Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 458
On winter days, the narrator’s father communes with an invisible world that he shares with the family cat. To distract him, his mother arranges to have the family attend the theater. Before the curtain rises, however, the father notices that he has left at home his “wallet containing money and...
(The entire section contains 458 words.)
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On winter days, the narrator’s father communes with an invisible world that he shares with the family cat. To distract him, his mother arranges to have the family attend the theater. Before the curtain rises, however, the father notices that he has left at home his “wallet containing money and certain most important documents.” The boy is sent home to fetch it.
He steps into a clear winter night and soon finds his imagination creating “illusory maps of the apparently familiar districts.” Soon the town dissolves into “the tissue of dreams.” He looks for his beloved cinnamon shops, replete with curiosities from and books about exotic places. He turns into a street he knows, but it presents him with an unknown vista of orchards, parks, and ornate villas—which metamorphose into the back of the high school building. He recalls the late-evening drawing classes taught there by Professor Arendt, an enthusiastic and inspiring teacher.
Seeking out the professor’s classroom, the narrator instead finds himself in an unfamiliar wing of the school building, which houses the headmaster’s magnificently luxurious apartment. Embarrassed to be caught prying into private quarters, he runs into the street and hails a horse-drawn cab, which circles the city. The cabdriver catches sight of a crowd of fellow cabbies gathered in front of an inn and jumps off the carriage to join them, abandoning his vehicle to the narrator and his old horse, which “inspired confidence—it seemed smarter than its driver.” The narrator yields himself to the horse’s will.
The cab leaves the city and enters a hilly landscape, while the boy enjoys the unforgettable sight of a starry sky and the haunting scent of the violet-perfumed night air. He is happy. At last the horse stops, panting. The narrator remarks tears in its eyes, a wound on its belly. He asks the horse why it did not reveal its injury sooner. The horse replies, “’My dearest, I did it for you’ . . . and became very small, like a wooden toy.”
The narrator leaves the horse, still feeling “light and happy,” and runs most of the distance back to the city. He keeps admiring the changing shapes of the sky’s many configurations. In the city’s central square he meets people whose faces, like his, are uplifted with delight as they gaze at the sky’s silvery magic and he “completely stop[s] worrying about Father’s wallet,” assuming that his father had most likely forgotten about it by now. Meeting with school friends who have been awakened by the brightly illuminated sky, the boy accompanies them, “uncertain whether it was the magic of the night which lay like silver on the snow or whether it was the light of dawn.”