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At the same fair I heard the shrilling of a bagpipe. F. asked me: “Doesn’t it remind you of African music?”—“Yes,” I answered, “at Touggart the bagpipes have the same nasal note. It must be an Arab who is playing.”—“Let us go into the booth,” he said...Dromedaries were on exhibition there.
A dozen little camels, crowded like sardines in a can, were stupidly going round and round in a sort of trench. These creatures which I have seen in the Sahara undulant like waves with only God and Death surrounding them, I now saw here, Oh sorrow of my heart! They went round and round again in that narrow space. The anguish which passed from them to me filled me as with nausea toward man. They went on and on, always on, proud as poor swans, hallowed as it were by their desolation. They were covered with grotesque trappings, and the butt of dancing women. They raised their poor verminous necks toward God, and toward the miraculous leaves of some imaginary oasis.
Ah! what a prostitution of God’s creatures. Farther along there were rabbits in a cage. Then came goldfish, that were offered as prizes of a lottery. They swam about in blown glass bowls, the necks of which were so narrow that F. said to me: “How did they get in?”—“By squeezing them a little,” I answered. Still farther on were living chickens, also lottery prizes, spun around in a whirligig. In the center a Tittle milk-fed pig, mad with fear, was crouching flat on his stomach.
Hens and pullets, overcome by vertigo, squawked and pecked frantically at one another. My companion called my attention to dead, plucked chickens hanging beside their living sisters.
My heart swells at these memories. An infinite pity overcomes me.
Oh poet, receive these poor suffering beasts into your soul. Let them warm themselves, and live there in eternal joy.
Preach the simple word which bestows kindness on the ignorant.
Some of the instances here are purely imaginary. I invented them so that I might more deeply penetrate into the heart of these things.
I enter a great square of stirring shadow. Here close beside a red and black candle a man is driving nails into a shoe. Two children stretch their hands toward the hearth. A blackbird sleeps in its wicker cage. Water is boiling in the smoky earthenware pot from which rises a disagreeable soupy smell which mingles with that of tanner’s bark and leather. A crouching dog gazes fixedly into the coals.
There is such an air of gentle peace about these souls and these obscure things that I do not ask whether they have any reason for being other than this very peace, nor whether I read a special charm into their humility.
The God of the poor watches over them, the simple God in whom I believe. It is He who makes an ear of grain grow from a seed; it is He who separates water from earth, earth from air, air from fire, fire from night; it is He who blows the breath of life into the body; it is He who fashions the leaves one by one. We do not know how this is done, but we have faith in it as in the work of a perfect workman.