PASSAGES IN THE LIFE OF A TORTOISE
Alexandre Dumas, in whose book, as I told you, I read the story of Tom the Bear, as well as those of other animals, was one day walking past the shop of a large fishmonger in Paris. As he glanced through the window he saw an Englishman in the shop holding a tortoise, which he was turning about in his hands. Dumas felt an instant conviction that the Englishman proposed to make the tortoise into turtle soup, and he was so touched by the air of patient resignation of the supposed victim that he entered the shop, and with a sign to the shopwoman asked whether she had kept the tortoise for him which he had bespoken.
The shopwoman (who had known Dumas for many years) understood with half a word, and gently slipping the tortoise out of the Englishman's grasp, she handed it to Dumas, saying, ' Pardon, milord, the tortoise was sold to this gentleman this morning.'
The Englishman seemed surprised, but left the shop without remonstrating, and Dumas had nothing left for it but to pay for his tortoise and take it home.
As he carried his purchase up to his rooms on the third floor he wondered what could have possessed him to buy it, and what on earth he was to do with it now he had got it. It was certainly a remarkable tortoise, for the moment he put it down on the floor of his bedroom it started off for the fireplace at such a pace as to earn for itself the name of ' Gazelle.'