« AnkstesnisTęsti »
I didn't care how many pupils waited for their English lessons nor how many big-mustached school-directors threatened to find another teacher.
But Gina was asleep when I returned with the milk. Poor wan little child! Not even the black coffee she had so unwisely drunk could keep her from dozing.
"She was awake all night soothing Vittorio," her mother whispered to me. "Vittorio didn't want any one but her and she said she felt all right. Maybe I was wrong to let her." The pathetically ineffectual face turned questioningly to me.
"She has tired herself out," I answered. "We'll keep her quiet after this."
"It's wonderful the way she listens to you," Signora Sarti said with the beginning of more sobs in her voice. "She's always talking to me about her Americano."
realize that she herself was as sick as Vittorio. It was the sort of courage that ties a man's throat in knots.
"Just lie quiet," I begged her as I laid her gently back on the pillow. "Yes," she murmured docilely. "I like to lie quiet. It's good." Then presently she was dozing again-pale, emaciated, so tired! Signora Sarti sat beside them and watched. I myself could not stand the curious pain, the spasmodic gripping of my heart that came at sight of those little childish faces asleep, those eyelids that drooped so tranquilly with long black lashes on the cheeks, the mouths with feverish lips closed in such sweet repose. I had to look out of the window, or I should have strangled with tears.
A sharp knock at the door. Signora Sarti rose and went to it. A soldier stood there, ill at ease, loutish "We in his heavy boots and poorly made uniform. He stared at Signora Sarti and could not speak. The look of compassion in his eyes was worse than words. A chill fell over me, and I saw Signora Sarti put her hand to her throat.
"S-s-sh-h!" must let her sleep." Vittorio waked her up before long, however, when he turned over and whimpered. The little lad was too sick to know what he was doing.
"Some warm milk, Gina?" I questioned. "Do you want some?" "See if Vittorio will take it." But Vittorio wouldn't.
"I'll try," Gina said. "I don't seem to want it, but I guess it will make me feel better." She let me raise her in bed and put the cup to her lips, swallowing with brave gulps. "Father must be almost here," she calculated. "Little Vittorio, do you hear? Papa is coming back to us." So weak that her voice was a mere thread, she was trying nevertheless to give courage to the baby brother. She did not yet seem to
"Well?" she questioned fearfully. "Is he here-my husband?"
"Yes." The soldier cleared his throat.
"I was to ask you if you wanted the procession to start from here at your house or from the station. The body is there now."
"Oh-h-h-h!" wailed Signora Sarti. "I knew he wouldn't come back alive." She began to shudder. Then she remembered the soldier who stood waiting at the door, and straightened up. "Come in. Take
a seat. Oh! Then he is dead at the station!" She began moaning again. The soldier looked uncomfortable, hesitated, but finally stepped inside -not removing his hat. He was a peasant. He understood death, but he knew nothing of social usage. He continued standing.
"From the house," Signora Sarti announced suddenly. "I want him brought here. But I have no money But I have no money to pay for it."
"It won't cost you anything," the soldier said eagerly. "He was a sol"He was a soldier. It will be a military funeral.” "Well, that's good," Signora Sarti nodded. "He had a right to a good funeral. When will they bring him?" She was arranging everything calmly now. We had both forgotten the children for the moment, but now Gina's thin voice startled us.
"Father must wear his new uniform," she said. "I want him to look nice." So calmly she spoke that I was not sure she understood. "It's good we finished it last night, mother; but it's too bad he didn't get to see it. It was all wool," she told the soldier. "Good cloth." Then a little regretful sigh escaped her. "I should have liked to kiss him. May I kiss him when they bring him here?" she demanded.
"It's to be to-morrow morning," the soldier stated.
"You'll come too, won't you?" Gina asked of me, and I told her yes. "Let me have some more milk," she asked then. "I want to be strong for to-morrow."
Poor little waif! Her courageous spirit could not understand that the body was less mighty than her will. She drank her milk, lay back, and put a cuddling arm about the wee Vittorio.
"I'm going to sleep again," she said serenely; and so the two children remained until night fell. Then Gina awoke, and in the darkness we heard a cry of pained surprise. "Mother," she called, "Vittorio is cold. Mother, I think he is dead."
A little sob, a request that the lights be put on; that was all. Gina was "bearing up fine," as her father had said she always did.
"I had him in my arms, mother, anyway. It couldn't have hurt him. I guess he wanted to see father and couldn't wait till morning. And, mother"-the little voice assumed the tone of one who felt and accepted all the household responsibility— "Vittorio is to be buried with father. You see it was all right about grandma's earrings. Father has his uniform, and Vittorio has his funeral. Don't cry, mother. Everything is going fine."
The mother, however, knew what little Gina did not know, what her brave soul could not suspect, for she never considered a possible harm to herself; and Signora Sarti flung herself beside the bed which held a little dead son and a very, very sick daughter, and she cried with long heartbroken sobs.
"Little Star of Gold! Little Star of Gold!" she repeated again and again while she clasped Gina's hot hand; and that unselfish spirit, thinking she was weeping for Vittorio, tried to console her with her matter-of-fact logic.
"Never mind, mother. We won't have any more babies to die now."
"No, darling, no," cried cried the mother, "no more." And I too felt the stinging tears roll down from my eyes.
"Good night!" I choked. "I'll be here early to-morrow morning."
"Kiss me good night like father used to," Gina asked; and to this day if I close my eyes I can feel that feverish arm go around my neck and hold me near. "Buona notte, Americano," the small voice whispered.
I thought probably that was the last I should see of little Gina alive, but I had not counted on her indomitable spirit. She was still able to smile at me next morning.
"They're bringing father at nine. Mother has asked permission to have Vittorio go with him. Wasn't it lucky?" And when her father was brought at nine o'clock it was Gina from her bed who gave the directions in her thin voice-where to put the coffin while the new uniform was put on, how Vittorio was to be placed beside his father. "I'm still kind of wabbly if I stand up," she confided to me, "or I would do more. I did get out of bed during the night to look at Vittorio, but my legs wouldn't hold me up, and mother had to lift me into bed again. When it's all finished you'll carry me over and let me kiss them both, won't you? Mother says I can't go to the funeral."
When the moment came to lift her out all wrapped in blankets-I was amazed at the lightness of the bundle. The poor, meager little frame weighed no more than a child of three.
"They look happy," she said to me. "Mother, they look as if they were sleeping. I don't mind not going to the funeral. I thought I should, but I have seen them here. I am glad." Her voice trailed away to a faint sigh. Her eyes closed, and she lay tranquilly against my breast. "Mother!" The voice came suddenly, with surprise, but the eyes remained closed. "I am seeing a vision, mother. I see father and Vittorio. Father has both legs. Both legs, mother. I see him just as plain as I see you. He is standing. He is holding Vittorio's hand. They are walking toward me. Mother!" The voice thrilled with joy. "They are smiling at me. Vittorio is beckoning. Father is holding out his other hand. Oh, mother, I feel so queer, just as if I were in a swing and going up-too -too high." The strength died out of the voice. "Where is my Americano?" Then: "Mother, I want to go out with father and Vittorio. We are going to the park I think. It's so sunny, mother." She smiledand died.
J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
He Relied on Idealism and It Worked
MARY AGNES HAMILTON
HE OTHER day I took an American friend, who follows British politics closely and knows most of our prominent figures by name though not by sight, to the House of Commons. One always gets a fresh light from the impressions of
It was a "big" day. The chamber was crowded. Questions were going on as we took our places, and there did not seem to be a vacant seat anywhere. Order-papers rustled like leaves. Every one was there. The two front benches, on each side of the table before the Speaker's Chair, the table that carries the mace and the sacred boxes which are thumped in moments of tension by the great, were both packed. At first it was not easy to distinguish faces, even when one knew them, and I was glad my friend sat in silence for some time. Suddenly I heard him say:
"Who is the man on the left, about the middle of the bench? With curly white hair and remarkable eyes. At first I picked him out as simply the handsomest of the bunch, but the more I look at him the more he impresses me. He's alive; those eyes of his are taking it all in, though
he sits with arms folded. . Ah, he's up now. . . . . . This is great.'
A period of confused bustle had been followed by a low rumble of cheering, and now, out of the blurred indistinctness, a voice carried itself up to us by virtue not so much of volume as of musical quality of tone, aided by a firm enunciation of essential consonants. As Ramsay MacDonald-for it was he and not Stanley Baldwin, Lloyd George, or Winston Churchill who had been thus picked out as the "real" man among the shadows-went on speaking, this sense of authority grew.
"Hard man to answer, this. That's a good point he knows what he is talking about. . . . Fine he's got them there. -he's got them there. . . . Oh, very good indeed."
He laughed as cheering and counter-cheering broke out, and an interruption was swiftly seized and turned to advantage. Other speakers followed. All the big guns were out in action. But I observed that my friend's attention always returned to MacDonald.
"I'm surprised," he said, as we came away. "He's not in the least what I had thought. You have to see people to get the hang of them. . . . I didn't agree with him, of course: never should; but that's neither here nor
there. He's got the stuff. Brainslooks-voice. No wonder he stands out. And he's got something the other fellows haven't. Personal quality? Vision? I don't know. But there it is.... He's seen something big, bigger than himself, and it shines through." He laughed and shook himself. "You see, I'm all het up about the fellow."
I smiled back at him. "Yes," I said. "That's why many people hate him so much and nobody can stop talking about him.”
For two reasons, this observer's reactions are worth recording. The first, and more important, is that they register the impression which nearly every one gets who encounters MacDonald in action-whether he is seen handling men in committee or conference, acting in an executive capacity, or speaking in any kind of public meeting. He is, by universal admission, a perfect chairman-fair, tolerant, and efficient. He is equally formidable as a fighter on the floor, and has had a wide experience of both rôles. The fighting instinct is indeed so strong that some have doubted his pacifism-even after 1914-as they enjoy the calling out of his resources that occurs when he has his back to the wall. Any one who heard him howled down at a Trade-Union Conference in 1916, and in 1917 saw him turn chill hostility into irresistible enthusiasm, went up to the Labor Party Conference at Liverpool in 1925 with eager anticipations of a "good show." The Left Wing critics had assembled their
cohorts; the Communists gathered for a final assault; the nervous disquietude that followed on
the 1924 election seemed to provide the ideal atmosphere; the "London Times"-not prone to idle prophecies-declared that MacDonald was in "for the fight of his life" and was obviously hopeful of an issue that would sink him and the Labor party together. MacDonald took the gloves off, and the upshot of the conference was a demonstration of his unchallengeable ascendancy. He is never so dangerous as when he is "up against it." In a crisis, he calls upon his daimon, and it obeys him. Its appearances are incalculable except in so far as they follow this law of necessity.
Some hint of it, however, is almost always there. His speeches are not always good, but he never makes one without giving his hearers something a turn of phrase opening long vistas of idea-to work like a ferment in their brains when they go home: some line of light that travels in and out among the circumlocutions and the close time of the argument that baffle reporters. They feel power and, over and above it, an odd lifting personal quality.
People who meet MacDonald socially may and often do miss this. For such occasions he has the charm of friendly approachability, a remarkable memory for faces, a quick interest in little things, a somewhat naïve penchant for prolix and unrevealing anecdote, and a general culture that surprises those who expect a Labor leader to be ignorantly crude and flatteringly simple. Finding him agreeable but not dangerous, they are relieved but also disappointed. He has no ambition to seem dangerous: that, for him, belongs to "nursery politics.' "Sweet