The Pessimist Rewarded

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


THE PESSIMIST REWARDED

BY JAMES HOPPER

JOHN SUNDERLAND, at twenty-three, had reached the peak of all wisdom and was a pessimist. Looking back to that long-distant day when first he had been set upon this earth, he knew that since then he had learned many things. The most important were:

1. When an unknown girl's name is spoken one's mind immediately pictures this girl as entrancingly beautiful; yet when one meets her one finds she is not.

2. When one hears a feminine voice on the other side of a wall one thrills with the certitude that the voice belongs to pulchritude incomparable; yet when one has passed the wall, it does not.

3. As long as one is walking behind a girl she is a goddess. But when one is passing her with a quick side glance her nose isn't right.

Knowing all this, and having no intention of being the dupe of life, John had fashioned for himself a system. This was, to expect always the worst. Then, when the worst came, one was not at all surprised; and if what came was not altogether the worst, one was content.

From which it must not be deduced that John was gloomy, pale, and ingrown. He was, as a matter of fact, a smooth-browed youth who had done all his profound thinking on the fly, while flitting from flower to flower. He was not as introspective as he believed himself to be. On the contrary, when set down face to face with himself all alone, he usually had a very poor time. So, when his oculist said, 'I use drops; you will have to make an appointment and then stay with your eyes shut for two hours," John was filled with dismay.

He had gone to the oculist partly because of a fancied eye strain (he had taken to painting lately), but specially because all the youths of his generation were coming out in horned spectacles and he thought he would like to be obliged to wear them. The doctor's ultimatum, though, almost discouraged him out of the plan.

"Two hours?" he protested. "Doing nothing, nothing at all. Not even reading a magazine?"

"You certainly must not read," said the physician. "You will have to hold your eyes tight shut. You must keep the light out of them entirely while the drops work. But that will take only two hours," he added, with that easy resignation we have for other persons' hardships.

John considered a minute, then surrendered and put down his name for Saturday, two o'clock. The result, which he already visualized, was, he decided, worth some trouble.

As the time of the appointment approached, though, he found himself disliking it increasingly. Two hours all by oneself, doing nothing—he could not think of anything worse. He tried a discreet experiment. He looked at the time, shut his eyes, and waited. When he thought he had been thus about fifteen minutes, he opened his eyes and looked at his watch. Only half a minute had gone! This reduced him to despair. He calculated that, if half a minute with eyes shut seemed fifteen minutes, then two hours with eyes shut would seem six hundred hours. Six hundred hours in that doctor's office, all by himself, doing nothing. No, that was impossible! Feeling the need of sympathy, he confided in Sam.

The two were at the time each in his room of the suite which, since their recent graduation from college, they shared in the big city. Each in his room, with the door open between, stood before the mirror of his dresser, preening before going out for the evening to a place held carefully secret from the other—adjusting his tie, or slicking his hair back in the accepted style of the period, which aimed at giving every man the appearance of a canvas-back duck. John threw his confession out through the door, and Sam immediately came in, a dripping military brush in each hand, interested and sardonic.

"Well," he suggested, intelligently, "why don't you do something?"

"What can I do, in a doctor's office, with my eyes shut?" John waited.

Sam gazed up at the ceiling, received inspiration, and, without hesitation, voiced it.

"Twirl your thumbs," he said.

John gave him a malevolent look, and switched his indignation to the currying down to lustrous flatness of the last of his recalcitrant locks.

Sam set himself to thinking some more. He thought with his nose to the ceiling; he thought with his eyes upon his feet. "I'll tell you," he cried, brightly. "I'll tell you! Have sweet music played you!"

He meant by this nothing helpful; he meant by this only sarcasm. For, after having played tackle to John's end on the same football team for three years, he had seen John's lately acquired enthusiasm for music with concern, exasperation, and sorrow. But one can never be sure of the effect of one's words; it is dangerous to suggest. At these words, evilly meant as they were, John felt himself penetrated by the ray of an idea. This grew swiftly to full light.

"Get me the paper!" he shouted.

The command was so enthusiastic that Sam, before he knew it, had brought the newspaper which John could have obtained himself. John threw it across the table, opened to the theatrical announcements, ran his finger down the columns, halted it, read carefully, and chuckled.

"Sam," he said, "we are going to a concert Saturday. The Philmelodic plays at Carnegie Hall. That's only a block and a half from the doctor's office. We'll go together; I'll take my drops, then you'll take me. You'll take me to the concert, and you'll sit with me like a good boy. It will civilize you, it will do you good—"

"Like a little fish I will!" said Sam, recovering. "Like a white rabbit! Saturday I'm going skating. And if I don't I'll play handball. And if I don't I'll swim—in the Sound—amid the icebergs. But no concertina for me!"

John realized that the sincerity of this vehemence left no hope for argument, and steered into a compromise. "Well, you can take me there, anyway, and then come for me when it is over."

Sam sniffed at the proposition suspiciously, saw no chance of a trap, and consented.

"Very well," he agreed. "I'll take you to the place, I'll put you in your seat—and then good-by. At the end of the jamboree I'll come back for you and lead you to the doctor's like the blind man's dog. But I don't stay in between, mind you. No sitting in that hall for me, with a lot of long-hairs, listening to piccolos!"

According to this understanding, on Saturday the two appeared at the oculist's office, where a pretty, starchy, white nurse with soft, bared arms placed in John's eyes the elixir which for two hours was to plunge him into Stygian night. "Keep them shut," she warned, graciously, smoothing down the lids with a touch like a light caress. Upon which, this command fortified by a thick black bandage, he felt himself taken vigorously in tow by Sam. He felt himself led outside, across the street, along a long block, up steps. They were in the lobby now. Propping him up against the wall, Sam left him to buy the ticket. This seemed to take an unconscionably long time, but Sam at last returned, seemingly well pleased with the outcome.

"Got you a seat where you can see everything," he boasted, and seized John's arm as with an anchor-hook. John felt himself led down a carpeted slope, then pushed along a narrow aisle to a seat. "Well, so long," he heard Sam say, in a tone of suspicion and immense hurry. "I'll be back when the trombones have quit. Well, so long—this is a rotten place."

He was alone. He felt small, a lost, doll-size little man beneath a vast and resonant dome. Sam had brought him too early; a silent emptiness was all about, punctuated now and then, now near, now far, by the sudden explosion of a seat slapped down by an usher. There was something a little creepy about it, about this slamming of seats ahead of beings, single or in groups, invisible to him, as if the place were slowly filling with ghosts.

The darkness against his eyes was not black. It was a grayish-rose; it was not unpleasant. The whole experience, in fact, was rather amusing. He was putting one over on the Fates, for one thing. It had been decreed he should lose two hours out of his life, and he was salvaging these hours, he was going to hear music with his eves shut and there was nothing more delicious than hearing music with the eyes shut. He grew still more pleased with himself. The hall was filling faster. The slamming of seats was now almost continuous; several times spirits passed along his own aisle, brushing his knees vaguely and hissing soft excuses. There were people seated ahead of him; he heard a woman say, "Isn't it too bad?" There were people behind him; he heard a lady say, "I do like my Beethoven," in the tone of one saying, "I do like my coffee in the morning"—with condescension for the coffee. Some one plumped down into the seat to his left, and an odor of stale cigar-smoke told him the sex of this new neighbor. In the seat to the right there was as yet no one. He sent over an investigating hand to be sure. No, the seat was empty; no one was there. When she came, who would she be?

He remembered his system, of expecting always the worst, and answered, "Probably a he."

All about him now was a rustling of settling draperies and a subdued but eager rumor like the cackling of a barn-yard far away. A charming phenomenon followed—the invisible orchestra, upon the stage, tuned up. Strings hummed delicately, the reeds gave short runs of notes like drops of dew, a harp cascaded all the way down and all the way up again, discreet brasses blew forth bubbles of gold. All these voices, unrelated, singing each to itself in its own small world, yet united in a wild, free harmony like birds in a glade.

A baton tapped upon a desk; all the small voices scurried to silence, as if frightened; there was a last trill of some disobedient flute, a second rap, and then—

And then, simultaneously with the striking up of the orchestra, John knew that she had come. The seat to his right was occupied; she was there. He knew it, truth to tell, partly through the evidence of a sense much and wrongly decried—through a fragrance of violet, of pale violet, of the shadow of the ghost of a pale violet. But he knew it also, and still more surely, through something still more impalpable and subtle, yet ever the more penetrating, which could not be analyzed, which had no name, and yet which, invading his being deliciously, made him as sure, as sure as could be. Not for the slightest fraction of a second did he think the presence there by his side masculine.

But he was the child of a sceptic century. After a minute, under the cover of the torrents of music now flowing from the orchestra, he sent out his right hand on an imperceptible tour of exploration just beyond the legal confines of his seat. The scout did not go far, and John thrilled to the message. His fingers had touched the softness of a sealskin cloak; his heart leaped to the corroboration. It was a girl who sat there by him—a beautiful girl!

They sat side by side, he and she; he in his darkness, she in the light, but both enveloped in music; it was exquisite. The discovery he had lately made he did not allow to become useless; every now and then he moved his little finger and brought it into light contact with the warm, soft fur, and heaped surety upon surety, proof upon proof, thrill upon thrill.

It came to him suddenly, though, that one does not wear a garment of fur in a hot concert-hall. The cloak was not on her; she had cast it on the back of the seat behind her, where it served as background to her beauty: what he had been caressing so guardedly was something detached from her!

The sense of this disappointment, however, was soon lost. The thing was charming as it was—this being in a black night with an exquisite presence divined by his side. And this, to music! He found himself turning poet. He fashioned a proverb. "To sit silent and with closed eyes by beauty divined by—" it began.

It refused to do anything but begin, however, and after a few vague efforts he gave up his search for a second clause. His mind took refuge from idleness in a contemplation of the probable quality of the beauty invisible to him. She was dark, he decided. She had brown eyes—great gazelle eyes, liquid and profound. Her eyelids were a little heavy, he decided, and long-fringed; her beauty was a little austere and sad, yet infinitely tender.

How much better it was not to speak! How superb to forgo the gabblings of mere words and thus to sit side by side in silent and secret communication, walled in on all sides, as if in a cell, by the shifting tapestries of the music!

This being settled, he was taken with an overwhelming desire to speak to her, to hear her voice.

For the second time the orchestra had come to a stop. He had in his hands a program which Sam, upon leaving, had slipped him—in subtle irony, no doubt. He now rustled the sheet helplessly till he thought the effect had been gained. He then turned his head blindly one-quarter to the right and said:

"I beg your pardon, sir, but could you tell me what has been played?"

The answer did not come right away; his fate, for a moment, poised on the pinpoint of a hesitation. But when it came he was transported with delight. The voice was of gold,—of pure gold just slightly veiled, of frosted gold.

"I beg your pardon," he repeated, with great contrition. "I did not know—that it was a lady I was disturbing."

The voice, lowered now to a murmur, said, "There was no disturbance." And this was all.

But what had it said at first, the beautiful voice—what had it spoken to his first question? He could not remember. Oh yes! "That was the second movement," it had said. Wonderful words! They left still a chance open!

"I beg your pardon. But the second movement of what?" he pressed, quick as a flash.

"Of the fifth. Beethoven's fifth," the beautiful voice rang; a voice of gold without the violence of gold, a bell tolling deep in an ocean pool, vibrations of gold filtered through haze.

"It is the most wonderful music," he said, meaning her voice, "which I have ever heard."

"It is beautiful, isn't it?" she said, meaning the symphony. "And," she added, hopefully, "there are two more movements—the scherzo and the finale."

"Thank you," he said, penetratingly, as though it were she who had composed the piece, and she who had had the grace to see there should be more of it.

During the scherzo his feelings were mixed. He was glad there was more to the symphony, because he liked it. On the other hand, if there had not been more to it, the orchestra would now be playing a new selection, and he would be able to ask what it was. Now, when the scherzo would end, there would be nothing he could say to set a-chiming the golden voice. Oh yes, there was! Inspiration came to him with the last chord.

"That was the scherzo, wasn't it?" he brightly asked.

"It was," the marvelous voice answered, fireworks in his night. "Yes, that was the scherzo."

"And now we are going to have the finale," he continued, eagerly.

"Yes," the golden voice chimed, "the finale comes now."

How well they agreed! Two minds, etc.; two souls, etc.! O Ecstasy!

There was no symphony after that—short selections followed, each itself. A blessed soprano sang three distinct and separate songs, and then was prodigal with two encores, so that five times John obtained communication and was answered. The orchestra continued his good fortune. He said, "What was that?" and heard her exquisitely reply, "Mendelssohn's 'Fingal's Cave?’" He said, "And what was that?" and heard her answer, ineffably, "Weber's 'Invitation to the Dance.'" By that time a sweet sense of companionship, of secrets shared, was in his heart so strong that he knew it must also dwell in hers.

But the best of moments—especially the best—have a way of passing. The concert came to an end with a crashing chord.

John, sitting there blindly, felt the audience flowing out about him as a tide leaves a stranded boat. He knew She had arisen and stood near him. Then suddenly he knew she was not alone. Some one was standing by her, some one who had been sitting all this time to her right. She was not alone—everything was spoiled!

Then he heard her say: "This way, mother. Turn this way. It's this hook—there, I have it now!"

"Mother!" his being silently sang. "It is her mother, only her mother! Mother—the sweetest word of tongue or pen!"

He knew they were putting on their furs. A small moment of hesitation followed, and then, "Good afternoon!" he heard. "Good afternoon!" he cried, hastily rising in his night. A gentle rustling along the aisle diminished, grew faint, distant—they were gone, she was gone!

John sat down heavily and waited for Sam. He felt very much alone. The general swirl of departure which had been around him at first had now withdrawn far from him, about the exits—a milling there, a shuffling of feet and drone of conversations. It diminished, it stilled; the hall was hollow and empty. He cursed the faithless Sam. "Why couldn't he be on time!" A minute passed, and a door banged shut with a definite accent. "Good Lord! I'll be locked in!" he thought, and a second bang completed his panic. Picking up his hat and overcoat, he groped his way out of the row of seats and slowly up the carpeted incline of the main aisle. He had not gone far, however, ere he encountered a most lovely phenomenon—the golden voice, afloat there somewhere before him, a will-o'-the-wisp in the darkness. It was saying:

"I beg your pardon—but couldn't we help you? Aren't you a bit lost?"

"Could you help me?" he cried, enthusiastically. "I should think you could! Am I lost? I'm very much lost. My chum, who was to meet me here, has failed me and I'm going to be locked in!"

"We won't allow that," the other voice said, the voice of the one who had been called mother and who had had to be hooked up. It was a fairly nice voice, too, but of course one voice in this darkness would have been preferable. "Come; we'll take you outside."

John found himself going up the aisle pleasingly framed by two ladies. One was to his left, one to his right. Which was to his left and which was to his right he had no obvious way of knowing, yet with utter certitude he knew which was which. It was Golden Voice who was to his right; it was her little hand which held that elbow so lightly, which directed his blind steps so gently.

In the lobby they waited a little for Sam—who did not appear. And finally the mother said, "We will take you home."

"Oh no, please don't!" John protested, insincerely. "That would be far too much trouble. Besides, I am supposed to go to my oculist's first. If you will take me to a telephone I'll call for a messenger-boy to lead me. The oculist is quite near," he added, artfully, "Just down one block, and then across the street."

"If it is so near, why can't we do it?" that charming mother suggested. "Come—it will give us a little walk!"

No force had to be used on John, who could hardly believe his luck, and presently he found himself once more deliciously framed, and, with a hand on each elbow, descended the steps to the street. A dry snow had fallen, which was soft underfoot; there was no wind; it was wonderful walking—he would have liked to walk on thus forever. There had been a rearrangement of the positions, and now, without being told, he knew that Golden Voice was to his left, close to his heart.

And now they were crossing the street, and now they were on a tile floor, and now an implacable elevator came whizzing down while brazen doors slid open. And now he had been placed delicately within the elevator. "Good-by"—"Good-by"—and it was all over. The elevator boy did the rest and took him to the doctor's office.

That evening when Sam came in, using a trick known of many people, he immediately took the offensive.

"Where the deuce were you?" he thundered at the astonished John. "Looked all over for you! Where were you hiding yourself?"

John, recovering, told his friend what he thought of his dereliction. "Well," said the latter, after listening attentively, and, as far as appearances went at least, not much abashed, "you got along all right, Johnnie, didn't you. How did you make the riffle?" he asked, solicitously.

"I—I got a messenger-boy," said John, suddenly discovering that the truth was sacred, and his alone.

Sam opened his mouth like a fish—then closed it. "You are some boy," he said, after a moment.

"What do you mean?" John asked, surprised by this admiration.

"Oh, nothing," said Sam, "only that you are some fellow to have thought of that. To have thought of using a messenger-boy!"

John eyed him suspiciously, not quite satisfied. Upon which Sam lit a cigarette and strolled off into his own room.

This was in the evening. But it was only the next morning, upon waking up, that John remembered his much-neglected system.

He had awakened feeling very happy, without knowing why: then had remembered why, and had felt all the happier—when abruptly his system came down hard upon his head.

Yesterday he had forgotten it utterly: he had violated every one of its tenets.

He had sat, blinded, near a young woman, and immediately had imagined her beautiful! A young woman! Why, he didn't even know she was young! True, her mother had been there. But why shouldn't the mother be eighty, and she forty?

He had sat near a woman he could not see, and immediately had pictured her young and beautiful. He, at his age (twenty-three), with his experience! He had been a soft idiot, sentimental as any seminary girl!

The succeeding days saw him, a chastened and a wiser man, holding tight to the system. He recapitulated its tenets ceaselessly. "They're all pretty." he would say, "across the partition." And, "As long as you are walking behind she's a peach." He invented a new one: "They're all fair—in the dark!"

He came down from the general to the particular. "She's probably spectacled and forty," he exclaimed, violently—forty being his idea of ruin.

This hurt him dreadfully. It was as if, with an ax, he were shattering a marble statue, or with hobnails grinding a frail flower. But he gritted his teeth and persisted. "She may be cross-eyed," he cried, "with crooked teeth!"

Meanwhile, in the power of an obscure and violent urge, he was haunting the musical places as never before. He missed nothing. Recitals, quartets, oratorios, symphonies; high warbles of sopranos, bass rumblings, the colored screams of choruses and silken shimmerings of strings—he heard everything. At Carnegie Hall he was known for the strange insistence with which he asked always for the same seat—Number 5, Row K, m the orchestra. This mania was the subject of discussions between the young man and the young woman who "spelled" each other in the box-office. "He's a bit coo-coo," said the young man, lightly. "I s'pose so," the young woman agreed, reluctantly. "Isn't it too bad? Usually it's some old guy is that way—and he's so nice-looking. But I guess he's nuts, all right!"

He grew morose and strange. One walking behind him would have heard him talking to himself. "What bosh!" he would cry, stopping suddenly and with his right fist striking the palm of his left hand. This meant that he had caught himself with his system in full rout. That for an hour, for centuries, he had been dreaming of a girl with brown eyes—great gazelle eyes, liquid and profound. Of eyelids heavy and long- fringed, of a beauty a little austere and sad, yet infinitely tender. "What bosh!" He seized hold of his system savagely. "She may be an albino," he mused, in atrocious torture, "with pink eyes!"

What with this obsession, and his denial of it, he grew thin and a bit feverish. A half-inch came off the circumference of his neck. This loosened his collars and gave him an appearance pleasingly Byronesque. He came out with a Windsor tie. Meanwhile he neglected utterly his palette and his brushes.

Sam seemed to be following all this with a sort of morbid interest. Nearly every night he asked, "Well, where have you been to-day?"

John could feel him observe him out of the sides of his eyes, but would answer, frankly, "I heard Kreisler" (or Elman, or Schumann-Heink, or the Flonzaleys, ow whatever it might be), upon which Sam looked up to the ceiling and shook his head and groaned.

Weeks passed; spring was near, and also the end of the musical season. John was sitting in Carnegie Hall, seat 5 K, orchestra, waiting for the concert to begin, and exercising his system. "Now, the bearded lady," he was saying to himself. "I remember seeing her at Sells's circus when I was a child. The bearded lady did not own an unpleasant voice. It was rather a nice voice. Any one sitting by the bearded lady with his eyes shut and bandaged, hearing her voice, could well imagine her beautiful—"

A start broke abruptly the string of this bitter cogitation.

Just a little before, two ladies had entered the box diagonally across from him and his eyes had been resting on them unconsciously. They were dressed with quiet elegance; they bore themselves with gracious poise; their gestures were harmonious, and, without knowing it, John had been taking pleasure in the sight of them. "Mother and daughter," he had said to himself, even while his brain pursued a more serious subject. "They have on pretty hats."

Suddenly the eyes of the younger woman, slipping over the house, lit upon him. Immediately her hand groped for her mother's arm and pressed it; her lips moved. The mother, in turn, found him. For a moment both had their eyes upon him. Then, with a common movement, they faced each other and rippled into discreet merriment.

His heart leaped. "It's they," he thought, with absolute certitude. And then, "But why are they laughing? … It's they, anyhow. Oh, I'm going up to them!"

But the orchestra struck up and held him where he was. While waiting he observed. The young woman's hat sat most becomingly on her fine head. But he was keeping tight hold of himself. "Those big picture-hats—one can't tell a thing with one of those wide brims. They beautify like a halo; the details melt in their blue shadows; every one is beautiful, at a distance, beneath a picture-hat! … But why are they laughing at me."

Once more, unaware of being so closely watched, the two women had rested their eyes upon him, and then, turning to each other in common understanding, had bubbled forth with some secret joy.

He went up when the music had ceased, in rather a truculent state of mind. This rapidly left him as he approached, however, and when he finally stood at the curtains of the box a panic held him there a minute. But he broke through it and through the curtains. He was within the box; in their chairs they were turning toward him.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I beg your pardon, but—"

But now his carefully prepared speech went by the board in the confusion of two distinct and large surprises.

The first was to discover that all of this time, in spite of his efforts to expect the worst, he had been absolutely certain that she would prove beautiful. All of the time, inside himself, he had known she would be beautiful.

The second surprise was to find that, although she was not exactly beautiful, he did not care at all. He did not care at all, at all! He liked her that way! He altogether approved of her as she was. Their eyes met in frank pleasure; he felt his heart sliding toward her as if on a smooth, straight track.

"I beg your pardon," he said, "but—"

Her eyes were not at all those which he had been visioning—while pretending to himself he had not. They were not the profound brown wells in which he had dreamed of drowning himself. But they were better, much better. They were brown eyes with the quality of blue; brown eyes full of a gay, frank light that shone out in level rays beneath lashes curling upward; golden specks danced in them as dimples dance in rosy cheeks. And her nose was not the cold academic organ he had imagined his ideal; it turned up a bit, intelligently, and on its tip was an audacious freckle, set just a little askew—a most humorous, a most sympathetic freckle!

"I beg your pardon," he began again. "But—"

But instead of what he had meant to say, he found himself saying, "Why are you laughing at me?"

For they were laughing at him. Their eyes, upon him, were luminous with a secret merriment. "Why are you laughing?" he implored.

"Because we are so happy," said the mother. "So happy to see you well. And because we wasted so much sympathy upon you. 'Isn't it terrible.' we have been saying. 'Such a nice young man, blind so young!' We have wept over you, secretly, in our pillows at night!"

"You thought me blind!" John exclaimed, understanding. "But I wasn't," he went on, eager to efface this suspicion upon his manhood's invulnerability. "I was simply having my eyes tested. And there is nothing the matter with them."

"I can see that, clearly," said the mother.

Undeterred hy this slight attack, he took the chair nearest that of Golden Voice.

She had other freckles. Under her right eye were half a dozen—tiny grains of sand in the hollow there, in the bluish pool of soft shadow. They corrected what the first one, the jolly one, might have had of too jaunty and too robust; they were frail and delicate and languid; they were adorable. A monstrous idea came to John—what monstrous ideas young men have at that age! He thought that he would like to kiss her there; he would like to kiss those pale, frail freckles in the soft hollow there. Instead of doing this, though, he merely leaned toward her to whisper:

"And did you really weep in your pillow at night?"

"Oh no," she said, quickly. "That was mother!"

But at his evident discouragement she corrected herself. "Well—I did, too, a little bit. A little bit like that." She raised her hand and measured the quantity—a thin line of light between her thumb and finger.

"But now," she added, at the sight of his extravagant satisfaction, "now we laugh at you. Don't you think we have some right to laugh at you?"

He admitted that perhaps they had, and the conversation thus started did not stop there. What did they say? That it was a fine day. And what a great winter we have had, so good for skating—and don't you like to skate?—and, just crazy about it!—and, isn't tobogganing terribly exciting—and winter, on the whole, more fun than summer—except that summer is so wonderful—with the swimming and the yachting?—I just love the water, but aren't high mountains also marvelous? Thus they spoke light words while their young hearts beat hard, and the small words echoed and re-echoed within them as through vast halls, and their throats tightened. The mother was not deceived. Instinctively she had drawn her chair a little apart.

"How they do carry on!" she thought, tenderly, yet with an ache in her heart. "What pleasure they do take in each other—how bright are her eyes, how his eyes shine!"

When the concert was over very little music had been listened to. But this time, when leaving, John asked if he might call, and took the address. And, finding Sam home upon arriving in his rooms, so exhilarated was he that he made no attempt to hold his pleasure to himself.

"I've found them!" he cried, "and here's their address," he added, brandishing his note-book.

Sam looked' at him calmly and said, "If you had asked me, I should have given you that address long ago. It's the address of my California cousins, now in this city. When I took you, with your blinders, to the concert, I bought you a seat next to them on purpose. I knew they had taken you from the hall to the oculist. I have known all of the time whom you were hunting. And if only you had told me the truth, instead of the messenger-boy yarn, I should have given you their address long ago!"

"Sam," John cried, indifferent to all this, "she is the most wonderful creature ever placed upon this little earth ball since this little earth ball swam into the light!"

"I don't know about that," said Sam. "You see, we played together when we were children, so you'll excuse me for not feeling exactly as you do."

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1956, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 60 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.