Page:Stories by Foreign Authors (French I).djvu/26

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by anatole france


THERE lived in France, in the time of King Louis, a poor juggler, native of Compiègne, named Barnabas, who went through the cities making tricks of strength and skill. On market days he extended on the public square an old carpet, all worn out, and, after having attracted the children and idlers by pleasing phrases, which he had learned from an old juggler and of which he never changed anything, he assumed attitudes which were not natural, and he placed a pewter plate on his nose and balanced it there. The crowd looked at him at first with indifference.

But when, with hands and head on the ground, he threw in the air and caught with his feet six copper balls which shone in the sun, or when, throwing himself backward till his neck touched his heels, he gave to his body the form of a perfect wheel, and juggled, in that posture, with twelve knives, a murmur of admiration rose from the spectators, and pieces of money rained on the carpet.

Nevertheless, like most of those who live off