only look at her to bring them all back to me. And even--some times--in the evening--I offer to myself a pretty play--yes, pretty--if you only knew! But no, you would laugh at me. I cannot--I dare not--no, no--really--no."
I implored her to tell me what it was.
"Come, now! come, tell me; I promise you that I will not laugh. I swear it to you--come, now!"
She hesitated. I took her hands--those poor little hands, so thin and so cold!--and I kissed them one after the other, several times, as her lovers had once kissed them. She was moved and hesitated.
"You promise me not to laugh?"
"Yes, I swear it to you."
"Well, then, come."
She rose, and as the little domestic, awkward in his green livery, removed the chair behind her, she whispered quickly a few words into his ear.
"Yes, madame, at once," he replied.
She took my arm and led me to the veranda.
The avenue of oranges was really splendid to see. The full moon made a narrow path of silver, a long bright line, which fell on the yellow sand, between the round, opaque crowns of the dark trees.
As these trees were in bloom, their strong, sweet perfume filled the night, and swarming among their dark foliage I saw thousands of fireflies, which looked like seeds fallen from the stars.
"Oh, what a setting for a love scene!" I exclaimed.
She smiled.
"Is it not true? Is it not true? You will see!"
And she made me sit down beside her.
"This is what makes one long for more life. But you hardly think of these things, you men of to-day. You are speculators, merchants and men of affairs.
You no longer even know how to talk to us. When I say 'you,' I mean young men in general. Love has been turned into a liaison which very often begins with an unpaid dressmaker's bill. If you think the bill is dearer than the woman, you disappear; but if you hold the woman more highly, you pay it. Nice morals--and a nice kind of love!"
She took my hand.
I looked, astonished and delighted. Down there at the end of the avenue, in the moonlight, were two young people, with their arms around each other's waist. They were walking along, interlaced, charming, with short, little steps, crossing the flakes of light; which illuminated them momentarily, and then sinking back into the shadow. The youth was dressed in a suit of white satin, such as men wore in the eighteenth century, and had on a hat with an ostrich plume. The girl was arrayed in a gown with panniers, and the high, powdered coiffure of the handsome dames of the time of the Regency.
They stopped a hundred paces from us, and standing in the middle of the avenue, they kissed each other with graceful gestures.
Suddenly I recognized the two little servants. Then one of those dreadful fits of laughter that convulse you made me writhe in my chair. But I did not laugh aloud. I resisted, convulsed and feeling almost ill, as a man whose leg is cut off resists the impulse to cry out.
As the young pair turned toward the farther end of the avenue they again became delightful. They went farther and farther away, finally disappearing as a dream disappears. I no longer saw them. The avenue seemed a sad place.
I took my leave at once, so as not to see them again, for I guessed that this little play would last a long time, awakening, as it did, a whole past of love and of stage scenery; the artificial past, deceitful and seductive, false but charming, which still stirred the heart of this amorous old comedienne.