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The Short Form

“Alexandrian Tale”

Joakim Marie Machado de Assis

Excerpt

Exaggerated accounts of the experiments caused a great stir within the sentimental element of the city and stimulated the garrulity of certain sophists, but the earnest Stroibus (gently, so as not to injure even the most delicate realms of the human soul) responded that Truth was worth all the rats in the universe, not only all the rats, but all the peacocks, goats, dogs, nightingales, and so forth. In relation to the rats, the city as well as science would profit, because the curse of such a destructive animal would be diminished. Moreover, even if the same consideration were not applicable to other animals–such as turtledoves and dogs, which would be dissected in due time–the rights of Truth were no less inalienable. Nature should not only be the dinner table, he concluded aphoristically, but Science's table as well.

And they continued to extract and drink the blood. They did not drink it in a pure form but diluted it in a concoction of cinnamon, acacia sap, and balsam, which completely disguised its primitive flavor. The doses were daily and diminutive, and therefore it was necessary for them to wait a long time before the desired effect would be produced. Pythias, impatient and incredulous, scoffed at his colleague.

“Still nothing?”

“Be patient,” Stroibus would tell him, “be patient. One does not acquire a vice in the same way one sews a pair of sandals.”