Boleslav Prus (Alexander Glowacki) (1847-1912)
Alexander Glowacki, known and loved among his people under the pen-name Prus, was born near Lublin in Poland, in 1847. His first novel was published in 1872, and from that time until his death in 1912, his literary activities were uninterrupted. He was a very prolific writer.
“He believed in humanity, in civilization, in the creative power of good and light. He demanded national self-education… he yearned for the training of the will of the people, to whom he proclaimed that each man must find in himself the source of strength and energy.” Prus’s short stories are especially characteristic of the man’s nature and art.
This story is translated—for the first time into English—by Sarka B. Hrbkova, by whose permission it is here printed.
The Human Telegraph
On her visit to the Orphanage recently the Countess X witnessed an extraordinary scene. She beheld four boys wrangling over a tom book and pounding each other promiscuously with right sturdy and effective fists.
“Why, children, children—what does this mean—you are fighting!” cried the lady, greatly shocked. “For that—not one of you will get a taste of gingerbread and, besides, you’ll have to go and kneel in the comer.”
“He took Robinson Crusoe away from me,” one boy ventured in extenuation of his offense.
“That’s a lie! He took it himself!” burst out another.
“See how you lie!” shrieked a third boy at him. “Why you yourself took Robinson away from me!”
The Sister in charge explained to the Countess that in spite of the most watchful supervision similar scenes occurred often, because the children loved to read and the Orphanage lacked books.
A spark of some strange sensation lighted up the heart of the Countess. But as thinking wearied her, she strove to forget it. Not until some days later, when she was a guest at the home of the Chief Counselor where one had to discuss religious and philanthropic subjects, did it occur to her to mention it. Then she related at length the incident at the Orphanage and the explanation given by the Sister in charge.
The counselor, listening attentively, also experienced an odd sensation, and being more adept in thinking, he suggested that it would be a good idea to send some books to the orphans. In fact, he recalled that in his bookcases or in his trunk he had a whole collection of volumes going to waste which in bygone years he had purchased for his own children. But then—it was too laborious a task for him to go rummaging around to gather up the books.