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A Set of Six

AUTHOR'S NOTE
Les petites marionnettes
Font, font, font,
Trois petits tours
Et puis s'en vont.
--NURSERY RHYME
TO MISS M. H. M. CAPES
AUTHOR'S NOTE
THE six stories in this volume are the result of some three or four years of occasional
work. The dates of their writing are far apart, their origins are various. None of them are
connected directly with personal experiences. In all of them the facts are inherently true,
by which I mean that they are not only possible but that they have actually happened. For
instance, the last story in the volume, the one I call Pathetic, whose first title is Il Conde
(misspelt by-the-by) is an almost verbatim transcript of the tale told me by a very
charming old gentleman whom I met in Italy. I don't mean to say it is only that. Anybody
can see that it is something more than a verbatim report, but where he left off and where I
began must be left to the acute discrimination of the reader who may be interested in the
problem. I don't mean to say that the problem is worth the trouble. What I am certain of,
however, is that it is not to be solved, for I am not at all clear about it myself by this time.
All I can say is that the personality of the narrator was extremely suggestive quite apart
from the story he was telling me. I heard a few years ago that he had died far away from
his beloved Naples where that "abominable adventure" did really happen to him.
Thus the genealogy of Il Conde is simple. It is not the case with the other stories. Various
strains contributed to their composition, and the nature of many of those I have forgotten,
not having the habit of making notes either before or after the fact. I mean the fact of
writing a story. What I remember best about Gaspar Ruiz is that it was written, or at any
rate begun, within a month of finishing Nostromo; but apart from the locality, and that a
pretty wide one (all the South American Continent), the novel and the story have nothing
in common, neither mood, nor intention and, certainly, not the style. The manner for the
most part is that of General Santierra, and that old warrior, I note with satisfaction, is
very true to himself all through. Looking now dispassionately at the various ways in
which this story could have been presented I can't honestly think the General superfluous.
It is he, an old man talking of the days of his youth, who characterizes the whole
narrative and gives it an air of actuality which I doubt whether I could have achieved
without his help. In the mere writing his existence of course was of no help at all, because
the whole thing had to be carefully kept within the frame of his simple mind. But all this
is but a laborious searching of memories. My present feeling is that the story could not
have been told otherwise. The hint for Gaspar Ruiz the man I found in a book by Captain
Basil Hall, R.N., who was for some time, between the years 1824 and 1828, senior officer
 
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