Billeder på siden

he should condescend to puns and introduce “a man of very great standing and of very small feet." But these are rare, and the clever parts more than atone for these displays of "the lowest form of wit."

Have you never wished, as Mr. Andrew Lang expresses it, "that great authors, when their days of creation are over, when their minds grow grey and bald,' would condescend to tell us the history of their books?" What delightful reading it would be! We might know where an author got such and such an interesting character; how much he took from real life and how much was the creation of his own brain. But whether transplanted bodily from "fact to fiction" or constructed entirely in the author's imagination, the task of painting on the printed page requires infinite skill. Almost any man can make an automaton but it is the genius only, who can make his characters live in his books. Maartens is not an unqualified genius. Some of his characters live, others are mere manikins; but his little dissertations on selfishness, love, egotism, and every other text suggested by the story, show, that he has a keen insight into human nature, whatever his faculty for reproducing it may be.

The young Dutchman is a satirist, and "God's Fool" is one satire from cover to cover, on the folly of wealth for its own sake. Was not "the fool" the richest man in Koopstad? But the satire is the sugar coating to a very bitter pill, which every one must swallow sooner or later, and when you close the book you find you have taken the medicine very comfortably. Perhaps it is not always agreeable reading, especially if you have a conscience; people hate to have their faults picked out and thrust under their very noses, but let me quote the fable in the preface to "God's Fool:" "There was a man once-a satirist. In the natural course of time his friends slew him and he died. And the people came and stood about his corpse. 'He treated the whole round world as his foot ball,' they said indignantly, and he kicked it.' The dead man opened one eye. 'But always toward the Goal,' he said." William Adams Delano.

[ocr errors]


It was some fair despoiler's hand,

That, mov'd perchance by love and pride Was not content to let thee stand

In some dim chamber-side by side With dusty memories of a time

That did not find thy purpose vainBut touch'd that golden youth of thine, Those years of strength to life again.

Modest, demure, like those quaint days
Of sweet and gentle thoughts gone by
It seems to look in calm amaze

Upon the scenes about that lie.
And, in the mildly glanc'd surprise,
A tender scorn that it should be
A passing whim to modern eyes,
A mere caprice, may one not see?

Is it not more? The distant years

Before the spell-bound memory steal;

A daintily-slipper'd foot appears,
And busily whirls the thrifty wheel;
A quiet love-song fills the air,

Pure as the gentle eyes that gleam
Beneath the restless golden hair,

Touch'd by the sun's departing beam.

May she who thus has seem'd to prize
This gift of former years, attain
The meaning that within it lies;—
In her those virtues live again;
As calm and useful may her days

Glide with a music sweet and low,

And dexterous spin her woof of praise
Nor snapping threads of evil know.

Burton J. Hendrick.



ISHT de good Lawd 'd set me ter nussin' a passe er wuthless kittens an' you ter breakin' stone an' s'portin' de fambly!"

Old Gilbert pushed his tattered felt hat back from his forehead and mopped his face fretfully with his shirt sleeve. His words were addressed to an ugly black and yellow cat, reclining on his coat under the shade of a very faded umbrella; she was surrounded by a squirming family of small kittens.

"'Deed, de cat is dat p'sumtus," he continued, addressing his hammer, "she think 'cause she cry a little I'se gwine give her a snack 'fo' I eats my own-she is dat owdacious!"

He opened his dinner pail and drew forth a few scraps of raw meat, which he held out to the cat. She mewed,

but did not stir.


Lawd! Huh! 'Deed, 'Sandra, you is shameful! What you take me for, cat?" he exclaimed.

Nevertheless he laboriously got up and laid down the meat in front of her.

It was terribly hot, even for the Fourth of July. The hot air shimmered steadily over the rectangular piles of broken stone that dotted the vacant lots and above the tin roofs of the shanties nearer the city. Only the parallel rows of white washed tree boxes, topped with wilted bunches of cottonwood leaves, showed where the streets ought to be. Great signs of rival real estate brokers glared uselessly at one another between the tree boxes. Beyond the broad swampy valley of the eastern branch of the Potomac stretched the dismal Maryland hills. The Eastern Branch itself had a dull gleam in the sun like molten lead. The rattling of firecrackers, and the deeper boom of toy cannon from the city told of the celebration of the day. Church chimes, over beyond the Capitol, were ringing out "America."

[ocr errors]

Old Gilbert rested from his stone breaking to listen. 'Heah dat, 'Sandra?" he said. "Listen, chile!"

Cassandra munched her meat scraps with vicious energy and took no heed except to move the tip of her tail. It was owing to Cassandra that Gilbert was the only stone breaker working on "the commons" on the Fourth of July. She would not have liked to stay at home in the immediate neighborhood of exploding firecrackers. If they could not stay at home, he thought, they might as well be working, although he had a half guilty feeling as if he were breaking the Sabbath.

The cat was scarcely more indebted to him than he to her. She had made her appearance on his threshold one cold November night. Gilbert had just returned from his wife's funeral. The old man's married life had been one long continued quarrel. The neighbors had often felt it necessary to interfere between him and his wife. But when she was gone and there was really no one for him to quarrel with about the supper-and no supper for that matter to quarrel over-old Gilbert felt very much alone. While he sat before the stove with his head on his hands there was a scratching at the door; he opened it and let in Cassandra. There could hardly have been a more ungainly and ugly cat. But to Gilbert in his loneliness she seemed beautiful. He named her for his wifeCassandra.

Whether it was because the cat never talked back or because of her air of calm critical acceptance of his favors does not appear, but at any rate he became her slave. Stone breaking is not a lucrative employment at twentyfive cents the cubic yard, but there was always enough to buy meat scraps for Cassandra even though Gilbert himself lived on corn meal and molasses.

He and his wife had both thoroughly disliked the meddlesome neighbors, and after her death Gilbert made no attempt to become particularly friendly with them. If his devotion to the happiness of the cat and her frequent offspring caused comment, none of it reached him. If the people laughed at him when they met him on the way to

work, he did not realize it. He was a quaint figure, bent and tattered, with the umbrella and his hammer on his shoulder, his battered dinner pail in his hand and his pockets bulging with mewing kittens, while the black and yellow cat marched at his heels with careless dignity. By the time the kittens grew too large for pocket transportation they were able to trot along in a motley crowd around their mother. They were always given away soon after this stage was reached. There was a superstition in shanty town that "Unc' Gilbert's kittens" brought good luck. He did not mind parting with them after he found that Cassandra did not care.

It seemed as if the sun had never been so hot before as on this Fourth of July. The brick yard mules, scattered here and there over the commons enjoying their unusual holiday tried to get their heads into the scanty shade of the young cottonwoods, and kicked and switched at the fleas with increasing nervousness. Cassandra's kittens were many and fretful. The stones almost scorched Gilbert's hands as he set them in position for cracking. There was a queer dizzy feeling about his head that was new to him. Clusters of black spots danced before his eyes, and he caught himself reeling forward over his work. He was frightened.

[ocr errors]

'Sandra," he said timidly, "de ole man's scart. Somethin's gwine wrong, sommers."

The cat picked her way anxiously over the hot sharp stones and rubbed against him. Gilbert scratched her head meditatively.

"I reckon," he said, "we better go ter de 'spensary 'bout dis, 'Sandra; for 'deed I'se scart!"

He had only been to the dispensary once before, when his wife was sick; he had a healthy man's scorn of doctors; but now, panic stricken, he found himself tempted to start on a run toward the city.

He gathered a heap of weeds and made Cassandra comfortable upon them and arranged the umbrella over her again. He could not very well take her to the doctor's-not because of the unusualness of such a proceed

« ForrigeFortsæt »