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The Human Tragedy
by Anatole France
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When presently the sun had slipped behind the mountains, the man of God arose from his knees and took the path to the Monastery. On the white, silent road thither, he met a beggar, who asked him for alms for the love of God. "Alas!" he told him, "I have nothing but my gown, and the Superior has forbidden me to cut it in two so as to give away the half. Therefore I cannot divide it with you. But if you love me, my son, you will take it off me whole and undivided." On hearing these words, the beggar promptly stripped the Friar of his own gown. * Anatole France was a wonderful writer and a delicious satirist. He many of his works concern the divine, and our relationship with religion; sending up the church and Christian mythology was one of his favorite pursuits. But he wasn't simply silly, as much modern satire is: France knew something about man, and he knew something about our relationship with God. Nestled in the humor is a certain poignancy, a observation of great truth that France wants to share with us. . . .
But the hospital walls were very thick, and daylight entered only by narrow windows high up above the floor. The air was so fetid the lepers could scarcely live in the place at all. And Fra Giovanni noted how one of them, by name Lucido, who showed an exemplary patience, was slowly dying of the evil atmosphere.
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