Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ployment after any indulgence in orna- He stepped toward a circular revolvment. She submitted herself to be painted ing-platform placed at the focus of the in austerest fidelity to nature, plainly massed easels: it was the model's rack of dressed, her hair parted and brushed se- patience, the mount of humiliation, the verely back. Women, sometimes great scaffold of exposure. women, have in history, at the hour of She had perhaps not understood that their supreme tragedies, dressed so— for this would be required of her, this indigthe hospital, for baptism, for the guillo- nity, that she must climb upon a block, tine, for the stake, for the cross.

like an old-time slave at an auction. For But because she thus made herself poor one instant her fighting look came back, in apparel, she became most rich in her and her eyes, though they rested on vahumanity. There was nothing for the eye cancy, blazed on vacancy, and an ugly red to rest upon but her bare self. And thus rushed over her face, which had been the contours of the head, the beauty of the whiter than colorless. Then as though hair, the line of it along the forehead and she had become disciplined through years temples, the curvature of the brows, the of necessity to do the unworthy things chiseling of the proud nostrils and the that must be done, she stepped resolutely, high bridge of the nose, the molding of though unsteadily, upon the platform. A the mouth, the modeling of the throat, long procession of men and women, prethe shaping of the shoulders, the grace of ceding her, had

ceding her, had climbed thither from the arms and the hands- all became con- many a motive, on many an upward or spicuous, overwhelming. The slightest downward road. elements of physique and personality came He had specially chosen a chair for into the picture powerful, unforgetable. a three-quarter portrait, stately, richly

She stood, not noticing anything, wait- carved ; about it hung an atmosphere of ing for instructions. With the courtesy high-born things. which was the soul of him and the secret Now, the body has definite memories, of his genius for inspiring others to do as the mind has definite memories, and their utmost, the artist glanced at her and scarcely had she started to seat herself glanced at the members of the class, and before the physical memory of former tried to draw them together with a smile years revived in her, and she yielded herof sympathetic introduction.

It was a

self to the chair as though she had risen wish to break the ice. For them it did from it a moment before. He did not break the ice; all responded to it with a have to pose her; she had posed herself by smile or with other play of the features right of bygone scenes. A few changes in that meant gracious recognition. With the arrangement of the hands he did make. her the ice remained unbroken: she with- There was required some separation of held all response to the humane overture. the fingers; excitement caused her to hold Either she may not have trusted herself them too closely together. And he drew to respond; or standing there merely as a the entire hands into notice; he specially model, she declined to establish any other wished them to be valued in the portrait. understanding with them whatsoever. So They were wonderful hands: they looked that he went further in the kindness of eloquent with the histories of generations; his intention and said, a procedure alto- their youth seemed centuries old. Yet all gether unusual:

over them, barely to be seen, were the “Madam, this is my class of eager, marks of life experience, the delicate, but warm, generous young natures who are to dread, sculpture of adversity. have the opportunity of trying to paint For a while it was as he had foreseen. you. They are mere beginners; their art She was aware only of the brutality of is still unformed. But you may believe her position; and her face, by its confused that they will put their best into what expressions and quick changes of color, they are about to undertake: the loyalty showed what thoughts surged. Afterward of the hand, the respect of the eye, the a change came gradually. As though she tenderness of their memories, consecration could endure the ordeal only by forgetting to their art, their dreams and hopes of fu- it, and could forget it only by looking ture success. Now if you will be good ahead into the happiness for which it was enough to sit here, I will pose you." endured, slowly there began to shine out upon her face its rulirg passion-the ac- of some of these were as the last shreds of ceptance of life and the love of the mother winter's mantle. glinting as from a cloud-hidden sun across There were flushes of color also, as the world's storm. And when this ex- where in deep soil, on a projection of rock, pression had once come out, it stayed a pink hawthorn stood studded to the there. She had forgotten her surround- tips of its branches with leaf and Aower. ings, she had forgotten herself. What But such flushes of color were as false difference did it make, what difference did notes of the earth, as harmonies of sumanything make, if some one else was the mer thrust forward out of place and behappier and was advanced prosperously come discords. The time for them was along life's road! Poor indeed must have

not yet.

The hour called for hardy, been the soul that would not have been adventurous things awakened out of their touched by the spectacle of her, thrilled cold sleep, and started on their way over by it.

the rocks. The blue of the firmament was There was awe in the room of youth- not dark summer blue, but seemed the ful workers. Before them, on the face of sky's first pale power to the sun. The the unknown, was the only look that the sun was not rich summer gold, but flashed whole world knows-the love and self- silver rays to the ground. The ground sacrifice of the mother; perhaps the only scattered no odors; all was the first youth element of our better humanity that never of Nature on the rocks. once in the history of mankind has been Paths wind hither and thither over this misunderstood and ridiculed or envied and park hillside. Benches are placed at difreviled.

ferent levels along the way. If you are Some worked with faces brightened by going up, you may rest; if you are coming thoughts of mothers at home; the eyes of down, you may linger; if neither going one or two were dimmed by memories of

up nor coming down, you may with a the lost.

book seek out some retreat of shade and

coolness and keep at arm's-length the milII

lions that rush and crush around as waThat morning on the ledge of rock at the ters from afar roar against some lone rear of the cathedral Nature hinted to

ocean fortress. passers what they would more fully see if About eleven o'clock that morning, on fortunate enough to be with her where one of these benches, placed where rock is she actually stayed, out in the country. steepest, and forest trees stand close to

The young grass along the foot of this gether, and vines are rank with shade, a slope was thick and green; imagination al- sociable-looking little fellow of some ten most missed from the picture rural sheep, hardy, well-buffeted years had sat down their fleeces wet with April rain. Along for the moment without a companion. He the summit of the slope trees of oak and had thrown upon the bench beside him his ash and maple and chestnut and poplar sun-faded, rain-faded, shapeless cap, unlifted against the sky their united forest covering much bronzed hair; and as strength. Between trees above and grass though by this simple act he had cleared below, the embankment spread before the the way for business, he thrust one capaeye the tapestry of a spring landscape, ble-looking hand deep into one of his pockwith backward, bare boughs and forward, ets. The fingers closed upon what they green boughs and boughs between in blos- found there, like the meshes of a deep-sea som.

net filled with its catch, and were slowly The earliest blossoms on our part of drawn to the surface. The catch conthe earth's surface are nearly always sisted of one-cent and five-cent pieces, repwhite; they have forced their way to the resenting the sales of his morning papers. . sun along a frozen path, and look akin to He counted the coins one by one over into the perils of their road: the snow-threat- the palm of the other hand, which then ened lily of the valley, the chilled snow- closed upon the total like another net, and drop, the frosty snowball, the bleak haw dropped the treasure back into the deep tree, the wintry wild cherry, the wintry sea of the other pocket. dogwood. As the eye swept the park ex- His absorption in this process had been panse this morning, here and there patches intense; his satisfaction with the result was complete. Perhaps after every act of dle age had mounted from the flats. He successful banking there takes place in the was on his way toward the parapet above. mind of man, spendthrift and miser, a He came on slowly, hat in hand, perspiramomentary lull of energy, a kind of brief tion on his forehead; that climb from base Pax vobiscum, O my soul and stomach, to summit stretches a healthy walker and my twin masters of need and greed! And does him good. At a turn of the road possibly, as the lad deposited his earnings, under the forest trees, with shrubbery he was old enough to enter a little way alongside, he stopped suddenly, as a natuinto this adult and despicable joy. Be ralist might pause with half-lifted foot this as it may, he was not the next instant beside a dense copse in which some unup again and busy. He caught at his cap, known species of a bird sang-a young dropped it not on his head, but on one of bird trying its notes. his ragged knees; planted a sturdy hand It was his vocation to discover and to on it, and the other sturdy hand on the train voices. His definite work in music other knee; and with his sturdy legs was to help perpetually to rebuild for the swinging under the bench, toe kicking world that ever-sinking bridge of sound heel and heel kicking toe, he rested briefly over which Faith aids itself in walking from life's battle.

toward the eternal. This bridge of fallThe signs of battle were thick on him, ing notes is as Nature's bridge of falling unmistakable. The palpable sign, the drops: individual drops appear for an inconqueror's sign, was the profits, won in stant in the rainbow, then disappear, but the struggle of the streets; the other signs century after century the great arch stands may be set down as loss - dirt and ragged- there on the sky unshaken. So throughness and disorder. His hair might never out the ages the bridge of sacred music, have been straightened out with a comb; in which individual voices are heard a lithis hands were not politely mentionable; tle while and then are heard no longer, his coarse shoes, which seemed to have remains for man as one same structure of been bought with the agreement that they rock by which he ever passes over from were never to wear out, were ill-condi- the mortal to the immortal. tioned with general dust and the special Such was his life-work.

As he now grime of melted pitch from the typical paused and listened, you might have incontractor's cheapened asphalt; one of his terpreted his demeanor as that of a prostockings had a fresh rent, and old rents fessional whose ears brought him tidings renewed their grievances.

that greatly astonished. The thought had A single sign of victory was better even indeed come to him of how the papers of than the money in the pocket-the whole New York once in a while print a story lad himself. He was strongly builtof the accidental finding in it of a wonfrankly fashioned, with happy, grayish derful voice- New York, where you can eyes, which also had in them some of the find everything that is human. cold warrior blue of the sky that day; and called throughout the history of music inthey were set wide apart in a compact, stances in which some one of the world's round head, which somehow suggested a famous singers had been picked up on bronze sphere on a column of triumph. life's road where it is roughest. Was this Altogether he belonged to that hillside of to become now his own experience? Fallnature, himself a human growth budding ing on his ears was an unmistakable gift out of wintry fortunes into life's April, of song, a wandering, haunting, unidentiopening on the rocks, hardy and all white. fied note under that April blue. He had

But to sit there, swinging his legs, this never heard anything like it. did not suffice to get the heart out of him, Voice alone did not suffice for his purdid not enable him to celebrate his in- pose; the singer's face, personality, manstincts; and suddenly forth from his ners, some unfortunate strain in the blood, thicket of forest trees and greening bushes might outweigh the voice, block its ache began to pour forth a thrilling little ceptance, ruin everything. He almost tide of song, with the native sweetness of dreaded to walk on, hesitated to explore some human linnet unaware of its tran- what was ahead. But his road lay that scendent gift.

way, and three steps brought him around Up the steep hill a man not yet of mid- the woody bend of it.

He re

There he stopped again. In an embra- “I

say sir, if I say anything,” retorted sure of rock on which vines were turning the lad, still polite, but flaring up. green, a little fellow, seasoned by wind The man looked at him with increasing and sun, with a countenance open and interest. Another word in the lad's speech friendly like the sky, was easing his too had caught his attention-Southerner. full, his too happy heart.

That word had been with him a good The instant the man came into view, deal in recent years; he had not quite the song was broken off. The sturdy fig. seemed able to get away from it. Nearly ure started up and sprang forward with all classes of people in New York who the instinct of business. When any one were not Southerners had been increaspaused and looked questioningly at him, ingly reminded that the Southerners were it meant papers to him. He now thought upon them. He had satirically worked it of papers, and his inquiry was quite out in his own mind that if he were ever breathless :

pushed out of his own position, it would “Do you want a paper, Mister? What be some Southerner who pushed him. He paper do you want? I can get you one sometimes thought of the whole New on the avenue in a minute."

York situation as a wonderful, awful dinHe stood looking up at the man, his ner at which almost nothing was served whole heart in his act, alert, capable, fear- that did not have a Southern favor, a less, ingratiating. The man had instantly kind of pepper. The guests were bound taken note of the speaking voice, which is to have administered to them their shares often a safer first criterion to go by than of this pepper; there was no getting away the singing voice itself. He pronounced

from the table and no getting the pepper it sincere, robust, true, sweet, victorious. out of the dinner. And very quickly also he made up his “We are Southerners,” the lad had anmind that conditions must have been rare nounced decisively; and there it was again, with the lad in his birth: blood will tell, though this time as a mere pepper-box and blood told now, even in dirt and rags. in a school basket. Thus his next remark

His reply bore testimony to how appre- was addressed to his own thoughts on the ciative he felt of all that faced him there subject rather than to the lad: humanly on the rock.

“And so you are a Southerner!” he “Thank you," he said, “I have read mused, looking down at the plague in my paper."

small form. Having thus disposed of some of the "Why, yes, Mister, we are Southernlad's words, he addressed a pointed ques- ers," replied the lad, with a gay and caretion to the rest :

less patriotism; and giving his handy pep“But how did you happen to call me per-box a shake, he began to dust the air mister? I thought boss was what you with its contents: "I was born on an old little New-Yorkers generally said." Southern battle-field. When Granny was

“I'm not a New-Yorker," announced born there it had hardly stopped smoking; the lad, with ready courtesy and good it was still piled with wounded and dead nature. “I don't say boss. We are South- Northerners. Why, one of the worst baterners. I say mister."

teries was planted in our front porch." He gave the man a look as though in- The enthusiasm as to the front porch stantly of a mind to take his measure; was assumed to be acceptable to the lisalso as being of a mind to let the man tener. The battery might have been a Cherknow that he had not taken the boy's okee rose, with perfume for both sides. measure.

The man had listened with a quizzical The man smiled at being corrected to light in his eyes. such good purpose; but before he could “In what direction did you say that speak, the lad went on to clinch his cor- battery was pointed?" rection:

"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.”

The man laughed outright. “What do you say when not selling "And so you followed in the direction papers, and when you are at home?" asked of the deadly Southern shell, and came the man, goaded to a smile.

north-as a small grape-shot!"

"But, Mister, that was long ago. They The man did not feel sure. had their quarrel out long ago. That's “Well, Mister, you see the statue of the way we boys do: fight it out and make Washington and Lafayette ?" friends again. Don't you do that way?” The man was certain he saw Washing

“It 's a very good way to do,” said the ton and Lafayette. man, and mentally he stood back a little, "Well, from there you follow my finout of the way of the lad's pepper. “And ger along the row of houses till you come so you sell papers ?''

to the littlest, oldest, dingiest one. You "I sell papers to people in the park, see it now, don't you? We live up under Mister, and back up on the avenue. the roof." Granny is particular. I 'm not a regular “What is the number?" newsboy."

"It is n't any number. It 's half a “I heard you singing. Does anybody

Does anybody number. We live in the half that is n't teach you?"

numbered; the other half gets the num"Granny."

ber." More Granny! Granny began to oc- “And you take your music lessons in cupy the central scene, as the Egyptian the half?" obelisk dominates its region of Central "Why, yes, Mister." Park.

On a piano?" "And so your grandmother is your mu- “Why, yes, Mister; on my piano. sic teacher?"

"Oh, you have a piano, have you?” It was the lad's turn to laugh.

A little old rented one, but there is n't “Granny isn't my grandmother;

grandmother; any sound in about half the keys. Granny Granny is my mother. I call her Granny says the time has come to rent a good one. sometimes.”

So she has gone over to the art school toToppling over in the dust of imagina- day to pose.” tion went a gaunt granny image; in its A chill of silence fell between the talkplace a much more vital being appeared ers, the one looking up and the other lookjust behind the form of the lad, guarding ing down. The man's next question was him even now while he spoke.

put in a more guarded tone: “And so your mother takes pupils ?" “Does your mother pose as a model ?" “Only me."

“No, Mister, she does n't pose as a ‘Has any one heard you sing?”

model. She 's posing to-day as herself. "Only she."

She 's going to pose for a while. She said It grew more and more the part of the I must have a piano and a teacher if she man during this colloquy to smile; he felt had to rent herself out as a model. Misrepeatedly in the flank of his mind a jab ter, were you ever poor?” of the comic spur.

comic spur. Now he laughed at The man looked the boy over from the lad's deadly preparedness; evidently head to foot. business competition in New York had “Do you think you are poor?” he asked. taught him that he who hesitates a mo- The good-natured reply came back in a ment is lost. The boy was almost ready droll tone: with answers before he heard questions. “Well, Mister, we certainly are n't “Do

you mind telling me your name?" rich." “My name is Ashby. Ashby Trues

“Let us see,

objected the man, dale. We come from an old English fam- though this were a point which had better ily. What is your name, and what kind not be yielded, and he began with a voice of family do you come from, Mister ?” of one reckoning up items: "Two feet, And where do you live?"

each cheap at, say, five millions. Two The lad wheeled, and strode to the hands - five millions apiece for hands. At edge of the rock, – the path along there is least ten millions for each eye. About the hewn out of solid rock, -and looking same for the ears. Certainly twenty mildownward, he pointed to the first row of lions for your teeth. Forty millions for buildings in the fats below.

your stomach. On the whole, at a rough “We live down there. You see that estimate you must easily be worth over house in the middle of the block, the little one hundred millions. There are quite a old one between the two big ones?" number of old gentlemen in New York,

as

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »