(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

As The Horseman on the Roof opens, Angelo Pardi is riding into the Rhone valley during the summer of 1838. The heat is oppressive, and everyone suffers from thirst. Then people begin to die. At first, the deaths do not draw unusual attention, but soon it becomes clear that a cholera epidemic has begun. People become frightened, and their attempts to protect themselves make travel difficult. Angelo meets a young doctor who tries to save as many lives as he can, even to the point of searching out cholera victims who have hidden themselves away to die. Angelo helps him eagerly, though their efforts fail time after time. Finally, the young doctor himself becomes a victim. Angelo is unable to keep him alive.

He takes up his travels again after the doctor’s death. After getting past a group of soldiers and several roadblocks manned by citizens, Angelo makes his way into Manosque, where he expects to find his foster brother Giuseppe. Instead, he finds himself trapped by a mob; he is accused of poisoning the well and his life is threatened. To escape the mob’s wrath, Angelo makes his way onto the rooftops, where he lives for the next several days.

From his position above the city, Angelo watches the progress of the epidemic. In a brief expedition into one of the houses, he meets Pauline, Marquise de Theus, who—unafraid and clearly in control of the situation—makes tea for him. Angelo, frightened that he might have brought cholera into the house,...

(The entire section is 605 words.)