She did not answer, but all her limbs trembled, for she did not understand, and wondered, perhaps, whether I too was about to inflict some brutality upon her.
Gently I removed her garment, and saw that her back also was wounded. I washed it. But she, frightened by such kindness, fled for refuge under the table of my cabin. My eyes filled with tears. I tried to call her back. But her glance, like that of a beaten dog, shrank from me. I had a few potatoes, and a little butter. I mashed them to a pulp with a wooden spoon, and placed it in a bowl at some distance from the crouching Assumption. Then I lighted my pipe.
At the end of an hour the poor creature began to move. She put one arm forward, then the other, and then a knee. I thought she was directing her attention toward the food in order to eat. But to my astonishment, I saw her crawl on hands and knees toward a corner of the room, where I had left a few flowers lying. She rose up quickly, and with a sudden movement seized them.
* * * * *
It was perhaps a hundred and fifty years after this adventure occurred, that I met Assumption again. At least I was convinced that it was she. It was in Bordeaux at the Restaurant du Perou. She was drying the glass of a gloomy student who had not found it clean enough.
THE PARADISE OF BEASTS
Once on a rainy midnight a poor old horse, harnessed to a cab, was drowsing in front of a dingy restaurant from whence came the laughter of women and young people.
And the poor spiritless animal with drooping head and shaking limbs made a sorry spectacle, as he stood there waiting the pleasure of the roisterers, that would at last permit him to go home to his reeking stable.
Half asleep, the horse heard the coarse jokes of these men and women. He had long since grown painfully accustomed to it. His poor brain understood that there was no difference between the monotonous unchanging screech of a turning wheel and the shrill voice of a prostitute.
And this evening he dreamed vaguely of the time when he had been a little colt that had gamboled on a smooth field, quite pink amid the green grass, and how his mother had given him to suck.
Suddenly he fell stone dead on the slippery pavement.
He reached the gate of heaven. A great scholar, who was waiting for St. Peter to come and open the gate, said to the horse:
“What are you doing here? You have no right to enter heaven. I have the right because I was born of a woman.”
And the poor horse answered:
“My mother was a gentle mare. She died in her old age with her blood sucked out by leeches. I have come to ask the Bon Dieu if she is here.”
Then the gate of Heaven was opened to the two who knocked upon it, and the Paradise of animals appeared.