Issue 226, Fall 2018
I entered timidly: there was an ostrich that was losing its feathers, and, on a pedestal of white stucco, a bronze bird whose plumage was represented by a series of engraved shells. Mr. Abel Hermant or someone like Mr. Abel Hermant appeared as soon as the vestibule was opened. “Ah! Young man!” he said, “You have come for the hundred sous!” I learned later that everyone who came there was given a hundred sous. At the words “hundred sous,” the ostrich let fall a feather and the bronze bird flew away. Besides, the vestibule was deserted and dusty, pins were kept there in iron boxes with portraits of famous men painted on them, Cuvier, Buffon, etc . . . “Ah! young man,” Mr. Abel Hermant or someone like him repeated, “You have come for the hundred sous!” And the birds began to go through their motions again. “No, sir! It is free! It’s a free deposit!” My future spiritual director no longer heard: “free deposit” had satisfied him, he turned his back on me. The ostrich put on his policeman’s helmet and looked at me with uneasy curiosity. The bronze bird was still more bronze.