Puslapio vaizdai

a passing stranger, hearing a few notes of his voice, had stopped to question him about it. To her this was the longawaited approach of destiny, the first outside evidence that her faith in him was not groundless.

When he had ended his story and sat as now revealed to her by a stranger's discovery, she regarded him across the table with something new in her eyes-something of awe; but she made no comment. She had never hinted to him what she believed he would some day be. She might be wrong, and thus might start him on the wrong course; or, being right, might never have the chance to start him on the right one. In either case she might be bringing to him disappointment, perhaps the failure of his whole life.

Now she hid the emotion his story caused. But the stranger of the park that night kindled within her what she herself had long tended unlit—the alabaster flame of worship which the mother burns before the altar of a great son.

An hour later they were in another small attic-like space next to the supper


Here was always the best of their evening. No matter how poor the spot, if there reach it some solitary ray of the higher light of the world, let it be called your drawing-room. Where civilization sends its beams through a roof, there be your drawing-room. This part of the garret was theirs.

In one corner stood a small table on which were some tantalizing books and a lamp-the same lamp, and a tantalizing lamp, for a different reason. Another corner, farthest away, but far from far away, was filled by the littlest, oldest imaginable of six-octave pianos, the mythical ancestor; on its back was piled some yellowed folios of music, her music once. Thus two different rays of civilization entered their garret and fell upon two points; and, falling there, fell mystically upon allied mountain-peaks, the twin mountainpeaks of the night-books and music.

Toward these she wished regularly to lead him as darkness descended over the illimitable city and upon its weary, grimy battle-fields. She liked him to fall asleep on one or the other of these mountaintops. When he awoke, it would be as from a mountain that he would see the dawn. From there let him come down

to the things that won the day; but at night back to the things that win life.

They were in their drawing-room, then, as she had taught him to call it, and she was reading to him. A knock interrupted her. She interrogated the fact doubtfully to herself for a moment.

"Ashby," she finally said, turning her eyes toward the door, with permission that he open it.

The janitor of the building handed in a card. The name was strange, and she knew no reason why a stranger should call. Then a foolish uneasiness attacked her: perhaps this unwelcome incident bore upon the engagement at the studio. They might not wish her to return; that little door to a larger income was to be shut in her face. Now, after the event, a woman's scruple warned her: she had made herself too plain. If only she had done herself a little more justice in her appearance!

She addressed the janitor with even courtesy:

"Will you ask him to come up?"

With her hand on the half-open door, she waited. If it should merely be some tradesman, she would speak with him there. She waited and she listened. Up the steps, from flight to flight, she could hear the feet of a man mounting like a deliberate, good walker. He reached her floor. He reached her door, and then she stepped out to confront him. A gentleman stood before her with an unmistakable air of feeling himself happy in his mission. For a moment he forgot to state it, startled by the group of the two. His eyes passed back and forth from one to the other: it was an unlooked for revelation of life's harmony, of nature's sacred


"Is this Mrs. Truesdale?" he asked with the utmost deference.

She stepped back.

"I am Mrs. Truesdale," she replied in a way to remind him of his intrusion; and not discourteously she waited for him to withdraw. But he was not of a mind to withdraw; on the contrary, he explained: "As I crossed the park this morning I happened to hear a few notes of a voice that interested me. I train the voice. I teach certain kinds of music. I took the liberty of asking the owner of the voice where he lived, and I have taken the fur

ther liberty of coming to see whether I may speak with you on that subjectabout his voice."

She gave sudden attention. This, then, was the stranger of the park whom she believed to have gone his way after leaving words of destiny for her. Instead of vanishing, he had reappeared, following up his discovery into her presence. The effect was instantaneous: she did not desire him to follow up his discovery. She put out one hand and pressed her son back into the room and was about to close the door.

"I should first have stated, of course," said the visitor, smiling quietly as after an awkward self-recovery, "that I am the choir-master of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine."

Stillness followed, the stillness in which misunderstandings dissolve. The scene slowly changed into another scene, as when on the stage of a theater which has hitherto been dark an invisible light is gradually turned, showing everything in its actual relation to everything else. In truth a shaft of light suddenly fell upon. her doorway; a far-sent radiance rested on the head of her son; in her ears began to sound old words spoken ages ago to another mother on account of him she had borne.

Her first act was to place her hand on the head of the lad and bend it back until his eyes looked up into hers; his mother must be the first to congratulate him and to catch from his eyes their first flash of delight as he realized where he stood in the world of little boys.

Then she threw open the door. "Will you come in?"

It was a marvelous welcome, a splendor of spiritual hospitality.

The musician took up straightway the purpose of his visit.

"Will you, then, send him to-morrow and let me try his voice?"

"Yes," she said as one who now directs with firm, responsible hand the helm of wayward genius, "I will."

"And if his voice should prove to be what is wanted," continued the musicmaster, though with delicate hesitancy, "would he be free? Is there any other person whose consent-"


She could not reply at once. The question brought up so much of the past, such

tragedy! She spoke with composure at last:

"He can come. He is free. He is mine -wholly mine."

The choir-master looked across the small room at his pupil, who, upon the discovery of the visitor's identity, had withdrawn as far as possible from him.

"And you are willing to come?" he asked, wishing to make the first advance toward acquaintanceship on the new footing.

No reply reached him. The mother smiled at her awe-stricken son, and hastened to his rescue.

"He is overwhelmed," she said, her faith in him strengthened by this revelation of his fright. "He is overwhelmed. This means so much more to him than you can understand just yet.",

"But you will come?" the choir-master persisted in asking. For his own reasons he wished to hear the voice of his terrified pupil. "I thought you wanted to come. You will come?"

The lad stirred uneasily on his chair. "Yes, sir," he said with an effort.

His inquisitive, interesting friend of the park path, then, was himself choir-master of St. John's! And he had asked him whether he knew anything about the cathedral! Whether he liked music! Whether he knew how boys got into the school! To him he had betrayed his habit of idly hanging about the old building where the choir practised and of singing along with them to show what he could do, and would do if he had the chance; and because he could not keep from singing. As sometimes he had loitered outside circus tents when he had no money, and whistled with the band under the canvas. He had called one of the Apostles Jim! And another one Pete! He had rejoiced that Gabriel had not been strong enough to stand up in a high wind one night! Everybody standing about on the outside was nine and a half feet!

Thus with mortification he remembered the past-the past which has such a way of keeping up breathlessly with the present, as though determined to see whether it is going to be forgotten. The past first. Then his thoughts were swept in the opposite direction to what now opened before him he was to be taken into the choir, he was to sing in the cathedral.

The high, blinding, stately magnificence he would be when the time came-the

of those scenes and processions lay before him.

More than this, much more still. The thing which had long been such a torture of desire to him, the thing that had grown and grown within him until it began to press more and more to burst out, this had now on that very day come forth, and had come true; his dream was a reality: he was to begin to learn music, he was to live where it was taught. And the person who was to take him by the hand and lead him into that world of enchantment sat there quietly talking with his mother about the matter and looking across at him, studying him closely.

But, no, none of this was true yet. Not yet true. It might never be true. First, he must be put to the test. The man there was going to draw out of him the meaning of that old dream, of that old longing, of that old desire. He was going to examine and see what it amounted to. And if it amounted to nothing, if it amounted to nothing, then what?

He sat there shy, silent, afraid, all the hardy boldness and business preparedness and fighting capacity of the streets gone. out of him. A little forlorn, he looked across at his mother; not even she could help him.

In truth there had settled upon him that terror of uncertainty about their gift and their fate which is known only to the children of genius. For throughout the region of art, as in the region of material things, nature brings forth all life from the seat of all sensitiveness, and the young of both worlds appear on the rough earth unready.

"You do wish to come?"
"Yes, sir."

THE visitor was gone, and they had talked everything over, and the evening had ended, and it was long past his bedtime, and she waited for him to come and say good night. Presently he ran in, climbed into her lap, threw his arms around her neck, and pressed his cheek against hers.

"Now on this side," he said, holding her tightly, "and now on the other side, and now on both sides and all around.”

She, with jealous pangs at this goodnight hour, often thought of what a lover

time for her to be pushed aside, to drop out. These last moments of every night were for affection; nothing else lived in him. They were for his affection. She said to herself that he was, in the bud, the born lover.

As he now withdrew his arms, he sat looking into her eyes with his face close to her. Then leaning over, he began to measure his face upon her face, starting with the forehead, being very particular when he got to the long eyelashes, then coming down past the nose. They were very silly and merry about the measuring of the noses. The noses would not fit the one upon the other, not being flat enough. He returned to his mischievous, teasing mood:

"Suppose he does n't like my voice!"
She laughed the idea to scorn.
"Suppose he would n't take me!"
"Ah, but he will take you."

"If he would n't have me, you 'd never want to see me any more, would you?”

She strained him to her heart and rocked to and fro over him.

"This is what I could most have wished in all the world," she said, holding him at arm's-length with idolatry.

"Not more than a fine house and servants and a greenhouse and a carriage and horses and a new piano-not more than everything you used to have!"

"More than anything! More than anything in this world!"

He returned to the teasing.

"If he does n't take me, I 'm going to run away. You won't want ever to see me any more.. And then nobody will ever know what becomes of poor little me because I could n't sing."

She strained him again to herself, and murmured over him:

"My chorister! My minstrel! My life!"

"Good night and pleasant dreams!" he said, with his arms around her neck again. "Good night and sweet sleep!"

EVERYTHING was quiet. She had tipped to his bedside and stood looking at him after slumber had carried him away from her, a little distance away.

"My heavenly guest!" she murmured. "My heavenly guest!"

Though worn out with the strain and


Color-Tone, engraved for THE CENTURY, by H. Davidson


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