Who now appears in the story?
Yes, however cynical you are, however irreligious it makes you feel queer to be alone at Christmas time.
Son I'm absurdly relieved when the young man walks in. There's nothing in romantic about it. I'm a woman of nearly fifty, a spinster schoolma'am with grim, dark hair, and rnyopic eyes that once were beautiful, and he's a kid of twenty, rather unconventionally dressed with a flowing, wine-coloured tie and black velvet jacket, and brown curls which could do with a taste of the barber's scissors. The effeminacy of bis dress is belied by his features - narrow, piercing, blue eyes, and arrogant, jutting nose and chin. Not that he looks strong. The skin is fine-drawn over the prominent features, and he is very white.
a) Make notes about the two characters in the chart below.
Physical appearance 636d32g
Consider your notes.
a) Does the narrator appear to you as a person who has fulfilled her ideals and is pleased with herself? Why/Why not?
b) Through whose eyes is the young man presented?
c) Say which words and phrases in this description convey the narrator's personal impressions and opinions.
d) Does the narrator seem to like or dislike the young man? Why do you think so?
e) Is there any part of the description that strikes you as strange?
Read the second part of the story
why the young man is there
what his name and profession are
what he tells the narrator about himself
what he asks her to do.
He bursts in without knocking, then pauses, says: "I'm so sorry. I thought this was my room." He begins to go out, then hesitates and says: "Are you alone?"
«It's - queer, being alone at Christmas, isn't it? May I stay and talk?"
"I'd be glad if you would."
He comes right in, and sits down by the fire.
"I hope you don't think I carne in here on purpose. I really did think it was my room," he explains.
"I'm glad you made the mistake. But you're a very young person to be alone at Christmas time."
"I wouldn't go back to the country to my family. It would hold up my work. I'm a writer."
"I see." I can't help smiling a little. That explains his rather unusual dress. And he takes himself so seriously, this young man! "Of course, you mustn't waste a precious moment of writing," I say with a twinkle.
"No, not a moment! That's what my family won't see. They don't appreciate urgency."
"Families are never appreciative of the artistic nature."
"No, they aren't," he agrees seriously.
"What are you writing?"
"Poetry and a diary combined. It's called My Poems and I, by Francis Randel. That's my name. My family say there's no point in my writing, that I'm too young. But I don't feel young. Sometimes I feel like an old man, with too much to do before he dies."
"Revolving faster and faster on the wheel of creativeness."
"Yes! Yes, exactly! You understand! You must read my work some time. Please read my work! Read my work!" A note of desperation in his voice, a look of fear in his eyes, makes me say:
"We're both getting much too solemn for Christmas Day. I'm going to make you some coffee. And I have a plum cake."
I move about, clattering cups, spooning coffee into my percolator. But I must have offended him, for, when I look round, I find he has left me. I am absurdly disappoint ed.
I finish making coffee, however, then turn to the bookshelf in the room. It is piled high with volumes, for which the landlady has apologized profusely: "Hope you don't mind the books, Miss, but my husband won't part with them, and there's nowhere else to put them. We charge a bit less for the room for that reason.
"I don't mind", I said. "Books are good friends."
But these aren't very friendly-looking books. I take one at random. Or does some strange fate guide my hand?
a) Define the narrator's attitude to the young man, when he speaks about himself and his work. Then choose the sentence/s you think most appropriate to describe her attitude or supply one of your own.
She is sceptical
She is amused
She is understanding
She is critical
She is moved
other (specify) .
b) How does the narrator feel when he leaves?
c) Is there anything strange in the young man's words and behaviour?
a) Why do you think the young man left the woman?
b) What do you think the woman will do?
Read the final part of the story.
Say what the woman decides to do.
Sipping my coffee. inhaling my cigarette smoke, I begin to read the battered little book, published, I see, in Spring, 1852. It's mainly poetry - immature stuff, but vivid. Then there's a kind of diary. More realistic, less affected. Out of curiosity, to see if there are any amusing comparisons, I turn to entry for Christmas Day, 1851. I read:
"My first Christmas Day alone. I had rather an odd experience. When I went back to may lodgings after a walk, there was a middle-aged woman in my room.
I thought, at first, I'd walked into the wrong room, but this was not so, and later, after a pleasant talk, she - disappeared. I suppose she was a ghost. But I wasn't frightened. I liked her. But I do not feel well tonight. Not at all well. I have never felt iii at Christmas before."
A publisher's note followed the last entry: FRANCIS RANDEL DIED FROM A SUDDEN HEART ATTACK ON THE NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS DAY, 1851. THE WOMAN MENTIONED IN THIS FINAL ENTRY IN HIS DIARY WAS THE LAST PERSON TO SEE HIM ALIVE. IN SPITE OF REQUEST FOR HER TO COME FORWARD, SHE NEVER DID SO. HER IDENTITY REMAINS A MYSTERY.
a) Circle words and phrases that convey the idea of a strange atmosphere.
b) How does the entry in the diary compare with the story you have been told so far?
a) Who tells the story?
b) Whose point of view do you share?
c) What tense is used?
d) What effect does the choice of tense create?
The reader is more involved
The reader becomes a character in the story
other (specify) .
a) What impression does the ending of the story make on you?
b) Can you give a rational explanation for the events described?
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