JACK LONDON "THE LEOPARD MAN'S STORY"
Примечание: Текст рассказа условно разделён на несколько частей для удобства работы в классе. После каждой части следуют вопросы на понимание, а в конце - вопросы для обсуждения рассказа в целом.
A. Answer the questions before reading the story.
Imagine a man who tames lions, tigers or leopards at the circus.
- What does the man look like?
- What are the stresses and possible dangers of the job? What conflicts does he experience?
- What personal qualities are important for a wild animal tamer?
He had a dreamy, far-away look in his eyes, and his sad, insistent voice, gentle-spoken as a maid's,
seemed the placid embodiment of some deep-seated melancholy. He was the Leopard Man, but he did not look it.
His business in life, whereby he lived, was to appear in a cage of performing leopards before vast audiences,
and to thrill those audiences by certain exhibitions of nerve for which his employers rewarded him
on a scale commensurate with the thrills he produced.
As I say, he did not look it. He was narrow-hipped, narrow-shouldered, and anaemic,
while he seemed not so much oppressed by gloom as by a sweet and gentle sadness,
the weight of which was as sweetly and gently borne. For an hour I had been trying
to get a story out of him, but he appeared to lack imagination.
To him there was no romance in his gorgeous career, no deeds of daring, no thrills—nothing but a gray sameness and infinite boredom.
Lions? Oh, yes! He had fought with them. It was nothing. All you had to do was to stay sober.
Anybody could whip a lion to a standstill with an ordinary stick. He had fought one for half an hour once.
Just hit him on the nose every time he rushed, and when he got artful and rushed with his head down,
why, the thing to do was to stick out your leg. When he grabbed at the leg you drew it back and hit him on the nose again. That was all.
With the far-away look in his eyes and his soft flow of words he showed me his scars.
There were many of them, and one recent one where a tigress had reached for his shoulder
and gone down to the bone. I could see the neatly mended rents in the coat he had on.
His right arm, from the elbow down, looked as though it had gone through a threshing machine,
what of the ravage wrought by claws and fangs. But it was nothing, he said,
only the old wounds bothered him somewhat when rainy weather came on.
B. Answer the questions.
- Is the story told in the first or in the third person?
- Who do you think the author is? Why does he talk with the Leopard Man? What stories does he expect to hear?
- What features of the Leopard Man’s appearance contrast with the stereotype of an animal tamer?
- Find the words in the second paragraph which demonstrate the stereotypical attitude to the job. How is Leopard Man’s attitude different?
- What, from his point of view, is important for an animal tamer?
Suddenly his face brightened with a recollection, for he was really as anxious to give me a story as I was to get it.
"I suppose you've heard of the lion-tamer who was hated by another man?" he asked.
He paused and looked pensively at a sick lion in the cage opposite.
"Got the toothache," he explained. "Well, the lion-tamer's big play to the audience was putting his head in a lion's mouth.
The man who hated him attended every performance in the hope sometime of seeing that lion crunch down.
He followed the show about all over the country. The years went by and he grew old, and the lion-tamer grew old,
and the lion grew old. And at last one day, sitting in a front seat, he saw what he had waited for.
The lion crunched down, and there wasn't any need to call a doctor."
The Leopard Man glanced casually over his finger nails in a manner which would have been critical had it not been so sad.
"Now, that's what I call patience," he continued, "and it's my style.
But it was not the style of a fellow I knew. He was a little, thin, sawed-off,
sword-swallowing and juggling Frenchman. De Ville, he called himself, and he had a nice wife.
She did trapeze work and used to dive from under the roof into a net, turning over once on the way as nice as you please.
"De Ville had a quick temper, as quick as his hand, and his hand was as quick as the paw of a tiger.
One day, because the ring-master called him a frog-eater, or something like that and maybe a little worse,
he shoved him against the soft pine background he used in his knife-throwing act, so quick
the ring-master didn't have time to think, and there, before the audience,
De Ville kept the air on fire with his knives, sinking them into the wood all around the ring-master
so close that they passed through his clothes and most of them bit into his skin.
"The clowns had to pull the knives out to get him loose, for he was pinned fast.
So the word went around to watch out for De Ville, and no one dared be more than barely civil to his wife.
And she was a sly bit of baggage, too, only all hands were afraid of De Ville.
"But there was one man, Wallace, who was afraid of nothing.
He was the lion-tamer, and he had the self-same trick of putting his head into the lion's mouth.
He'd put it into the mouths of any of them, though he preferred Augustus,
a big, good-natured beast who could always be depended upon.
"As I was saying, Wallace—'King' Wallace we called him—was afraid of nothing alive or dead.
He was a king and no mistake. I've seen him drunk, and on a wager go into the cage of a lion
that'd turned nasty, and without a stick beat him to a finish. Just did it with his fist on the nose.
"Madame de Ville—"
At an uproar behind us the Leopard Man turned quietly around. It was a divided cage,
and a monkey, poking through the bars and around the partition,
had had its paw seized by a big gray wolf who was trying to pull it off by main strength.
The arm seemed stretching out longer and longer like a thick elastic, and the
unfortunate monkey's mates were raising a terrible din. No keeper was at hand,
so the Leopard Man stepped over a couple of paces, dealt the wolf a sharp blow
on the nose with the light cane he carried, and returned with a sadly apologetic
smile to take up his unfinished sentence as though there had been no interruption.
"—looked at King Wallace and King Wallace looked at her, while De Ville looked black.
We warned Wallace, but it was no use. He laughed at us, as he laughed at De Ville one
day when he shoved De Ville's head into a bucket of paste because he wanted to fight.
"De Ville was in a pretty mess—I helped to scrape him off; but he was cool as a cucumber
and made no threats at all. But I saw a glitter in his eyes which I had seen often
in the eyes of wild beasts, and I went out of my way to give Wallace a final warning.
He laughed, but he did not look so much in Madame de Ville's direction after that.
"Several months passed by. Nothing had happened and I was beginning to think it all a scare over nothing.
We were West by that time, showing in 'Frisco. It was during the afternoon performance,
and the big tent was filled with women and children, when I went looking for Red Denny,
the head canvas-man, who had walked off with my pocket-knife.
"Passing by one of the dressing tents I glanced in through a hole in the canvas to
see if I could locate him. He wasn't there, but directly in front of me was King Wallace,
in tights, waiting for his turn to go on with his cage of performing lions.
He was watching with much amusement a quarrel between a couple of trapeze artists.
All the rest of the people in the dressing tent were watching the same thing,
with the exception of De Ville whom I noticed staring at Wallace with undisguised hatred.
Wallace and the rest were all too busy following the quarrel to notice this or what followed.
"But I saw it through the hole in the canvas. De Ville drew his handkerchief from his pocket,
made as though to mop the sweat from his face with it (it was a hot day), and at the same
time walked past Wallace's back. The look troubled me at the time, for not only did
I see hatred in it, but I saw triumph as well.
C. Answer the questions.
- How many stories does the Leopard Man tell? How are the stories similar?
- What is the conflict in each of the stories? How is the conflict resolved?
- In which way is the Leopard Man similar to the man who hated the lion tamer in the first story?
- What stage name does the Frenchman have? Does this name add to or contradict his personality? Why?
- Why do people call the lion tamer 'King'? What kind of person is he?
- How does Wallace offend the Frenchman? What is the reason for the quarrel between them?
- Can you predict how Wallace will die? How do you know it?
- What details in the Leopard Man’s story foreshadow Wallace’s death?
"'De Ville will bear watching,' I said to myself, and I really breathed easier when
I saw him go out the entrance to the circus grounds and board an electric car for down town.
A few minutes later I was in the big tent, where I had overhauled Red Denny.
King Wallace was doing his turn and holding the audience spellbound.
He was in a particularly vicious mood, and he kept the lions stirred up till
they were all snarling, that is, all of them except old Augustus, and he was
just too fat and lazy and old to get stirred up over anything.
"Finally Wallace cracked the old lion's knees with his whip and got him into position.
Old Augustus, blinking good-naturedly, opened his mouth and in popped Wallace's head.
Then the jaws came together, CRUNCH, just like that."
The Leopard Man smiled in a sweetly wistful fashion, and the far-away look came into his eyes.
"And that was the end of King Wallace," he went on in his sad, low voice.
"After the excitement cooled down I watched my chance and bent over and smelled Wallace's head. Then I sneezed."
"It . . . it was . . .?" I queried with halting eagerness.
"Snuff—that De Ville dropped on his hair in the dressing tent.
Old Augustus never meant to do it. He only sneezed."
D. Answer the questions.
- Why does De Ville board an electric car for down town?
- Why does the Leopard Man suspect De Ville? How does he confirm his suspicions?
- The Leopard Man says that "De Ville had a quick temper". Where in the story does he demonstrate this quality? How can you describe his behaviour when he commits the crime? Does he show or hold down his quick temper? Why?
- What are the motives for the murder?
- Why do you think the two stories interest the Leopard Man? What do the stories add to your understanding of his personality?
- What is a frame story? What does the author achieve by using the frame story?