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money for months, and mother always made such a wonderful Christmas. I've got the money to spend a lot of money." He patted his pocket. "Two month's pay here that I have n't touched yet!"
Christine arranged the mimosa in tall brass shell-cases from Château-Thierry. "See my flowers! she exclaimed. "This is better than war!"
The consul-general, always a Christmas-eve guest in our home; the colonel commanding the hospital in the rue de Chevreuse; a New York editor and his wife; a confrère of the French press and his wife; a peace delegate; and the head of a New York publishing firm, who looked in to see if we were really working, all sat down with us to dinner, squeezed in with our A. E. F. guests. When the last flicker of plum-pudding sauce died down, we set to work for the Christmas-eve preparations. There was no question of rank or age. Each one fell to the task at hand. Dishes, glasses, bottles, doilies, disappeared into the kitchen. The table was set for the big party: piles of plates, knives, and forks, sandwiches and rolls, a cold boiled ham, a tongue écarlate, as tongues come in Paris, turkeys roasted by our baker, olives, salted almonds, army graham crackers, candy, a tall glass jar of golden honey worth its weight in gold, and the fruit-cake with sprigs of holly, which comes across the Atlantic every Christmas from a dear American friend. People could help themselves. How and when I never worry about that. My only care is to have enough for every one.
We sent out no invitations. The news simply passed by word of mouth that friends and friends' friends were welcome on Christmas eve. In a corner of the drawing-room the engineers of the party made the Christmas-tree stand up. The trimmings were on the
floor. Whoever wanted to could decorate. With the trenches of five years between us and Germany, Christmastree trimmings were pitiful if judged by ante-bellum standards. I wonder what my children are going to think when they see this Christmas a full-grown tree with the wealth of balls and stars and tinsel that Americans can use. In
Paris we had only a few baubles pieced out with colored string and cotton and flags and ribbons. But the effect was not bad when the brains of half a hundred trimmers contributed to work out ideas on a tree that did not come up to my chin.
We started the victrola: "Minuit Crétien," "It Came upon a Midnight Clear," "Adeste Fideles," and whisper it softly "Heilige Nacht." Then our guests began to come until salons and hall and dining-room overflowed into bedrooms. Never again can I hope to have under my roof a party like that, representing many of the nations that had fought together on the soil of France, but with homesick Americans, Christmas-hungry, predominating. The first to arrive were patients from the American Hospital in the rue de Chevreuse, men who had been unable to forget the nightmare of war when the armistice came.
Crutches and the music, the tree and my children, a American home the first reaction was not merriment. I felt instinctively that something had to be done. "Heilige Nacht" brought a hush. Some one turned off the phonograph. Bill took in the situation. I shall not tell you the rest of his name. If I did, you would know him. Every one who reads in America knows Bill He backed into a corner by the bookcase, took off his glasses, and began to make a speech.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am an unregenerate soul. There is not a respectable bone in my body. I am going to sing you a little ditty, the national anthem of California." Here Bill winked his eyes and opened his mouth wide to sing, "Hallelujah! I'm a bum!"
"The writer of the song is an I.W.W.," he interrupted himself, "and at the end of the first line from up-stairs is heard the voice of his wife demanding [here Bill changed to high falsetto ], 'Oh, why don't you work, as other men do?'
"Then the I. W. W. answers gently, 'Why the H-- should I work, when there is no work to do?'
"I told you I was an unregenerate soul. I see that I 'm not alone. There are others here like myself. I want a volunteer to sing my part with me, and volunteers, equally unregenerate, for
the pointed question of the I. W. W.s wife.
"The gentleman there with the eagles on his shoulders-I have for you a fellow-feeling. You are disreputable like me. Come! And the little girl in the pink dress that only looks innocent, come you here. And others of like character join us as quickly as you can push your way through the admiring audience."
The surgeon from New York, who is as military as any regular-army man, was a good sport. So was the editor's wife. As he reached both hands to the recruits, Bill did a simple dance step, the contagious step of those standing in the lines of the Virginia Reel while other couples are doing the figures. Soon the chorus was a line that reached the hall. At this moment there were shouts of laughter at the front door. A parade of alternating khaki and nurse's blue invaded the salon. Each had a flag or horn. The chorus and parade joined forces, with Bill as leader, and soon "Hallelujah! I'm a bum!" was being sung in every room of the apartment at the same time. Crutches no longer kept any one from joining the serpentine march from room to room. Strong arms picked up babies in their nighties, and we were all in the parade.
I did not know half my guests and
never will. Some of them are sure to read this article and remember that night in Paris when C. O.'s and journalists, tired by the grind, nurses weary of watching, wounded and homesick who had not expected to laugh that Christmas eve, and soldiers fresh from chilly camps and remote and dirty villages caught the spirit of Christmas. When people forget their cares and woes, they always behave like children. The national anthem of California made my party, where Christmas carols had proved too tear-compelling. After "Halelujah! I'm a bum!" wore itself out, nobody needed to be introduced to anybody else, and everything disappeared from the dining-room table.
While the party was still raging, my husband and I slipped for a moment out on the balcony. Merry-makers with lighted lanterns passed along the boulevard du Montparnasse, singing and shouting. Before us lay Paris, not the dark and fearful Paris to which we had become accustomed when we stood there after the warning of the sirens and listened for the tir de barrage to tell us whether the time had come to take the children down-stairs, but Paris alight and alive, Paris enjoying the reward of having kept faith with France and with the civilized world.
A Corner for Echoes
By CHARLES S. BROOKS
"But chiefly it is the echoes of older steps I hear steps whose sound is long since stilled, feet that have crossed the horizon and have gone on journey for a while. And when I listen I hear echoes that are fading into silence."
OMETIMES in a quiet hour I see in the memory of my childhood a frame-house across a wide lawn from a pleasant city street. There
are no trees about the yard, in itself a defect, yet in its circumstance, as the house arises in my view, the barrenness denotes no more than the breadth of sunlight across those endless days.
There was, indeed, in contrast, and by way of shadowy admonishment, a church near by, whose sober bell, grieving lest our joy should romp too long, recalled us to fearful introspection on Sunday evening, and it moved me chiefly to the thought of eternity-eternity everlasting. Reward or punishment hereafter mattered not. It was time itself that plagued me-time that rolled like a wheel forever. And on Thursday evening also, another bad intrusion on the happy week, again the sexton tugged at the rope for prayer, and the dismal clapper answered from above. Strange that a man in friendly red suspenders, pipe in mouth as he pushed his lawn-mower through the week, should spread such desolation! But presently, when our better neighbors were stiffly gathered in and had composed their skirts, a brisker hymn arose. Tenor and soprano assured one another vigorously from pew to pew that they were "Christian soldiers marching as to war." When they were off at last for a fair Jerusalem, the fret of eternity passed from me.
And yet, for the most part, we played in sunlight all the week, and our thoughts dwelt on wide horizons.
There was another church, far off across the house-tops, seen only from an attic window, whose bells in contrast were of a pleasant jangle. Exactly where this church stood I never knew. Its towers arose above a neighbor's barn and acknowledged no base or local habitation. Indeed, its glittering and unsubstantial spire offered a hint that it was but an imaginary creature of the attic, a pageant that mustered only to the view of him who looked out through these narrow, cobwebbed windows; for here, as in a kind of magic, the twilight flourished at the noon, and its shadows practised for the night. Through these windows children saw the unfamiliar marvels of the world-towers and kingdoms unseen by older eyes, which were grown dusty with common sights.
Yet, regularly, out of a noonday stillness, except for the butcher boy upon the steps, a dozen clappers of the tower struck their sudden din across the city. It appeared that at the very moment of the noon, having lagged to the utmost second, the frantic clappers had bolted up the belfry-stairs to call the town to dinner. Or perhaps to an older ear their discordant and heterodox tongue hinted that Roman infallibility had fallen into argument and that various and contrary doctrine was laboring in warm dispute. Certainly the clappers were brawling in the tower and had come to blows; but half a mile off it was an agreeable racket, and did not rouse up eternity to teaze me.
Across from our house, but at the rear, with only an alley entrance, there
was a building in which pies were baked, a horrid factory in the very midst of us!-and insolent smoke curled off the chimney and flaunted our imperfection. Respectable ladies, long resident, wearing black poke-bonnets and camel's-hair shawls, lifted their patrician eyebrows with disapproval. Scorn sat on their gentle noses. They held their skirts close from contamination. These pies could not count upon their patronage. They were contraband even in a pinch, with unexpected guests arrived: And the building did smell heavily of its commodity. But despite detraction, as one came from school when the wind was north, an agreeable whiff of lard and cooking touched the nostrils as a happy prologue to one's dinner. Sometimes a cart issued to the street, boarded close, full of pies on shelves, and rattled cityward. A hundred forks at the journey's end, if they had known the cargo, would have clattered on their plates in glad anticipation.
Near the school-house was the reservoir, a mound and a pond covering all the block. Round about the top there was a gravel path that commanded the city-the belching chimneys on the river, the ships upon the lake, and to the south an horizon of wooded hills. The world lay across that tumbled ridge, and there our thoughts went searching for adventure. Perhaps these were the foot-hills of the Himalayas, and from the crest were seen the towers of Babylon. On a summer afternoon clouds drifted across the sky like mountains on a journey; emigrants, they seemed, from a loftier range, seeking a fresh plain on which to erect their fortune.
But the chief use of this reservoir, except for its wholly subsidiary supply of water, was its grassy slope. It was usual in the noon recess when we were cramped with learning-to slide down on a barrel-stave and be wrecked and spilled midway. In default of stave, a geography served as sled, for by noon the most sedentary geography itched for action. Of what profit so it complained-is a knowledge of the world if one is cooped always with stupid primers in a desk? Of what account are the boundries of
Hindustan, if one is housed all day beneath a lid with slate and pencils? But the geography required an exact bal ance, with feet lifted forward into space and with fingers gripped behind. Our present geographies, alas! are of smaller surface, and unless students have shrunk and dwindled, their more profitable use upon a hill is past. Some children descended without stave or book, and their preference was marked upon them.
It was Hoppy who marred this sport. Hoppy was the keeper of the reservoir, a one-legged Irishman with a crutch. His superflous trousers-leg was folded and pinned across, and was a general quarry for patches. When his elbow or his seat came through, here was a remedy at hand. Here his wife clipped for her crazy quilt. And all the little Hoppies for I fancy him to have been a family man-were reinforced from his extra cloth. But when Hoppy's bad profile appeared at the top of the hill, we seized our staves and scurried off. cry of warning, "Peg-leg 's a-comin'!" still haunts my memory. It was Hoppy's reward to lead one of us younger fry roughly by the ear. Or he gripped us by the wrist and snapped his fingers at our nose. Then he pitched us through the fence where a wooden slat was gone.
Hoppy's crutch was none of your elabarate affairs, curved and glossy. Instead, it was only a stout, unvarnished stick, with a padded cross-piece at the top. But the varlet could run, leaping forward upon us with long, uneven strides. And I have wondered whether Stevenson by any chance, while he was still pondering the plot of "Treasure Island," may not have visited our city and, seeing Hoppy on our heels, have contrived John Silver out of him. He must have built him new above the waist, sheering him above his suspenderbuttons, scrapping his common upper parts; but the wooden stump and breeches were a precious salvage. His crutch, at the least, became John Silver's very timber.
Tinkey's shop was on the Circle, a sunny park with artificial mountain from which one could spit down upon the sidewalk. One side of Tinkey's window was a bakery, with jelly-cake and angel-food. The other window un
bent to peppermint sticks and grab-bags to catch our dirtier pennies. But this meaner produce was a concession to the trade, and the Tinkey fingers, from father down, touched it with scorn. Mrs. Tinkey's in particular, who was high in the instep and above her place, lifted a grab-bag at arm's-length, and her nostrils quivered as if she held a dead mouse by the tail
But in the essence Tinkey was a caterer, and his handiwork was shown in the persons of a frosted bride and groom who waited before a sugar altar for the word that would make them man and wife. Her nose in time was bruised, -a careless lifting of the glass by the youngest Miss Tinkey,-but he, like a faithful suitor, stood to his youthful pledge.
Beyond the shop was a room with blazing-red wall-paper. In this hot furnace, outrivaling the boasts of Abednego, the neighborhood perspired pleasantly on August nights and ate ice
Around the corner was Conrad's bookstore. Conrad was a dumpy fellow, with unending good humor and a fat, soft hand. He sometimes called women customers, "My dear," but it was only in his eagerness to press a sale. I do not recall that he was a scholar. If you asked to be shown the newest books, he might offer you the "Vicar of Wakefield" as a work just off the press, and tell you that Goldsmith was a man to watch. A young woman assistant read the Duchess between customers. In her fancy she eloped daily with a duke, but actually she kept company with a grocer's clerk. They ate sodas together at Tinkey's. How could he know, poor fellow, when their fingers met beneath the table, that he was but a substitute in her high romance! Conrad had also an errand boy, with a dirty face, who spent his days on a packing-case at the rear of the shop, where he ate an endless succession of apples.
An orchard went through
him in a season.
Conrad's shop was only moderate in books, but it spread itself in fancy goods, crackers for the Fourth, marbles and tops in their season, and for Saint Valentine's day a range of tender sentiment. A lover, though he sighed like
a furnace, found here mottos for his passion. Also, there were "comics," base, insulting valentines of suitable greeting from man to man. These were three for a nickel just as they came off the pile, but two for a nickle with selection.
Nor must I forget a line of Catholic saints. There was one jolly bit of crockery-St. Patrick, I believe that had lost an arm. This defect should have been considered a further mark of piety, a martyrdom unrecorded by the church, a special flagellation, an act of supererogation for a sinner's pence; but although the price in successive years sank to thirty-nine, and at last to the wholly ridiculous sum of twenty-three, cents, less than one third the price of his unbroken, but really inferior, mates (Saint Aloysius and the tempted Anthony), yet he lingered on.
Nowhere was there a larger assortment of odd and unmatched letter-paper. No box was full, and many were dirty. If pink envelops were needed, Conrad, unabashed, laid out a blue, or with his fat thumb he fumbled two boxes into one to complete the count. Initialed paper once had been the fashion,-G for Gladys, and there was still a remnant of several letters toward the end of the alphabet. If one of these chanced to fit a customer, with what zest Conrad blew upon the box and slapped it! But until Xenophon and Zeno shall come to buy, these final letters must rest unsold upon his shelves.
Conrad was a dear good fellow (Bless me! he is still alive, just as fat and bow-legged, with the same soft hand, just as friendly), and when he failed at last in business, the street lost half its mirth and humor.
Near Conrad's shop and the Circle was our house. By it a horse-car jangled, one way only, cityward, at interval of twelve minutes. In winter there was straw on the floor. In front was a farebox, with sliding shelves down which the nickles rattled, or if one's memory lagged, the thin driver rapped his whiphandle on the glass. He sat on a high stool, which was padded to eke out
Once before, as I've read, there was a corner for echoes. The buildings were