Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a rabbit who was made almost
entirely of china. He had china arms and china legs, china paws and a china
head, a china torso and a china nose. His arms and legs were jointed and joined
by wire so that his china elbows and china knees could be bent, giving him much
freedom of movement.
His ears were made of real rabbit fur, and beneath the fur, there were strong,
bendable wires, which allowed the ears to be arranged into poses that reflected
the rabbit's mood - jaunty, tired, full of ennui. His tail, too, was made of
real rabbit fur and was fluffy and soft and well shaped.
The rabbit's name was Edward Tulane, and he was tall. He measured almost three
feet from the tip of his ears to the tip of his feet; his eyes were painted a
penetrating and intelligent blue.
In all, Edward Tulane felt himself to be an exceptional specimen. Only his
whiskers gave him pause. They were long and elegant (as they should be), but
they were of uncertain origin. Edward felt quite strongly that they were not the
whiskers of a rabbit. Whom the whiskers had belonged to initially - what
unsavory animal - was a question that Edward could not bear to consider for too
long. And so he did not. He preferred, as a rule, not to think unpleasant
Edward's mistress was a ten-year-old, dark-haired girl named Abilene Tulane, who
thought almost as highly of Edward as Edward thought of himself. Each morning
after she dressed herself for school, Abilene dressed Edward.
The china rabbit was in possession of an extraordinary wardrobe composed of
handmade silk suits. . . . Each pair of well-cut pants had a small pocket for
Edward's gold pocket watch. Abilene wound this watch for him each morning.
"Now, Edward," she said to him after she was done winding the watch, "when the
big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the three, I will come home
She placed Edward on a chair in the dining room and positioned the chair so that
Edward was looking out the window and could see the path that led up to the
Tulane front door. Abilene balanced the watch on his left leg. She kissed the
tips of his ears, and then she left and Edward spent the day staring out at
Egypt Street, listening to the tick of his watch and waiting.
Of all the seasons of the year, the rabbit most preferred winter, for the sun
set early then and the dining-room windows became dark and Edward could see his
own reflection in the glass. And what a reflection it was! What an elegant
figure he cut! Edward never ceased to be amazed at his own fineness.
In the evening, Edward sat at the dining-room table with the other members of
the Tulane family: Abilene; her mother and father; and Abilene's grandmother,
who was called Pellegrina. True, Edward's ears barely cleared the tabletop, and
true also, he spent the duration of the meal staring straight ahead at nothing
but the bright and blinding white of the tablecloth. But he was there, a rabbit
at the table.
Abilene's parents found it charming that Abilene considered Edward real, and
that she sometimes requested that a phrase or story be repeated because Edward
had not heard it.
"Papa," Abilene would say, "I'm afraid that Edward didn't catch that last bit."
Abilene's father would then turn in the direction of Edward's ears and speak
slowly, repeating what he had just said for the benefit of the china rabbit.
Edward pretended, out of courtesy to Abilene, to listen. But, in truth, he was
not very interested in what people had to say. And also, he did not care for
Abilene's parents and their condescending manner toward him. All adults, in
fact, condescended to him.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...