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was complete. Perhaps after every act of successful banking there takes place in the mind of man, spendthrift and miser, a momentary lull of energy, a kind of brief Pax vobiscum, O my soul and stomach, my twin masters of need and greed! And possibly, as the lad deposited his earnings, he was old enough to enter a little way into this adult and despicable joy. Be this as it may, he was not the next instant up again and busy. He caught at his cap, dropped it not on his head, but on one of his ragged knees; planted a sturdy hand. on it, and the other sturdy hand on the other knee; and with his sturdy legs swinging under the bench, toe kicking heel and heel kicking toe, he rested briefly from life's battle.
The signs of battle were thick on him, unmistakable. The palpable sign, the conqueror's sign, was the profits, won in the struggle of the streets; the other signs may be set down as loss-dirt and raggedness and disorder. His hair might never have been straightened out with a comb; his hands were not politely mentionable; his coarse shoes, which seemed to have been bought with the agreement that they were never to wear out, were ill-conditioned with general dust and the special grime of melted pitch from the typical contractor's cheapened asphalt; one of his stockings had a fresh rent, and old rents renewed their grievances.
A single sign of victory was better even than the money in the pocket-the whole lad himself. He was strongly built, frankly fashioned, with happy, grayish eyes, which also had in them some of the cold warrior blue of the sky that day; and they were set wide apart in a compact, round head, which somehow suggested a bronze sphere on a column of triumph. Altogether he belonged to that hillside of nature, himself a human growth budding out of wintry fortunes into life's April, opening on the rocks, hardy and all white.
But to sit there, swinging his legs, this did not suffice to get the heart out of him, did not enable him to celebrate his instincts; and suddenly forth from his thicket of forest trees and greening bushes he began to pour forth a thrilling little tide of song, with the native sweetness of some human linnet unaware of its transcendent gift.
Up the steep hill a man not yet of mid
dle age had mounted from the flats. He was on his way toward the parapet above. He came on slowly, hat in hand, perspiration on his forehead; that climb from base to summit stretches a healthy walker and does him good. At a turn of the road under the forest trees, with shrubbery alongside, he stopped suddenly, as a naturalist might pause with half-lifted foot beside a dense copse in which some unknown species of a bird sang-a young bird trying its notes.
It was his vocation to discover and to train voices. His definite work in music was to help perpetually to rebuild for the world that ever-sinking bridge of sound over which Faith aids itself in walking toward the eternal. This bridge of falling notes is as Nature's bridge of falling drops: individual drops appear for an instant in the rainbow, then disappear, but century after century the great arch stands there on the sky unshaken. So throughout the ages the bridge of sacred music, in which individual voices are heard a little while and then are heard no longer, remains for man as one same structure of rock by which he ever passes over from the mortal to the immortal.
Such was his life-work. As he now paused and listened, you might have interpreted his demeanor as that of a professional whose ears brought him tidings that greatly astonished. The thought had indeed come to him of how the papers of New York once in a while print a story of the accidental finding in it of a wonderful voice-New York, where you can find everything that is human. He recalled throughout the history of music instances in which some one of the world's famous singers had been picked up on life's road where it is roughest. Was this to become now his own experience? Falling on his ears was an unmistakable gift of song, a wandering, haunting, unidentified note under that April blue. He had never heard anything like it.
Voice alone did not suffice for his purpose; the singer's face, personality, manners, some unfortunate strain in the blood, might outweigh the voice, block its acceptance, ruin everything. He almost dreaded to walk on, hesitated to explore what was ahead. But his road lay that way, and three steps brought him around the woody bend of it.
There he stopped again. In an embrasure of rock on which vines were turning green, a little fellow, seasoned by wind and sun, with a countenance open and friendly like the sky, was easing his too full, his too happy heart.
The instant the man came into view, the song was broken off. The sturdy figure started up and sprang forward with the instinct of business. When any one paused and looked questioningly at him, it meant papers to him. He now thought of papers, and his inquiry was quite breathless:
"Do you want a paper, Mister? What paper do you want? I can get you one on the avenue in a minute.”
He stood looking up at the man, his whole heart in his act, alert, capable, fearless, ingratiating. The man had instantly taken note of the speaking voice, which is often a safer first criterion to go by than the singing voice itself. He pronounced it sincere, robust, true, sweet, victorious. And very quickly also he made up his mind that conditions must have been rare with the lad in his birth: blood will tell, and blood told now, even in dirt and rags.
His reply bore testimony to how appreciative he felt of all that faced him there humanly on the rock.
"Thank you," he said, "I have read my paper."
Having thus disposed of some of the lad's words, he addressed a pointed question to the rest:
"But how did you happen to call me mister? I thought boss was what you little New-Yorkers generally said."
"I'm not a New-Yorker," announced the lad, with ready courtesy and good nature. "I don't say boss. We are Southerners. I say mister."
He gave the man a look as though instantly of a mind to take his measure; also as being of a mind to let the man know that he had not taken the boy's
The man smiled at being corrected to such good purpose; but before he could speak, the lad went on to clinch his correction:
"I say sir, if I say anything," retorted the lad, still polite, but flaring up.
The man looked at him with increasing interest. Another word in the lad's speech had caught his attention-Southerner.
That word had been with him a good deal in recent years; he had not quite seemed able to get away from it. Nearly all classes of people in New York who were not Southerners had been increasingly reminded that the Southerners were upon them. He had satirically worked it out in his own mind that if he were ever pushed out of his own position, it would be some Southerner who pushed him. He sometimes thought of the whole New York situation as a wonderful, awful dinner at which almost nothing was served that did not have a Southern flavor, a kind of pepper. The guests were bound to have administered to them their shares of this pepper; there was no getting away from the table and no getting the pepper out of the dinner.
"We are Southerners,' "the lad had announced decisively; and there it was again, though this time as a mere pepper-box in a school basket. Thus his next remark was addressed to his own thoughts on the subject rather than to the lad:
And so you are a Southerner!" he mused, looking down at the plague in small form.
"Why, yes, Mister, we are Southerners," replied the lad, with a gay and careless patriotism; and giving his handy pepper-box a shake, he began to dust the air with its contents: "I was born on an old Southern battle-field. When Granny was born there it had hardly stopped smoking; it was still piled with wounded and dead Northerners. Why, one of the worst batteries was planted in our front porch."
The enthusiasm as to the front porch was assumed to be acceptable to the listener. The battery might have been a Cherokee rose, with perfume for both sides.
The man had listened with a quizzical light in his eyes.
"In what direction did you say that battery was pointed?"
"I did n't say; but it was pointed up
"And I only say mister when I am sell- this way, of course." ing papers, and am not at home."
"What do you say when not selling papers, and when you are at home?" asked the man, goaded to a smile.
The man laughed outright.
"And so you followed in the direction of the deadly Southern shell, and came north-as a small grape-shot!"
"But, Mister, that was long ago. They had their quarrel out long ago. That 's the way we boys do: fight it out and make friends again. Don't you do that way?" "It's a very good way to do," said the man, and mentally he stood back a little, out of the way of the lad's pepper. "And so you sell papers?"
"I sell papers to people in the park, Mister, and back up on the avenue. Granny is particular. I'm not a regular newsboy."
"I heard you singing. Does anybody teach you?"
More Granny! Granny began to occupy the central scene, as the Egyptian obelisk dominates its region of Central Park.
"And so your grandmother is your music teacher?"
It was the lad's turn to laugh. "Granny is n't my grandmother; Granny is my mother. I call her Granny sometimes."
Toppling over in the dust of imagination went a gaunt granny image; in its place a much more vital being appeared just behind the form of the lad, guarding him even now while he spoke.
"And so your mother takes pupils?"
"Has any one heard you sing?"
It grew more and more the part of the man during this colloquy to smile; he felt repeatedly in the flank of his mind a jab of the comic spur. Now he laughed at the lad's deadly preparedness; evidently business competition in New York had taught him that he who hesitates a moment is lost. The boy was almost ready with answers before he heard questions.
"Do you mind telling me your name?" "My name is Ashby. Ashby Truesdale. We come from an old English family. What is your name, and what kind of family do you come from, Mister?"
"And where do you live?"
The lad wheeled, and strode to the edge of the rock,-the path along there is hewn out of solid rock,-and looking downward, he pointed to the first row of buildings in the flats below.
"We live down there. You see that house in the middle of the block, the little old one between the two big ones?"
The man did not feel sure. "Well, Mister, you see the statue of Washington and Lafayette?"
The man was certain he saw Washington and Lafayette.
"Well, from there you follow my finger along the row of houses till you come to the littlest, oldest, dingiest one. You see it now, don't you? We live up under the roof."
"What is the number?"
"It is n't any number. It's half a number. We live in the half that is n't numbered; the other half gets the number."
"And you take your music lessons in the half?"
"Why, yes, Mister."
"On a piano?"
"Why, yes, Mister; on my piano." "Oh, you have a piano, have you?"
"A little old rented one, but there is n't any sound in about half the keys. Granny says the time has come to rent a good one. So she has gone over to the art school today to pose."
A chill of silence fell between the talkers, the one looking up and the other looking down. The man's next question was put in a more guarded tone:
"Does your mother pose as a model?" "No, Mister, she does n't pose as a model. She's posing to-day as herself. She 's going to pose for a while. She said I must have a piano and a teacher if she had to rent herself out as a model. Mister, were you ever poor?"
The man looked the boy over from head to foot.
"Do you think you are poor?" he asked. The good-natured reply came back in a droll tone:
"Well, Mister, we certainly are n't. rich."
"Let us see," objected the man, as though this were a point which had better not be yielded, and he began with a voice of one reckoning up items: "Two feet, each cheap at, say, five millions. Two hands-five millions apiece for hands. At least ten millions for each eye. About the same for the ears. Certainly twenty millions for your teeth. Forty millions for your stomach. On the whole, at a rough estimate you must easily be worth over one hundred millions. There are quite a number of old gentlemen in New York,