Puslapio vaizdai

Puzzled, he studied her. She was thin, gaunt, with a wasting power of frustrated passion in young flesh. There was the shadow of blank nights staring out of her eyes. Here was a personality, he thought, who might reveal to him those intangible qualities of the immigrant-qualities he could not grasp, which baffled, fascinated him.

He questioned her, and she poured out her story to him with eager abandon.

"I could n't be an actress or a singer, because you got to be young and pretty for that; but for a writer nobody cares who or what you are so long as the thoughts you give out are beautiful."

Her face lighted with joy at his understanding.

"I never knew why I hated to be Americanized. I was always burning to dig out the thoughts from my own mind."

"Yes, your power lies in that you are yourself. Your message is that of your people, and it is all the stronger because you are not a so-called assimilated immigrant."

Ach! just to hear him talk! It was like the realization of a power in life itself to hold her up and carry her to the heights.

"Will you leave this manuscript here, so I can have my secretary type it for you?" he asked as he took her to He laughed, and it was an apprecia- the door. "I can have it done easily. tive, genial laugh.

"You ain't at all like a professor, cold and hard like ice. You are a person so real," she naïvely said, interrupting the tale of her early struggles, her ambitions, and the repulse that had been hers in this very university of his. And then in sudden apprehension she cried out: "Maybe the dean and the English professor were right. Maybe only those with long education get a hearing in America. If you would only fix this up for me-change the immigrant English."

"Fix it up?" he protested. "There are things in life bigger than rules of grammar. The thing that makes art live and stand out throughout the ages is sincerity. Unfortunately, education robs many of us of the power to give spontaneously, as mother earth gives, as the child gives.

"You have poured out not a part, but the whole of yourself. That's why it can't be measured by any of the prescribed standards. It 's uniquely you."

And I shall write you when I'll have time for another long talk about your work."

Only after she had left did she fully realize the wonder of this man's kind


"That 's America," she whispered. "Where but in America could something so beautiful happen? A crazy, choked-in thing like me and him such a gentleman talking together about art and life like born equals. I poverty, and he plenty; I ignorance, and he knowledge; I from the bottom, and he from the top, and yet he making me feel like we were from always friends."

A few days later the promised note came. How quick he was with his help, as if she were his only concern! Bare-headed, uncoated, she ran to him, this prince of kindness, repeating over and over again the words of the letter.

Her spirit crashed to the ground when she learned that he had been suddenly called to a conference at

Washington. "He would return in a fortnight," said the model-mannered secretary who answered her feverish questions.

Wait a fortnight? She could n't. Why, the contest would be over by that time. Then it struck her, the next best thing-the professor of English. With a type-written manuscript in her hand, he must listen to her. And just to be admitted to his shortstory class for one criticism was all she would ask.

But small a favor as it seemed to her, it was greater than the professor was in a position to grant.

"To concede to your request would establish a precedent that would be at variance with the university," he vouchsafed.

"University regulations, precedents? What are you talking?" And clutching at his sleeve, hysterically, she pleaded: "Just this once, my life hangs on getting this story perfect, and you can save me by this one criticism."

Her burning desire knew no barrier, recognized no higher authority. And the professor, contrary to his reason, contrary to his experienced judgment, yielded without knowing why to the preposterous demands of this immigrant girl.

In the end of the last row of the lecture-hall Sophie waited breathlessly for the professor to get to her story. After a lifetime of waiting it came. As from a great distance she heard him announce the title.

"This was not written by a member of the class," he went on, "but is the attempt of a very ambitious young person. Its lack of form demonstrates the importance of the fundamentals of technic in which we have drilled."

His reading aloud of the manu

script was followed by a chorus of criticism-criticism that echoed the professor's own sentiments: "It's not a story; it has no plot"; "feeling without form"; "erotic, over-emotional."

She could hardly wait for the hour to be over to get back this living thing of hers that they were killing. When she left the class all the air seemed to have gone out of her lungs. She dragged her leaden feet back to her room and sank on her cot a heap of despair.

All at once she jumped up.

"What do they know, they, with only their book-learning?" If the president had understood her story, there might be others who would understand. She must have faith enough in herself to send it forth for a judgment of a world free from rules of grammar. In a fury of defiance she mailed the story.

§ 5

Weeks of torturous waiting for news of the contest followed-weeks when she dogged the postman's footsteps and paced the lonely streets in restless suspense. How could she ever have hoped to win the prize? Why was she so starving for the golden hills on the sky? If only for one day she could stop wasting her heart for the impossible!

Exhausted, spent, she lay on her cot when Hannah Breineh, more than usually disturbed by the girl's driven look, opened the door softly.

"Here you got it, a letter. I hope it's such good luck in it as the paper is fine."

"What's the matter?" cried Hannah Breineh in alarm at the girl's sudden pallor as the empty envelop fluttered from limp fingers.

For answer Sophie held up her check. "Five hundred dollars," she cried, "and the winner of the first prize!"

Hannah Breineh felt of the check. She read it. It was actually true. Five hundred dollars! In a flurry of excitement she called the neighbors in the hallways, and then hurried to the butcher, pushing through the babbling women who crowded around the counter. "People listen only! My roomerkeh got a five-hundred-dollar prize!"

"Five hundred dollars?" The words leaped from lips to lips like fire in the air. "Ach! only the little bit of luck! Did she win it on the lotteree?"

"Not from the lottery. Just wrote something from her head. And you ought to see her only, a dried-up bone of a girl, and yet so smart."

was in the Jewish evening paper. The Ghetto was drunk with pride because one of their number, and "only a dried-up bone of a girl," had written a story good enough to be printed in a

"Here you got it, a letter""

In a few moments Sophie was mobbed in her cellar by the gesticulating crowd of women who hurried in to gaze upon the miracle of good luck. With breathless awe hands felt of her, and reverently of the check. Yes, even mouths watered with an envy that was almost worship. They fell on her neck and kissed her.

"May we all live to have such luck to get rich quick!" they chorused.

The following day Sophie's picture


magazine of America. Their dreams of ro

mance had found expression in the overwhelming success of this greenhorn cook.

In one day Sophie was elevated to a position of social importance by her achievement. When she walked in the street, people pointed

at her with their fin-
She was del-

uged with requests
"to givea taste" of the
neighbors' cooking.

When she went to the baker for her usual stale bread, the man picked out the finest loaf.

"Fresh bread for you in honor of your good luck. And here 's yet an apple shtrudel for good

Nor would he take the money she offered. "Only eat it with good health. I'm paid enough with the honor that somebody with such luck steps into my store."

"Of course," explained Hannah Breineh. "People will give you the last bite from their mouth when you 're lucky, because you don't need their favors. But if you 're poor, they 're afraid to be good to you, so you should not hang on their necks for help."


But the greatest surprise that awaited Sophie was the letter from the professor congratulating her upon her


"The students have unanimously voted you to be their guest of honor at luncheon on Saturday," it read. "May we hope for the honor of your company for that occasion?"

The sky is falling to the earth-she a guest of honor of a well-fed, welldressed world! She to break bread with those high up in rules of grammar! Sophie laughed aloud for the first time in months. Lunch at the hotel! A vision of snowy tablecloths, silver forks, delicate china, and sparkling glasses dazzled her. Yes, she would go, and go as she was. The clothes that had been good enough to starve and struggle in must be good enough to be feasted and congratulated in.

She was surprised at the sense of cold detachment with which she entered the hotel lobby.

"Maybe it's my excuse to myself for going that makes me feel that I'm so above it," she told herself. The grandeur, the lights, the luster, and glamour of magnificent hotel-she took it all in, her nose in the air.

At the entrance of the banquet-hall stood the professor, smiling, smiling. And all these people in silks and furs and broadcloth wanted to shake hands with her. Again, without knowing why, she longed to laugh aloud.

Not until Professor -, smiling more graciously than ever, reached the close of his speech, not until he referred to her for the third time as having reached "the stars through difficulties," did she realize that she who had looked on, she who had listened, she who had wanted so to laugh, was a

person quite different from the uncouth girl with the shabby sweater and broken shoes whom the higher-ups were toasting and flattering.

"I've never made a talk yet in my life," she said in answer to the calls for "Speech! speech!" "But these are grand words from the professor, 'to the stars through difficulties."" She looked around on these stars of the college world whom, after all her struggles, she had reached. "Yes, 'to the stars through difficulties."" She nodded with a queer little smile, and sat down amidst a shower of applause.

$ 6

In a daze Sophie left the heated banquet-hall. She walked blindly, struggling to get hold of herself, struggling in vain. Every reality, every human stay, seemed to slip from her. A stifled sense of emptiness weighed her down like a dead weight.

"What's the matter with me?" she cried. "Why do the higher-ups crush me so with nothing? Why is their smiling politeness only a hidden hurt in my heart?"

The flattering voices, the puppetlike smiles, the congratulations that sounded like mockery, were now so distant, so unreal as was the girl with her nose in the air. What cared these people wrapped in furs that the winter wind pierced through her shabby sweater? What cared they if her heart died in her from loneliness?

An aching need for human fellowship pressed upon her, a need for some one who cared for her regardless of failure or success. In a sudden dimming of vision she saw the only real look of sympathy that had ever warmed her soul. Of them all, this man with the understanding eyes had

known that what she wanted to say was worth saying before it got into print. If she could only see himhim himself!

den appearance. He merely greeted her, and led her in silence to his inner study. But there was a quality about the silence that made her feel at ease,

If she could only pass the building as though he had been expecting her.

"In a few moments Sophie was mobbed in her cellar"

where he was she would feel calm and serene again! All her bitterness and resentment would dissolve, all her doubts turn to faith. Who knows? Perhaps he had come back already. Her feet seemed winged as they flew without her will, almost without her consciousness, toward the place where she thought he might be.

As she ran up the steps she knew he was there without being told. Even as she sent her name in, the door opened, and he stood there, the living light of the late afternoon glow.

He was n't a bit startled by her sud

"I have things to say to you," she faltered. "Do you have time?"

For answer he pushed closer to the blazing logs an easy-chair, and motioned her into it.

There no longer seemed any need to say what she had planned. His mere presence filled her with a healing



"And it was so black for my eyes only a while before!" She spoke aloud her thought and paused, embarrassed.

"Black for your eyes?" he repeated, leaning toward her with an inviting interest.

"You know I was first on the table by the hotel?"

His eyebrows lifted whimsically.
"Tell me about it," he urged.

"All those higher-ups what did n't care a pinch of salt for me myself making such a fuss over a little accident of good luck!"


You have won your way inch by inch grappling with life." His calm, compelling look seemed to flood her with strength. "You have what our colleges cannot give, the courage to face yourself, the power to think. And now all your past experiences are so much capital to be utilized. Do you see the turning-point I mean?"

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