Puslapio vaizdai

and a good many young ones, who would gladly pay that amount for your investments, for your securities."

Now, the lad, with eager, upturned countenance, did not conceal his amusement while the man drew this picture of him as a living, ragged gold-mine, as actually put together and made up of pieces. of fabulous treasure. A child's notion of weath is the power to pay for what it has not. The wealth that childhood is, escapes childhood; it does not escape the old. What most concerned the lad as to these priceless feet and hands and eyes and ears was the hard-knocked-in fact that many a time he ached throughout this reputed treasury of his being for a five-cent piece, and these reputed millionaires, acting together and doing their level best, could not produce one.

Nevertheless, the fresh and never-before-imagined image of his self-riches staggered him. It somehow put him over into the class of enormously opulent things; and finding himself a little lonely on that mental landscape, he cast about for some object of comparison. Thus his mind was led to the richest of all near-by objects.

"If I were worth a hundred million," he said, with a satisfied twinkle in his eyes, "I would be as rich as the cathedral."

A significant silence followed. man broke it gravely:

"How did you happen to think of the cathedral?"

"I did n't happen to think of it; I could n't help thinking of it."

"Have you ever been in the cathedral?" inquired the man, incredulously.

and keep straight on around until you come out at Simon. St. Big Jim and St. Pete are in the middle of the row." He laughed.

"Surely, no one of the Apostles was called Big Jim!" protested the man, with forced sobriety and wholesome reverence.

"I call him that sometimes. He is

really James the Greater. really James the Greater. He 's no bigger than the others; they are all nine and a half feet. The Archangel Gabriel on the roof he 's nine and a half. Everybody standing around on the outside is nine and a half. If Gabriel had been turned a little to one side, he would blow his trumpet straight over our roof. He did n't blow anywhere one night, for a big wind came up behind him and blew him down, and he blew at the gutter. But he did n't stay down," boasted the lad with a prompt, proud joy.

Throughout this talk he made it clear that the cathedral was a neighborhood affair, that its haps and mishaps possessed the flesh-and-blood interest of a living neighbor. Plainly his affections were imbedded in it. Love always takes mental possession of its object, and by virtue of his love it was his.

"You seem rather interested in the cathedral, very much interested," observed the man, with increased attention.

When I went with

"Why, of course, Mister. I 've been The passing there nearly every day since I've been selling papers on the avenue. Sometimes I stop and watch the masons. Granny tells me to. her to the art school this morning, she told me to go home that way. I have just been over there. They are building another one of the chapels now, and the men were up on the scaffolding. They had carried more rock up than they wanted, and they would walk to the edge and throw big pieces of it down with a smash. The old house they are using for the choir school is just under there. Sometimes when the class is practising, I can hear them from the outside. If they sing high, I sing high; if they sing low, I sing low. Why, Mister, I can sing "

"Been in it! We go there all the time. It's our church. Why, good Lord! Mister, we are descended from a bishop!"

The man laughed long and heartily. "Thank you for telling me," he said as one who feels himself a very small object in the neighborhood of such hereditary beatitudes and ecclesiastical sanctities. "Are you, indeed? I am am glad to know."

"Why, Mister, we have been watching the cathedral from our windows for years. We can see the workmen away up in the air as they finish one part and then another part. I can count the Apostles on the roof. You begin with James the Less,

He broke off abruptly. He had been pouring out all kinds of confidences to his new-found friend. Now he hesitated. The boldness of his nature deserted him. The deadly preparedness ran short. A shy, appealing look came into his eyes as

he asked his next question-a grave question indeed:

"Mister, do you love music?"

"Do I love music?" echoed the startled musician, pierced by the spear-like sincerity of the question, which seemed to go clean through him and through all his knowledge and to point back to childhood's springs of feeling. "Do I love music? Yes, some music, I hope. Some kinds of music, I hope."

These moderate, chastened words restored the boy's confidence and captured his friendship completely. Now he felt sure of his comrade, and he put to him a more daring question:

"Do you know anything about the cathedral?"

The man smiled guiltily.
"A little.

on the white blossoms of the various shrubs. They found the pink hawthorn; in the boughs of one of those trees one night in England in mid-May he had heard the nightingale, master singer of the non-human world. Up to him rose the enchanting picture of grass and moss and fern. It was all like a sheet of soft organ music to his reading eyes.

While he gazed, he listened. Down past the shadows and the greenness, through the blossoms and the light, growing fainter and fainter, went a wandering little drift of melody, a haunting, unidentified sound under the blue cathedral dome of the sky. He reflected again that he had never heard anything like it.

Then he saw the lad's sturdy figure bound across the valley to join friends in

I know a little about the play on the thoroughfare that skirts the cathedral," he admitted.

And now the whole secret came out: "Do you know how boys get into the cathedral choir school?"

The man did not answer, but stood looking down at the lad, in whose eyes all at once a great baffled desire told its story. Then he pulled out his watch and merely said:

"I I must be going. Good morning." Good morning." He turned his way across the rock.

Disappointment darkened the lad's face when he saw that he was to receive no answer; withering blight dried up its joy. But he recovered himself quickly.

"Well, I must be going, too," he said bravely and sweetly. "Good morning. He turned his way across the rock. But he had had a good time talking with this stranger, and, after all, he was a Southerner; and so, as his head was about to disappear below the cliff, he called back in his frank, human way, "I'm glad I met you, Mister."

The man went up, and the boy went down.

The man, having climbed to the parapet, leaned over the stone wall. The tops of some of the tall poplar-trees, rooted far below, were on a level with his eyes. Often he stopped there to watch them swaying like upright plumes against the wind. They swayed now in the silvery April air with a ripple of silvery leaves. His eyes sought out intimately the barely swollen buds on the boughs of other forest trees yet far from leaf. They lingered

park alongside the row of houses.

He himself turned and went in the direction of the cathedral.

As he walked slowly along, one thing haunted him acutely-the upturned face of the lad and the look in his eyes as he asked the question which brought out the secret desire of a life: "Do you know how boys get into the cathedral choir school?" Then the blight of disappointment when there was no answer.

The man walked thoughtfully on, seemingly as one who was turning over and over in his mind some difficult, delicate matter, looking at it on all sides and in every light, as he must do.

Finally he quickened his pace as though having decided what ought to be done.


THAT night in an attic-like room of an old building opposite Morningside Park a tiny supper-table for two stood ready in the middle of the floor; the supper itself, the entire meal, was spread. There is a victory which human nature in thousands of lives daily wins over want, that though it cannot drive poverty from the scene, it can hide its desolation in the open by the genius of choice and of touch. A battle of that brave and desperate kind had been won in this garret. Lacking every luxury, it had the charm of tasteful bareness, of exquisite penury. The supper-table, cheap wood roughly carpentered, was hidden under a piece of fine, long-used tablelinen; into the gleaming damask were

wrought clusters of snowballs. The glare of a plain glass lamp was softened by a too costly silk shade. Over the rim of a common vase hung a few daffodils, too costly daffodils. The supper, frugal to a bargain, tempted by the good sense with which it had been chosen and prepared. Thus the whole scene betokened human nature at bay, but victorious in the presence of that wolf whose near-by howl startles the poor out of their sleep.

Into this empty room sounds penetrated through a door. They proceeded from piano-keys evidently so old that one wondered whether possibly they had not begun their labors in the days of Beethoven, whether they were not such as were new on the clavichord of Bach. The fingers that pressed them were unmistakably those of a child. As the hands wandered up and down the keyboard, the ear now and then took notice of a broken string. There were many of these broken strings. The instrument plainly announced itself to be a remote, well-nigh mythical ancestor, preternaturally lingering on amid an innumerable deafening modern progeny. It suggested a superannuated human being whose loudest utterances for the world had sunk to ghostly whispers in a corner. Once the wandering hands stopped, and a voice was heard. It sounded as though pitched to reach some one in an inner room farther away, possibly a person who might just have passed from a kitchen to a bedroom to make some change of dress. It was a very affectionate voice, very true and sweet, very tender, very endearing.

"Another string snapped to-day. There's another key silent. There won't be any but silent keys soon."

The speaker seemed sorry without feeling obliged to be sorry; remorseful, but not troubled by remorse.

There must have been a reply. Responding to it, the voice at the piano sounded again, this, time very loyal and devoted to an object closer at hand:

"But when we do get a new one, we won't throw the old one away. It has done its best."

Whereupon the musical ancestor was encouraged to speak up again while he had a chance, being a very dear ancestor, and not by any means dead in some regions. Soon, however, the voice pleaded anew with a kind of patient impatience:

"I'm awfully hungry. Are n't you nearly ready?"

The reply could not be heard.

[ocr errors]

'Are you putting on the dress I like?" The reply was not heard.

"Don't you want me to bring you a daffodil to wear?"

The reply was lost. For a few minutes the progenitor emptied his ancient lungs of some further moribund intimations of tone. Later came another protest, truly plaintive:

"You could n't look any nicer. I'm awfully hungry."

Then all at once, as though the deathdue musical lungs had in a spasm fallen in upon themselves, there was a tremendous smash on the keys, a joyous smash, and a moment afterward the door was softly opened.

Mother and son entered the supperroom. One of his arms was around her waist, one of hers enfolded him about the neck and shoulders; they were laughing.

The teacher of the portrait class and his pupils would hardly have recognized their model; the stranger on the hillside might not at once have identified the newsboy. For model and newsboy, having laid aside the masks of the day that so often in New York people find it necessary to wear,-the tragic mask, the comic mask, the callous, coarse, brutal mask, the mask of the human pack, the mask of the human sty,-reappeared at home with each other as nearly what in truth they were as the denials of life would allow.

There entered the room a woman of high breeding, with a certain Pallas-like purity and energy of mien, clasping to her side her only child, a son whom she secretly believed to be destined to greatness. She was dressed not with the studied plainness and abnegation of the model in the studio, but out of regard for her true station and her motherly responsibilities. Her utmost wish was that in years to come, when he looked back upon his childhood, he would always remember his evenings with his mother. During the day he must see her drudge, and many a picture of herself on a plane of life below her own she knew to be fastened to his growing brain; but as nearly as possible blotting these out, daily blotting them out one by one, must be the evening pictures

when the day's work was done, its disguises dropped, its humiliations over, and she, a serving-woman of fate, reappeared before him in the lineaments of his mother, to remain with him throughout his life as the supreme woman of the human race, his idol until death, his mother.

She now looked worthy of such an ideal. But it was upon him that her heart lavished extravagance when nightly he had laid aside the coarse, half-ragged fighting clothes of the streets. In those after years when he was to gaze across a long distance, he must be made to realize that away back there when he was a little fellow, it was his mother who first had seen his star while it was still low on the horizon; and that from the beginning she had so reared him that there would be stamped upon his memory the gentleness of his birth and her resolve to support him in keeping with this through the neediest hours.

While he was in his bath, she, as though she were his valet, had laid out trim house shoes and black stockings; and as the spring night had a breath of summer warmth, of almost Southern summer warmth, she had put out also a suit of white linen knickerbockers. Under his broad sailor collar she herself tied a big, soft, flowing black ribbon of the finest silk. Above this rose the solid-looking head like a sphere on a column of triumph, with its lustrous, bronzed hair, which, as she brushed it, she tenderly stroked with her hands, often kissing the bronzed face, ardent and friendly to the world, and thinking to herself of the double blue in his eyes, the old Saxon blue of battle and the old Saxon blue of the minstrel, too.

It was the evening meal that always brought them together, and he was at once curious to hear how everything had gone at the art school. With some unsold papers under his arm he had walked with her to the entrance, a new pang in his breast about her that he did not understand. At the door-step she had stooped and kissed him and bade him good-by. Her quiet, quivering words were:

"Go home, dear, by way of the cathedral."

If he took the other convenient route, it would lead him into one of the city's main cross streets, beset with dangers.

She would be able to sit more at peace through those hours of posing if she could know that he had gone across the cathedral grounds and then across the park, as along a country road, bordered with the green of young grass and with shrubs in bloom and forest trees in early leaf. She wished to keep all day before her eyes the picture of him as straying that April morn along such a country road-sometimes the road of faint, far girlhood memories to her.

Then with a great incomprehensible look she had vanished from him. But before the doors closed, he, peering past her, had caught sight of the walls inside thickly hung with portraits of men and women in rich colors and in golden frames. Into this splendid world his mother had vanished, herself to be painted.

Now as he began ravenously to eat his supper he wished to hear all about it. She told him. Part of her experience she kept back, a true part; the other, no less true, she described. With deft fingers she went over the somberly woven web of the hours, and plucking here a bright thread and there a bright thread, rewove these into a smaller picture, on which fell the day's far-separated sunbeams; they were condensed now and made a solid brightness.

This is how she painted for him a bright picture out of the things not many of which were bright. The teacher of the portrait class, to begin, had been very considerate. He had arranged that she should leave her things with the janitor's wife down-stairs, and not go up-stairs and take them off behind some screens in a corner of the room where the class was assembled. That would have been dreadful, to have to go behind the screens. Then instead of sending word for her to come up, he himself had come down. As he led the way past the confusing halls and studios, he had looked back over his shoulder just a little, to let her know that not for a moment did he lose thought of her. To have walked in front of her, looking straight ahead, might have meant that he esteemed her a person of no consequence. A master so walks before a servant, a superior before an inferior. Out of respect, he had even lessened the natural noisiness of his feet on the bare floor. If you put your feet down hard in the house, it does not mean that you are thinking for other peo

[blocks in formation]

As for the members of the class, they had been beautiful in their treatment of her. Not a word had been exchanged with them, but she could feel their beautiful thoughts. Sometimes when she glanced at them, while they worked, such beautiful expressions rested on their faces. Unconsciously their natures had opened like young flowers, and as at the hearts of young flowers there is for each a clear drop of honey, so in each of their minds was one same thought, the remembrance of their mothers. Altogether it was as though they were all there for her sake, and not she there for everybody's.

As to posing itself, one had not a thing to do but sit perfectly still. One got such a good rest from being too much on one's feet. And they had placed for her such a splendid carved-oak chair. When she took her seat, all at once she had felt as in old times. There were immense windows; she had had all the fresh air she wished, and she did enjoy fresh air. The whole roof was a window, and she could look out at the sky: sometimes the loveliest clouds drifted over, and sometimes the dearest little bird flew past, no doubt on its way to the park. Last, but not least, she had not been crowded. In New York it was almost impossible to occupy a good seat in a public place without being nudged or bumped or crowded. But that had actually happened to her. She had had a delightful chair in a very public place, with plenty of room in every direction. Oh, plenty of room, more than enough. How fortunate at last to discover that she could pose! It would fit in perfectly at times when she did not have to go out for needlework or for the other demands. Dollars would now soon begin to be brought in like their bits of coal, by the scuttleful! And then the piano! And then the real teacher and the real lessons! And then, and then

Her happy story ended. She had watched the play of lights on his face as

sometimes he, though hungry, with fork in the air paused to listen and to question. Now as she finished and looked across the table at the picture of him under the lamplight, she was rewarded, she was content; while he ate his plain food, out of her misfortunes she had richly nourished his mind. He did not know this; but she knew it, knew by his look and by his only


"You had a perfectly splendid time, did n't you?"

She laughed to herself.

"Now, then," she said, coming to what had all along been most in her consciousness- -"now, then, tell me about your day. Begin at the moment you left me."

He laid down his napkin,--he could eat no more, and there was nothing more to eat, and he folded his hands quite like the head of the house at ease at his board after a careless feast, and then he began his story.

Well, he had had a splendid day, too. After he had left her he had gone to the dealer's on the avenue with the unsold papers. Then he had crossed over to the cathedral, and for a while had watched the men at work up in the air. He had walked around to the choir school, but no one was there that morning, not a sound coming from the inside. Then he had started down across the park. As he sat down to count his money, a man who had come up the hillside stopped and asked him a great many questions: who taught him music and whether any one had ever heard him sing. This stranger also liked music and he also went to the cathedral, so he claimed. From that point the story wound its way onward across the busy hours till nightfall.

It was a child's story, not an older person's. Therefore it did not draw the line between pleasant and unpleasant, between fair and unfair, right and wrong, which make up for each of us the history of our checkered human day. It separated life as a swimmer separates the sea: to the swimmer, in front and on each side is the same sea; it is one water which he parts by his passage. So the child, who is still wholly a child, divides the world.

But as she pondered, she discriminated. Out of the long, rambling narrative she laid hold of one overwhelming incident. and held on to that, forgetting the rest:

« AnkstesnisTęsti »