The Refugees full lesson
though their own lands were only a few hundred miles perhaps from this very street 4pon which they now walked. But to them it was very far. Their eyes were the eyes of They walked through the new capital, alone and from a far country, yes, hey have always known and alvways thought safe until this time. They, who had been ATUstomed only to country roads and fields, walked now along the proud street of the w capital, their feet treading upon the new concrete side-walk, and although the street s full of things they had never seen before, so that there were even automobiles and ach things of which they had never even heard, still they looked at nothing. but passed s in a dream, seeing nothing. who have been taken suddenly and by some unaccountable force from the world
There were several hundreds of them passing at this moment. If they did not bok at anything nor at anyone, neither did any look at them. The city was full of refugees, many thousands of them, fed after a fashion, clothed somehow, sheltered in mats in great camps outside the city wall. At any hour of the day lines of ragged men and women and a few children could be seen making their way towards the camp, and if any city-dweller noticed them y? was to think with increased bitterness:
'' More refugees- will there never be an end to them? We will all starve trying to feed them even a little.''
This bitterness, which is the bitterness of fear, made small shopkeepers bawl out Tudely to the many beggars who came hourly to beg at the doors, and it made men runhless in paying small fares to the rickshaw pullers, of which there were ten times as many as could be used, because the refugees were trying to earn something thus. Even the usual pullers of rickshaws, who followed this as their profession, cursed the tefugees because, being starving they would pull for anything given them, and so fares were low for all, and all suffered. With the city full of refugees, then, begging at every door, swarming into every unskilled trade and service, lying dead on the streets at every frozen dawn, why should one look at this fresh horde coming in now at twilight of winter's day?
But these were no common men and women, no riff-raff from some community aeays poor and easily starving in a flood time. No, these were men and women of which any nation might have been proud. It could be seen they were all from one epon, for they wore garments woven out of the same dark blue cotton stuff, plain and cut in an old-fashioned way, the sleeves long and the coats long and full. The men wore Tocked aprons, the smocking done in curious, intricate, beautiful designs. The women had bands of the same plain blue stull Wrapped like kerchiefs about their heads. But men and women were tall and strong in frame, although the women's feet were bound. There were a few lads in the throng, a few children sitting in baskets slung upon a pole os the shoulders of their fathers, but there were no young girls, no young infants. Every man and every lad bole burden on his shoulder. This burden was always starving bedding, quilts made of the blue cotton stuff and padded. Clothing and bedding were clean and strongly made.
On top of every folded quilt, with a bit of mate betwcen, was an iron cauldron. These cauldrons had doubtless been taken from the earthen ovens of the village when the people saw the time had come when they must move. But in no basket was there a vestige of food, nor was there a trace of food having been cooked in them recently. starve ev our seed they ate i apron an T This lack of food was confirmed when one looked closely into the faces of the people.
In the first glance in the twilight they seemed well enough, but when one looked more closely, one saw they were the faces of people starving and moving now despair to a last hope. They saw nothing of the strange sights of a new city beccause they were too near death to see anything.
No new sight could move their curiosity They were men and women who had stayed by their land until starvation drove them forth. Thus, they passed unseeing, silent, alien, as those who know themselves dying are alien, to the living. two coins The last one of this long procession of silent men and women was a litle wizened old man Even he carried a load of a folded quilt, a cauldron. But there was only one cauldron. In the other basket it seemed there was but a quilt, extremely ragged and patched, but clean still. Although the load was light it was too much for the old man. It was evident that in usual times he would be beyond the age of work, and was perhaps unaccustomed to such labour in recent years.
His breath whistled as be staggered along, and he strained his eyes to watch those who were ahead of him lest he should be left behind, and his old wrinkled face was set in a sort of gasping agony prepared to see wh T hands an pulled as eyes fast lifted his feebly un Suddenly he could go no more. He set his burden with great gentleness, sank upon the ground, his head sunk between his knees, his eyes closed, panting desperately Starved as he was, a little blood rose in dark patches on his cheeks. A ragged vendor selling hot noodles set his stand near, and shouted his trade cry, and the light from the stand fell on the old man's drooping figure.
A man passing stopped and muttered looking at him: I swear I can give no more this day if I am to feed my own even nothing but noodles but here is this old man. Well, I will give him the bit of silver I earned today against tomorrow and trust to tomorrow again. If my own old father had been alive, I would have given it to him." He fumbled and brought out of his ragged girdle a bit of a silver coin, and afler a moment's hesitation and muttering, he added to it a copper penny. H tongue ca There, old father," he said with a sort of bitter heartiness, "Iet me see you cat noodles. though he The old man lifted his head slowly. When he saw the silver, he would not put he saw th out his hand. He said:
Sir, I did not beg of you. Sir, we have good land and we have never been an ing like this before, having such good land. But this year the river rose and men ane even on good land, at such times; Sir, we have no seed left, even. Wc have eaten A SeedI told them, we cannot eat the seed. But they were young: and hungry and ding were ween, was n ovens of But in no cooked in dry ate it
'' Take it." said the man, and he dropped the money into the old man's smocked ATand went on his way, sighing ''
The vendor prepared his bowl of noodles and called out
'How many will you eat, old man? '
Then was the old man stirred. He felt cagerly in his apron and when he saw the Ocoins there, the one copper and the other silver, he said:
One small bowl is enough.
Can you eat only one small bowl, then?' asked the vendor, astonished.
It is not for me,' the old man answered.
The vendor started astonished, but being a simple man he said no more but propared the bowl, and when it was finished, he called out. "Here it is." And he waited D see who would eat it. Then the old man rose with a great effort and took the bowl between his shaking hands and he went to the other basket. There, while the vendor watched, the old man palled aside the quilt until one could see the shrunken face of a small boy lying with his Gyes fast closed. One would have said the child was dead except that when the old man ithed his head so his mouth could touch the edge of the little bowl he began to swallow cbly until the hot mixture was finished. The old man kept murmuring to him: ness, sank esperately ged vendor t from the muttered
There, my heart-there, my child
Your grandson?' said the vendor
Yes, said the old man. The son of my only son. Both my son and his wife were drowned as they worked on our land when the dikes broke.
He covered the child tenderly and then, squatting on his haunches, he ran his Prgee carcfully around the little bowl and removed the last trace of food. Then, as fhough he had been fed, he handed the bowl, back to the vendor. , and after ce you eat But you have the silver bit,' cried the ragged vendor, yet more astonished when ww the old man ordered no more.
The old man shook his head. That is for seed,' he replied. As soon as I saw it, I knew I would buy seed with it. They ate up all the seed and with what shall the land be sown again?' If I were not so poor myself, said the vendor,
'I might even have given you a bowl, but to give something to a man who has a bit of silver! he shook his head puzzled COMP I do not ask you, brother,' said the old man. Well, I know you cannt understand. But if you had land you would know, it must be put to seed again or there will be starvation yet another year.
The best I can do for this grandson of mine is to bm a little seed for the land. Yes, even though I die, and others must plant it, the land mu be put to seed. (A)Tic 1. One (a) (b) (c) (d) The (a) (b) He took up his load again, his old legs trembling, and straining his eyes down the long straight street, he staggered on -Pearl S. Back (c) (d) 3 The
About the Story
(a) Written by Pearl S Buck, 'The Refugees brings out the tragedy of those hardworking poor people who are uprooted from their land as a result of natural calamities like floods. Even as they look for work, or a temporary support, they are generally treated as beggars in the alien land. The old man of this story is a symbol of men of strong character who can face such tragic phases in their lives to hail the dawn of prosperity once again. In the story, when a silver bit is thrown to the old man, he keeps it to purchase seeds so that he can go back to his native land and work for his grandson, the only survivor of this family (b) (c) (d) (B) A 1. Wh 2 Na 3. W 4 WH Author of about seventy books, Pearl S Buck is the first American woman to win the Noble Prize for literature.
riff-raff: the lowest of the low
smoched: decorated with small stitches
throng: a large crowd of people
cauldron: a large round metal pot
quilt: a thin cover put over the blanket
vestige: a small part wizened: ...