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´╗┐Title: A Cathedral Singer
Author: Allen, James Lane, 1849-1925
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Cathedral Singer" ***

A Cathedral Singer


A Cathedral Singer


Author of "The Sword of Youth," "The Bride of the Mistletoe," "The
Kentucky Cardinal," "The Choir Invisible," etc.


NEW YORK THE CENTURY CO. 1916 Copyright, 1914, 1916, by THE CENTURY CO.

_Published, March, 1916_


A Cathedral Singer


Slowly on Morningside Heights rises the Cathedral of St. John the
Divine: standing on a high rock under the Northern sky above the long
wash of the untroubled sea, above the wash of the troubled waves of men.

It has fit neighbors. Across the street to the north looms the
many-towered gray-walled Hospital of St. Luke--cathedral of our ruins,
of our sufferings and our dust, near the cathedral of our souls.

Across the block to the south is situated a shed-like two-story building
with dormer-windows and a crumpled three-sided roof, the studios of the
National Academy of Design; and under that low brittle skylight youth
toils over the shapes and colors of the visible vanishing paradise of
the earth in the shadow of the cathedral which promises an unseen, an
eternal one.

At the rear of the cathedral, across the roadway, stands a low stone
wall. Just over the wall the earth sinks like a precipice to a green
valley bottom far below. Out here is a rugged slope of rock and verdure
and forest growth which brings into the city an ancient presence,
nature--nature, the Elysian Fields of the art school, the potter's field
of the hospital, the harvest field of the church.

This strip of nature fronts the dawn and is called Morningside Park.
Past the foot of it a thoroughfare stretches northward and southward,
level and wide and smooth. Over this thoroughfare the two opposite-moving
streams of the city's traffic and travel rush headlong. Beyond the
thoroughfare an embankment of houses shoves its mass before the eyes,
and beyond the embankment the city spreads out over flats where human
beings are as thick as river reeds.

Thus within small compass humanity is here: the cathedral, the hospital,
the art school, and a strip of nature, and a broad highway along which,
with their hearth-fires flickering fitfully under their tents of stone,
are encamped life's restless, light-hearted, heavy-hearted Gipsies.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was Monday morning and it was nine o'clock. Over at the National
Academy of Design, in an upper room, the members of one of the women's
portrait classes were assembled, ready to begin work. Easels had been
drawn into position; a clear light from the blue sky of the last of
April fell through the opened roof upon new canvases fastened to the
frames. And it poured down bountifully upon intelligent young faces. The
scene was a beautiful one, and it was complete except in one particular:
the teacher of the class was missing--the teacher and a model.

Minutes passed without his coming, and when at last he did enter the
room, he advanced two or three steps and paused as though he meant
presently to go out again. After his usual quiet good-morning with his
sober smile, he gave his alert listeners the clue to an unusual

"I told the class that to-day we should begin a fresh study. I had not
myself decided what this should be. Several models were in reserve, any
one of whom could have been used to advantage at this closing stage of
the year's course. Then the unexpected happened: on Saturday a stranger,
a woman, came to see me and asked to be engaged. It is this model that I
have been waiting for down-stairs."

Their thoughts instantly passed to the model: his impressive manner, his
respectful words, invested her with mystery, with fascination. His
countenance lighted up with wonderful interest as he went on:

"She is not a professional; she has never posed. In asking me to engage
her she proffered barely the explanation which she seemed to feel due
herself. I turn this explanation over to you because she wished, I
think, that you also should not misunderstand her. It is the fee, then,
that is needed, the model's wage; she has felt the common lash of the
poor. Plainly here is some one who has stepped down from her place in
life, who has descended far below her inclinations, to raise a small sum
of money. Why she does so is of course her own sacred and delicate
affair. But the spirit in which she does this becomes our affair,
because it becomes a matter of expression with her. This self-sacrifice,
this ordeal which she voluntarily undergoes to gain her end, shows in
her face; and if while she poses, you should be fortunate enough to see
this look along with other fine things, great things, it will be your
aim to transfer them all to your canvases--if you can."

He smiled at them with a kind of fostering challenge to their
over-confident impulses and immature art. But he had not yet fully
brought out what he had in mind about the mysterious stranger and he

"We teachers of art schools in engaging models have to take from human
material as we find it. The best we find is seldom or never what we
would prefer. If I, for instance, could have my choice, my students
would never be allowed to work from a model who repelled the student or
left the student indifferent. No students of mine, if I could have my
way, should ever paint from a model that failed to call forth the finest
feelings. Otherwise, how can your best emotions have full play in your
work; and unless your best emotions enter into your work, what will your
work be worth? For if you have never before understood the truth, try to
realize it now: that you will succeed in painting only through the best
that is in you; just as only the best in you will ever carry you
triumphantly to the end of any practical human road that is worth the
travel; just as you will reach all life's best goals only through your
best. And in painting remember that the best is never in the eye, for
the eye can only perceive, the eye can only direct; and the best is
never in the hand, for the hand can only measure, the hand can only
move. In painting the best comes from emotion. A human being may lack
eyes and be none the poorer in character; a human being may lack hands
and be none the poorer in character; but whenever in life a person lacks
any great emotion, that person is the poorer in everything. And so in
painting you can fail after the eye has gained all necessary knowledge,
you can fail after your hand has received all necessary training, either
because nature has denied you the foundations of great feeling, or
because, having these foundations, you have failed to make them the
foundations of your work.

"But among a hundred models there might not be one to arouse such
emotion. Actually in the world, among the thousands of people we know,
how few stir in us our best, force us to our best! It is the rarest
experience of our lifetimes that we meet a man or a woman who literally
drives us to the realization of what we really are and can really do
when we do our best. What we all most need in our careers is the one who
can liberate within us that lifelong prisoner whose doom it is to remain
a captive until another sets it free--our best. For we can never set our
best free by our own hands; that must always be done by another."

They were listening to him with a startled recognition of their inmost
selves. He went on to drive home his point about the stranger:

"I am going to introduce to you, then, a model who beyond all the others
you have worked with will liberate in you your finer selves. It is a
rare opportunity. Do not thank me. I did not find her. Life's storms
have blown her violently against the walls of the art school; we must
see to it at least that she be not further bruised while it becomes her
shelter, her refuge. Who she is, what her life has been, where she comes
from, how she happens to arrive here--these are privacies into which of
course we do not intrude. Immediately behind herself she drops a curtain
of silence which shuts away every such sign of her past. But there are
other signs of that past which she cannot hide and which it is our
privilege, our duty, the province of our art, to read. They are written
on her face, on her hands, on her bearing; they are written all over
her--the bruises of life's rudenesses, the lingering shadows of dark
days, the unwounded pride once and the wounded pride now, the
unconquerable will, a soaring spirit whose wings were meant for the
upper air but which are broken and beat the dust. All these are sublime
things to paint in any human countenance; they are the footprints of
destiny on our faces. The greatest masters of the brush that the world
has ever known could not have asked for anything greater. When you
behold her, perhaps some of you may think of certain brief but eternal
words of Pascal: 'Man is a reed that bends but does not break.' Such is
your model, then, a woman with a great countenance; the fighting face of
a woman at peace. Now out upon the darkened battle-field of this
woman's face shines one serene sun, and it is that sun that brings out
upon it its marvelous human radiance, its supreme expression: the love
of the mother. Your model is the beauty of motherhood, the sacredness of
motherhood, the glory of motherhood: that is to be the portrait of her
that you are to paint."

He stopped. Their faces glowed; their eyes disclosed depths in their
natures never stirred before; from out those depths youthful, tender
creative forces came forth, eager to serve, to obey. He added a few

"For a while after she is posed you will no doubt see many different
expressions pass rapidly over her face. This will be a new and painful
experience to which she will not be able to adapt herself at once. She
will be uncomfortable, she will be awkward, she will be embarrassed,
she will be without her full value. But I think from what I discovered
while talking with her that she will soon grow oblivious to her
surroundings. They will not overwhelm her; she will finally overwhelm
them. She will soon forget you and me and the studio; the one ruling
passion of her life will sweep back into consciousness; and then out
upon her features will come again that marvelous look which has almost
remodeled them to itself alone."

He added, "I will go for her. By this time she must be waiting

As he turned he glanced at the screens placed at that end of the room;
behind these the models made their preparations to pose.

"I have arranged," he said significantly, "that she shall leave her
things down-stairs."

It seemed long before they heard him on the way back. He came slowly, as
though concerned not to hurry his model, as though to save her from the
disrespect of urgency. Even the natural noise of his feet on the bare
hallway was restrained. They listened for the sounds of her footsteps.
In the tense silence of the studio a pin-drop might have been
noticeable, a breath would have been audible; but they could not hear
her footsteps. He might have been followed by a spirit. Those feet of
hers must be very light feet, very quiet feet, the feet of the

He entered and advanced a few paces and turned as though to make way for
some one of far more importance than himself; and there walked forward
and stopped at a delicate distance from them all a woman, bareheaded,
ungloved, slender, straight, of middle height, and in life's middle
years--Rachel Truesdale.

She did not look at him or at them; she did not look at anything. It was
not her role to notice. She merely waited, perfectly composed, to be
told what to do. Her thoughts and emotions did not enter into the scene
at all; she was there solely as having been hired for work.

One privilege she had exercised unsparingly--not to offer herself for
this employment as becomingly dressed for it. She submitted herself to
be painted in austerest fidelity to nature, plainly dressed, her hair
parted and brushed severely back. Women, sometimes great women, have in
history, at the hour of their supreme tragedies, thus demeaned
themselves--for the hospital, for baptism, for the guillotine, for the
stake, for the cross.

But because she made herself poor in apparel, she became most rich in
her humanity. There was nothing for the eye to rest upon but her bare
self. And thus the contours of the head, the beauty of the hair, the
line of it along the forehead and temples, the curvature of the brows,
the chiseling of the proud nostrils and the high bridge of the nose, the
molding of the mouth, the modeling of the throat, the shaping of the
shoulders, the grace of the arms and the hands--all became conspicuous,
absorbing. The slightest elements of physique and of personality came
into view powerful, unforgetable.

She stood, not noticing anything, waiting for instructions. With the
courtesy which was the soul of him and the secret of his genius for
inspiring others to do their utmost, the master of the class glanced at
her and glanced at the members of the class, and tried to draw them
together with a mere smile of sympathetic introduction. It was an
attempt to break the ice. For them it did break the ice; all responded
with a smile for her or with other play of the features that meant
gracious recognition. With her the ice remained unbroken; she withheld
all response to their courteous overtures. Either she may not have
trusted herself to respond; or waiting there merely as a model, she
declined to establish any other understanding with them whatsoever. So
that he went further in the kindness of his intention and said:

"Madam, this is my class of eager, warm, generous young natures who are
to have the opportunity of trying to paint you. They are mere beginners;
their art is still unformed. But you may believe that they will put
their best into what they are about to undertake; the loyalty of the
hand, the respect of the eye, the tenderness of their memories,
consecration to their art, their dreams and hopes of future success. Now
if you will be good enough to sit here, I will pose you."

He stepped toward a circular revolving-platform placed at the focus of
the massed easels: it was the model's rack of patience, the mount of
humiliation, the scaffold of exposure.

She had perhaps not understood that this would be required of her, this
indignity, that she must climb upon a block like an old-time slave at an
auction. For one instant her fighting look came back and her eyes,
though they rested on vacancy, blazed on vacancy and an ugly red rushed
over her face which had been whiter than colorless. Then as though she
had become disciplined through years of necessity to do the unworthy
things that must be done, she stepped resolutely though unsteadily upon
the platform. A long procession of men and women had climbed thither
from many a motive on life's upward or downward road.

He had specially chosen a chair for a three-quarter portrait, stately,
richly carved; about it hung an atmosphere of high-born things.

Now, the body has definite memories as the mind has definite memories,
and scarcely had she seated herself before the recollections of former
years revived in her and she yielded herself to the chair as though she
had risen from it a moment before. He did not have to pose her; she had
posed herself by grace of bygone luxurious ways. A few changes in the
arrangement of the hands he did make. There was required some separation
of the fingers; excitement caused her to hold them too closely together.
And he drew the entire hands into notice; he specially wished them to be
appreciated in the portrait. They were wonderful hands: they looked
eloquent with the histories of generations; their youthfulness seemed
centuries old. Yet all over them, barely to be seen, were the marks of
life's experience, the delicate but dread sculpture of adversity.

For a while it was as he had foreseen. She was aware only of the
brutality of her position; and her face, by its confused expressions and
quick changes of color, showed what painful thoughts surged. Afterward a
change came gradually. As though she could endure the ordeal only by
forgetting it and could forget it only by looking ahead into the
happiness for which it was endured, slowly there began to shine out upon
her face its ruling passion--the acceptance of life and the love of the
mother glinting as from a cloud-hidden sun across the world's storm.
When this expression had come out, it stayed there. She had forgotten
her surroundings, she had forgotten herself. Poor indeed must have been
the soul that would not have been touched by the spectacle of her,
thrilled by her as by a great vision.

There was silence in the room of young workers. Before them, on the face
of the unknown, was the only look that the whole world knows--the love
and self-sacrifice of the mother; perhaps the only element of our better
humanity that never once in the history of mankind has been misunderstood
and ridiculed or envied and reviled.

Some of them worked with faces brightened by thoughts of devoted mothers
at home; the eyes of a few were shadowed by memories of mothers
alienated or dead.


That morning on the ledge of rock at the rear of the cathedral Nature
hinted to passers what they would more abundantly see if fortunate
enough to be with her where she was entirely at home--out in the

The young grass along the foot of this slope was thick and green;
imagination missed from the picture rural sheep, their fleeces wet with
April rain. Along the summit of the slope trees of oak and ash and maple
and chestnut and poplar lifted against the sky their united forest
strength. Between the trees above and the grass below, the embankment
spread before the eye the enchantment of a spring landscape, with late
bare boughs and early green boughs and other boughs in blossom.

The earliest blossoms on our part of the earth's surface are nearly
always white. They have forced their way to the sun along a frozen path
and look akin to the perils of their road: the snow-threatened lily of
the valley, the chill snowdrop, the frosty snowball, the bleak hawtree,
the wintry wild cherry, the wintry dogwood. As the eye swept the park
expanse this morning, here and there some of these were as the last
tokens of winter's mantle instead of the first tokens of summer's.

There were flushes of color also, as where in deep soil, on a projection
of rock, a pink hawthorn stood studded to the tips of its branches with
leaf and flower. But such flushes of color were as false notes of the
earth, as harmonies of summer thrust into the wrong places and become
discords. The time for them was not yet. The hour called for hardy
adventurous things, awakened out of their cold sleep on the rocks. The
blue of the firmament was not dark summer blue but seemed the sky's
first pale response to the sun. The sun was not rich summer gold but
flashed silver rays. The ground scattered no odors; all was the budding
youth of Nature on the rocks.

Paths wind hither and thither over this park hillside. Benches are
placed at different levels along the way. If you are going up, you may
rest; if you are coming down, you may linger; if neither going up nor
coming down, you may with a book seek out some retreat of shade and
coolness and keep at a distance the millions that rush and crush around
the park as waters roar against some lone mid-ocean island.

About eleven o'clock that morning, on one of these benches placed where
rock is steepest and forest trees stand close together and vines are
rank with shade, a sociable-looking little fellow of some ten hardy
well-buffeted years had sat down for the moment without a companion. He
had thrown upon the bench beside him his sun-faded, rain-faded,
shapeless cap, uncovering much bronzed hair; and as though by this
simple act he had cleared the way for business, he thrust one
capable-looking hand deep into one of his pockets. The fingers closed
upon what they found there, like the meshes of a deep-sea net filled
with its catch, and were slowly drawn to the surface. The catch
consisted of one-cent and five-cent pieces, representing the sales of
his morning papers. He counted the coins one by one over into the palm
of the other hand, which then closed upon the total like another net,
and dropped the treasure back into the deep sea of the other pocket.

His absorption in this process had been intense; his satisfaction with
the result 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_ 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 up 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 enlarged 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 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 satisfy his
heart, did not enable him to celebrate his instincts; and suddenly 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 middle 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 bird sang--a young bird
just finding 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 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 musician whose ears
brought tidings that greatly astonished him. The thought had at once
come to him of how the New York papers once in a while print a story of
the accidental finding in it of a wonderful voice--in 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 was roughest. Was
anything like this now to become his own experience? Falling on his ear
was an unmistakable gift of song, a wandering, haunting, unidentified
note under that early April blue. He had never heard anything like it.
It was a singing soul.

Voice alone did not suffice for his purpose; the singer's face,
personality, manners, some unfortunate strain in the blood, might debar
the voice, block its acceptance, ruin everything. He almost dreaded to
walk on, to explore what was ahead. But his road led 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 pouring out his full

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, as this man now did, it
meant papers and pennies. 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, 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 and
fortunate with the lad at his birth: blood will tell, and blood told
now even in this dirt and in these rags.

His reply bore testimony to how appreciative he felt of all that faced
him there so humanly on the rock.

"Thank you," he said, "I have read the papers."

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 an unfavorable look as though of a mind to take his true
measure; also as being of a mind to let the man know that he had not
taken the boy's measure.

The man smiled at being corrected to such good purpose; but before he
could speak again, the lad went on to clinch his correction:

"And I only say mister when I am selling papers and am not at home."

"What do you say when not selling papers and when you are at home?"
asked the man, forced to a smile.

"I say 'sir,' if I say anything," retorted the lad, flaring up, but
still polite.

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 professional situation as a public wonderful awful dinner at which
almost nothing was served that did not have a Southern flavor as from 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. There was the intrusion of the
South into every delicacy.

"We are Southerners," the lad had announced decisively; and there the
flavor was again, though this time as from a mere pepper-box in a school
basket. Thus his next remark was addressed to his own thoughts as well
as to the lad:

"And so _you_ are a Southerner!" he reflected audibly, looking down at
the Southern plague in small form.

"Why, yes, Mister, we are Southerners," replied the lad, with a gay and
careless patriotism; and as giving the 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."

This enthusiasm as to the front porch was assumed to be acceptable to
the listener. The battery might have been a Cherokee rose.

The man had listened with a quizzical light in his eyes.

"In what direction did you say that battery was pointed?"

"I didn't say; but it was pointed up this way, of course."

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 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?"


"And so your grandmother is your music teacher?"

It was the lad's turn to laugh.

"Granny isn't my grandmother; Granny is my mother."

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?"

"Only me."

"Has any one heard you sing?"

"Only she."

It had become 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; business
competition in New York had taught him that he who hesitates a moment is
lost. The boy seemed ready with his answers before he heard the man's

"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 blasted out of solid rock,--and looking downward, he pointed to
the first row of buildings in the distant flats.

"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 isn't any number. It's half a number. We live in the half that isn't
numbered; the other half gets the number."

"And you take your music lessons in one half?"

"Why, yes, Mister. Why not?"

"On a piano?"

"Why, yes, Mister; on _my_ piano."

"Oh, you have a piano, have you?"

"There isn't any sound in about half the keys. Granny says the time has
come to rent a better one. She has gone over to the art school to-day to
pose to get the money."

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

"Does your mother pose as a model?"

"No, Mister, she doesn't pose as a model. She's posing as herself. She
said I must have a teacher. 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 aren'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, and a good many young ones, who would gladly
pay that amount for your investments, for your securities."

The lad with eager upturned countenance did not conceal his amusement
while the man drew this picture of him as a living ragged gold-mine, as
actually put together and made up of pieces of fabulous treasure. A
child's notion of wealth is the power to pay for what it has not. The
wealth that childhood _is_, escapes childhood; it does not escape the
old. What most concerned the lad as to these priceless feet and hands
and eyes and ears was the hard-knocked-in fact that many a time he
ached throughout this reputed treasury of his being for a five-cent
piece, and these reputed millionaires, acting together and doing their
level best, could not produce one.

Nevertheless, this fresh and never-before-imagined image of his
self-riches amused him. It somehow put him over into the class of
enormously opulent things; and finding himself a little lonely on that
new landscape, he cast about for some object of comparison. Thus his
mind was led to the richest of all near-by objects.

"If I were worth a hundred million," he said, with a satisfied twinkle
in his eyes, "I would be as rich as the cathedral."

A significant silence followed. The man broke it with a grave surprised

"How did you happen to think of the cathedral?"

"I didn't happen to think of it; I couldn't help thinking of it."

"Have you ever been in the cathedral?" inquired the man more gravely

"Been in it! We go there all the time. It's our church. Why, good Lord!
Mister, we are descended from a bishop!"

The man laughed outright long and heartily.

"Thank you for telling me," he said as one who suddenly feels himself to
have become a very small object through being in the neighborhood of
such hereditary beatitudes and ecclesiastical sanctities. "Are you,
indeed? I am glad to know. Indeed, I am!"

"Why, Mister, we have been watching the cathedral from our windows for
years. We can see the workmen away up in the air as they finish one
part and then another part. I can count the Apostles on the roof. You
begin with James the Less and keep straight on around until you come out
at Simon. Big Jim and Pete are in the middle of the row." He laughed.

"Surely you are not going to speak of an apostle as Pete! Do you think
that is showing proper respect to an apostle?"

"But he was Pete when he was little. He wasn't an apostle then and
didn't have any respect."

"And you mustn't call an apostle Big Jim! It sounds dreadful!"

"Then why did he try to call himself James the Greater? That sounds
dreadful too. As far as size is concerned he is no bigger than the
others: they are all nine and a half feet. The Archangel Gabriel on the
roof, he's nine and a half. Everybody standing around on the outside of
the roof is nine and a half. If Gabriel had been turned a little to one
side, he would blow his trumpet straight over our flat. He didn't blow
anywhere one night, for a big wind came up behind him and blew him down
and he blew his trumpet at the gutter. But he didn't stay down," boasted
the lad.

Throughout his talk he was making it clear that the cathedral was a
neighborhood affair; that its haps and mishaps possessed for him the
flesh and blood interest of a living person. Love takes mental
possession of its object and by virtue of his affection the cathedral
had become his companion.

"You seem rather interested in the cathedral. Very much interested,"
remarked the man, strengthening his statement and with increased

"Why, of course, Mister. I've been passing there nearly every day since
I've been selling papers on the avenue. Sometimes I stop and watch the
masons. When I went with Granny to the art school this morning, she told
me to go home that way. I have just come from there. They are building
another one of the chapels now, and the men are up on the scaffolding.
They carried more rock up than they needed and they would walk to the
edge and throw big pieces of it down with a smash. The old house they
are using for the choir school is just under there. Sometimes when the
class is practising, I listen from the outside. If they sing high, I
sing high; if they sing low, I sing low. Why, Mister, I can sing up

He broke off abruptly. He had been pouring-out all kinds of confidences
to his new-found friend. Now he hesitated. The boldness of his nature
deserted him. The deadly preparedness failed. A shy appealing look came
into his eyes as he asked his next question--a grave question indeed:

"_Mister, do you love music?_"

"Do I love music?" echoed the startled musician, pierced by the
spear-like sincerity of the question, which seemed to go clean through
him and his knowledge and to point back to childhood's springs of
feeling. "Do I love music? Yes, some music, I hope. Some kinds of music,
I hope."

These moderate, chastened words restored the boy's confidence and
completely captured his friendship. Now he felt sure of his comrade,
and he put to him a more searching question:

"Do _you_ know anything about the cathedral?"

The man smiled guiltily.

"A little. I know a little about the cathedral," he admitted.

There was a moment of tense, anxious silence. And now the whole secret
came out:

"Do you know how boys get into the cathedral choir school?"

The man did not answer. He stood looking down at the lad, in whose eyes
all at once a great baffled desire told its story. Then he pulled out
his watch and merely said:

"I must be going. Good morning." He turned his way across the rock.

Disappointment darkened the lad's face when he saw that he was to
receive no answer; withering blight dried up its joy. But he recovered
himself quickly.

"Well, I must be going, too," he said bravely and sweetly. "Good
morning." He turned his way across the rock. But he had had a good time
talking with this stranger, and, after all, he _was_ a Southerner; and
so, as his head was about to disappear below the cliff, he called back
in his frank human gallant way:

"I'm glad I met you, Mister."

The man went up and the boy went down.

The man, having climbed to the parapet, leaned over the stone wall. The
tops of some of the tall poplar-trees, rooted far below, were on a level
with his eyes. Often he stopped there to watch them swaying like upright
plumes against the wind. They swayed now in the silvery April air with a
ripple of silvery leaves. His eyes sought out intimately the barely
swollen buds on the boughs of other forest trees yet far from leaf. They
lingered on the white blossoms of the various shrubs. They found the
pink hawthorn; in the boughs of one of those trees one night in England
in mid-May he had heard the nightingale, master singer of the non-human
world. Up to him rose the enchanting hillside picture of grass and moss
and fern. It was all like a sheet of soft organ music to his
nature-reading eyes.

While he gazed, he listened. Down past the shadows and the greenness,
through the blossoms and the light, growing fainter and fainter, went a
wandering little drift of melody, a haunting, unidentified sound under
the blue cathedral dome of the sky. He reflected again that he had never
heard anything like it. It was, in truth, a singing soul.

Then he saw the lad's sturdy figure bound across the valley to join
friends in play on the thoroughfare that skirts the park alongside the
row of houses.

He himself turned and went in the direction of the cathedral.

As he walked slowly along, one thing haunted him remorsefully--the
upturned face of the lad and the look in his eyes as he asked the
question which brought out the secret desire of a life: "Do you know how
boys get into the cathedral choir school?" Then the blight of
disappointment when there was no answer.

The man walked thoughtfully on, seemingly as one who was turning over
and over in his mind some difficult, delicate matter, looking at it on
all sides and in every light, as he must do.

Finally he quickened his pace as though having decided what ought to be
done. He looked the happier for his decision.


That night in an attic-like room of an old building opposite Morningside
Park a tiny supper-table for two stood ready in the middle of the floor;
the supper itself, the entire meal, was spread. There is a victory which
human nature in thousands of lives daily wins over want, that though it
cannot drive poverty from the scene, it can hide its desolation by the
genius of choice and of touch. A battle of that brave and desperate kind
had been won in this garret. Lacking every luxury, it had the charm of
tasteful bareness, of exquisite penury. The supper-table of cheap wood
roughly carpentered was hidden under a piece of fine long-used
table-linen; into the gleaming damask were wrought clusters of
snowballs. The glare of a plain glass lamp was softened by a too costly
silk shade. Over the rim of a common vase hung a few daffodils, too
costly daffodils. The supper, frugal to a bargain, tempted the eye and
the appetite by the good sense with which it had been chosen and
prepared. Thus the whole scene betokened human nature at bay but
victorious in the presence of that wolf, whose near-by howl startles the
poor out of their sleep.

Into this empty room sounds penetrated through a door. They proceeded
from piano-keys evidently so old that one wondered whether possibly they
had not begun to be played on in the days of Beethoven, whether they
were not such as were new on the clavichord of Bach. The fingers that
pressed them were unmistakably those of a child. As the hands wandered
up and down the keyboard, the ear now and then took notice of a broken
string. There were many of these broken strings. The instrument plainly
announced itself to be a remote, well-nigh mythical ancestor of the
modern piano, preternaturally lingering on amid an innumerable deafening
progeny. It suggested a superannuated human being whose loudest
utterances have sunk to ghostly whispers in a corner.

Once the wandering hands stopped and a voice was heard. It sounded as
though pitched to reach some one in an inner room farther away, possibly
a person who might just have passed from a kitchen to a bedroom to make
some change of dress. It was a very affectionate voice, very true and
sweet, very tender, very endearing.

"Another string snapped to-day. There's another key silent. There won't
be any but silent keys soon."

There must have been a reply. Responding to it, the voice at the piano
sounded again, this time very loyal and devoted to an object closer at

"But when we do get a better one, we won't kick the old one down-stairs.
It has done _its_ best."

Whereupon the musical ancestor was encouraged to speak up again while he
had a chance, being a very honored ancestor and not by any means dead in
some regions. Soon, however, the voice pleaded anew with a kind of
patient impatience:

"I'm awfully hungry. Aren't you nearly ready?"

The reply could not be heard.

"Are you putting on the dress _I_ like?"

The reply was not heard.

"Don't you want me to bring you a daffodil to wear at your throat?"

The reply was lost. For a few minutes the progenitor emptied his ancient
lungs of some further moribund intimations of tone. Later came another
protest, truly plaintive:

"You couldn't look any nicer! I'm awfully hungry!"

Then all at once there was a tremendous smash on the keys, a joyous
smash, and a moment afterward the door was softly opened.

Mother and son entered the supper-room. One of his arms was around her
waist, one of hers enfolded him about the neck and shoulders; they were
laughing as they clung to one another.

The teacher of the portrait class and his pupils would hardly have
recognized their model; the stranger on the hillside might not at once
have identified the newsboy. For model and newsboy, having laid aside
the masks of the day which so often in New York persons find it
necessary to wear,--- the tragic mask, the comic mask, the callous,
coarse, brutal mask, the mask of the human pack, the mask of the human
sty,--model and newsboy reappeared at home with each other as nearly
what in truth they were as the denials of life would allow.

There entered the room a woman of high breeding, with a certain
Pallas-like purity and energy of face, clasping to her side her only
child, a son whom she secretly believed to be destined to greatness. She
was dressed not with the studied plainness and abnegation of the model
in the studio, but out of regard for her true station and her motherly
responsibilities. Her utmost wish was that in years to come, when he
should look back upon his childhood, he would always remember with
pride his evenings with his mother. During the day he must see her
drudge, and many a picture of herself on a plane of life below her own
she knew to be fastened to his growing brain; but as nearly as possible
blotting these out, daily blotting them out one by one, must be the
evening pictures when the day's work was done, its disguises dropped,
its humiliations over, and she, a serving-woman of fate, reappeared
before him in the lineaments of his mother, to remain with him
throughout his life as the supreme woman of the human race, his idol
until death, his mother.

She now looked worthy of such an ideal. But it was upon him that her
heart lavished every possible extravagance when nightly he had laid
aside the coarse half-ragged fighting clothes of the streets. In those
after years when he was to gaze backward across a long distance, he must
be made to realize that when he was a little fellow, it was his mother
who first had seen his star while it was still low on the horizon; and
that from the beginning she had so reared him that there would be
stamped upon his attention the gentleness of his birth and a mother's
resolve to rear him in keeping with this through the neediest hours.

While he was in his bath, she, as though she were his valet, had laid
out trim house shoes and black stockings; and as the spring-night had a
breath of summer warmth, of almost Southern summer warmth, she had put
out also a suit of white linen knickerbockers. Under his broad sailor
collar she herself had tied a big, soft, flowing black ribbon of the
finest silk. Above this rose the solid head looking like a sphere on a
column of triumph, with its lustrous bronzed hair, which, as she brushed
it, she had tenderly stroked with her hands; often kissing the bronzed
face ardent and friendly to the world and thinking to herself of the
double blue in his eyes, the old Saxon blue of battle and the old Saxon
blue of the minstrel, also.

It was the evening meal that always brought them together after the
separation of the day, and he was at once curious to hear how everything
had gone at the art school. With some unsold papers under his arm he had
walked with her to the entrance, a new pang in his breast about her that
he did not understand: for one thing she looked so plain, so common. At
the door-step she had stopped and kissed him and bade him good-by. Her
quiet quivering words were:

"Go home, dear, by way of the cathedral."

If he took the more convenient route, it would lead him into one of the
city's main cross streets, beset with dangers. She would be able to sit
more at peace through those hours of posing if she could know that he
had gone across the cathedral grounds and then across the park as along
a country road bordered with young grass and shrubs in bloom and forest
trees in early leaf. She wished to keep all day before her eyes the
picture of him as straying that April morning along such a country
road--sometimes the road of faint far girlhood memories to her.

Then with a great incomprehensible look she had vanished from him. But
before the doors closed, he, peering past her, had caught sight of the
walls inside thickly hung with portraits of men and women in rich
colors and in golden frames. Into this splendid world his mother had
vanished, herself to be painted.

Now as he began ravenously to eat his supper he wished to hear all about
it. She told him. Part of her experience she kept back, a true part; the
other, no less true, she described. With deft fingers she went over the
somberly woven web of the hours, and plucking here a bright thread and
there a bright thread, rewove these into a smaller picture, on which
fell the day's far-separated sunbeams; the rays were condensed now and
made a solid brightness.

This is how she painted for him a bright picture out of things not many
of which were bright. The teacher of the portrait class, to begin, had
been very considerate. He had arranged that she should leave her things
with the janitor's wife down-stairs, and not go up-stairs and take them
off behind some screens in a corner of the room where the class was
assembled. That would have been dreadful, to have to go behind the
screens to take off her hat and gloves. Then instead of sending word for
her to come up, he himself had come down. As he led the way past the
confusing halls and studios, he had looked back over his shoulder just a
little, to let her know that not for a moment did he lose thought of
her. To have walked in front of her, looking straight ahead, might have
meant that he esteemed her a person of no consequence. A master so walks
before a servant, a superior before an inferior. Out of respect for her,
he had even lessened the natural noisiness of his feet on the bare
floor. If you put your feet down hard in the house, it means that you
are thinking of yourself and not of other people. He had mounted the
stairs slowly lest she get out of breath as she climbed. When he
preceded her into the presence of the class, he had turned as though he
introduced to them his own mother. In everything he did he was really a
man; that is, a gentleman. For being a gentleman is being really a man;
if you are really a man, you _are_ a gentleman.

As for the members of the class, they had been beautiful in their
treatment of her. Not a word had been exchanged with them, but she could
_feel_ their beautiful thoughts. Sometimes when she glanced at them,
while they worked, such beautiful expressions rested on their faces.
Unconsciously their natures had opened like young flowers, and as at the
hearts of young flowers there is for each a clear drop of honey, so in
each of their minds there must have been one same thought, the
remembrance of their mothers. Altogether it was as though they were
assembled there in honor of her, not to make use of her.

As to posing itself, one had not a thing to do but sit perfectly still!
One got such a good rest from being too much on one's feet! And they had
placed for her such a splendid carved-oak chair! When she took her seat,
all at once she had felt as if at home again. There were immense
windows; she had had all the fresh air she wished, and she did enjoy
fresh air! The whole roof was a window, and she could look out at the
sky: sometimes the loveliest clouds drifted over, and sometimes the
dearest little bird flew past, no doubt on its way to the park. Last,
but not least, she had not been crowded. In New York it was almost
impossible to secure a good seat in a public place without being nudged
or bumped or crowded. But that had actually happened to her. She had had
a delightful chair in a public place, with plenty of room in every
direction. How fortunate at last to remember that she might pose! It
would fit in perfectly at times when she did not have to go out for
needlework or for the other demands. Dollars would now soon begin to be
brought in like their bits of coal, by the scuttleful! And then the
piano! And then the teacher and the lessons! And _then_, and _then_--

Her happy story ended. She had watched the play of lights on his face as
sometimes he, though hungry, with fork in the air paused to listen and
to question. Now as she finished and looked across the table at the
picture of him under the lamplight, she was rewarded, she was content;
while he ate his plain food, out of her misfortunes she had beautifully
nourished his mind. He did not know this; but she knew it, knew by his
look and by his only comment:

"You had a perfectly splendid time, didn't you?"

She laughed to herself.

"Now, then," she said, coming to what had all along been most in her
consciousness--"now, then, tell me about _your_ day. Begin at the moment
_you_ left _me_."

He laid down his napkin,--he could eat no more, and there was nothing
more to eat,--and he folded his hands quite like the head of the house
at ease after a careless feast, and began his story.

Well, he had had a splendid day, too. After he had left her he had gone
to the dealer's on the avenue with the unsold papers. Then he had
crossed over to the cathedral, and for a while had watched the men at
work up in the air. He had walked around to the choir school, but no one
was there that morning, not a sound came from the inside. Then he had
started down across the park. As he sat down to count his money, a man
who had climbed up the hillside stopped and asked him a great many
questions: who taught him music and whether any one had ever heard him
sing. This stranger also liked music and he also went to the cathedral,
so he claimed. From that point the story wound its way onward across the
busy hours till nightfall.

It was a child's story, not an older person's. Therefore it did not draw
the line between pleasant and unpleasant, fair and unfair, right and
wrong, which make up for each of us the history of our checkered human
day. It separated life as a swimmer separates the sea: there is one
water which he parts by his passage. So the child, who is still wholly a
child, divides the world.

But as she pondered, she discriminated. Out of the long, rambling
narrative she laid hold of one overwhelming incident, forgetting the
rest: a passing stranger, hearing a few notes of his voice, had stopped
to question him about it. To her this was the first outside evidence
that her faith in his musical gift was not groundless.

When he had ended his story she regarded him across the table with
something new in her eyes--something of awe. She had never hinted to him
what she believed he would some day be. She might be wrong, and thus
might start him on the wrong course; or, being right, she might never
have the chance to start him on the right one. In either case she might
be bringing to him disappointment, perhaps the failure of his whole

Now she still hid the emotion his story caused. But the stranger of the
park had kindled within her that night what she herself had long tended
unlit--the alabaster flame of worship which the mother burns before the
altar of a great son.

An hour later they were in another small attic-like space next to the
supper-room. Here was always the best of their evening. No matter how
poor the spot, if there reach it some solitary ray of the great light of
the world, let it be called your drawing-room. Where civilization sends
its beams through a roof, there be your drawing-room. This part of the
garret was theirs.

In one corner stood a small table on which were some tantalizing books
and the same lamp. Another corner was filled by the littlest, oldest
imaginable of six-octave pianos, the mythical piano ancestor; on it were
piled some yellowed folios, her music once. Thus two different rays of
civilization entered their garret and fell upon the twin mountain-peaks
of the night--books and music.

Toward these she wished regularly to lead him as darkness descended over
the illimitable city and upon its weary grimy battle-fields. She liked
him to fall asleep on one or the other of these mountain-tops. When he
awoke, it would be as from a mountain that he would see the dawn. From
there let him come down to the things that won the day; but at night
back again to things that win life.

They were in their drawing-room, then, as she had taught him to call it,
and she was reading to him. A knock interrupted her. She interrogated
the knock doubtfully to herself for a moment.

"Ashby," she finally said, turning her eyes toward the door, as a
request that he open it.

The janitor of the building handed in a card. The name on the card was
strange to her, and she knew no reason why a stranger should call. Then
a foolish uneasiness attacked her: perhaps this unwelcome visit bore
upon her engagement at the studio. They might not wish her to return;
that little door to a larger income was to be shut in their faces.
Perhaps she had made herself too plain. If only she had done herself a
little more justice in her appearance!

She addressed the janitor with anxious courtesy:

"Will you ask him to come up?"

With her hand on the half-open door, she waited. If it should be some
tradesman, she would speak with him there. She listened. Up the steps,
from flight to flight, she could hear the feet of a man mounting like a
deliberate good walker. He reached her floor. He approached her door and
she stepped out to confront him. A gentleman stood before her with an
unmistakable air of feeling himself happy in his mission. For a moment
he forgot to state this mission, startled by the group of the two. His
eyes passed from one to the other: the picture they made was an unlooked
for revelation of life's harmony, of nature's sacredness.

"Is this Mrs. Truesdale?" he asked with appreciative deference.

She stepped back.

"I am Mrs. Truesdale," she replied in a way to remind him of his
intrusion; and not discourteously she partly closed the door and waited
for him to withdraw. But he was not of a mind to withdraw; on the
contrary, he stood stoutly where he was and explained:

"As I crossed the park this morning I happened to hear a few notes of a
voice that interested me. I train the voice, Madam. I teach certain
kinds of music. I took the liberty of asking the owner of the voice
where he lived, and I have taken the further liberty of coming to see
whether I may speak with you on that subject--about his voice."

This, then, was the stranger of the park whom she believed to have gone
his way after unknowingly leaving glorious words of destiny for her.
Instead of vanishing, he had reappeared, following up his discovery into
her very presence. She did not desire him to follow up his discovery.
She put out one hand and pressed her son back into the room and was
about to close the door.

"I should first have stated, of course," said the visitor, smiling
quietly as with awkward self-recovery, "that I am the choir-master of
the Cathedral of St. John the Divine."

Stillness followed, the stillness in which painful misunderstandings
dissolve. The scene slowly changed, as when on the dark stage of a
theater an invisible light is gradually turned, showing everything in
its actual relation to everything else. In truth a shaft as of celestial
light suddenly fell upon her doorway; a far-sent radiance rested on the
head of her son; in her ears began to sound old words spoken ages ago to
another mother on account of him she had borne. To her it was an

Her first act was to place her hand on the head of the lad and bend it
back until his eyes looked up into hers; his mother must be the first to
congratulate him and to catch from his eyes their flash of delight as he
realized all that this might mean: the fulfilment of life's dream for

Then she threw open the door.

"Will you come in?"

It was a marvelous welcome, a splendor of spiritual hospitality.

The musician took up straightway the purpose of his visit and stated it.

"Will you, then, send him to-morrow and let me try his voice?"

"Yes," she said as one who now must direct with firm responsible hand
the helm of wayward genius, "I will send him."

"And if his voice should prove to be what is wanted," continued the
music-master, though with delicate hesitancy, "would he be--free? Is
there any other person whose consent--"

She could not reply at once. The question brought up so much of the
past, such tragedy! She spoke with composure at last:

"He can come. He is free. He is mine--wholly mine."

The choir-master looked across the small room at his pupil, who, upon
the discovery of the visitor's identity, had withdrawn as far as
possible from him.

"And you are willing to come?" he asked, wishing to make the first
advance toward possible acquaintanceship on the new footing.

No reply came. The mother smiled at her awe-stricken son and hastened to
his rescue.

"He is overwhelmed," she said, her own faith in him being merely
strengthened by this revelation of his fright. "He is overwhelmed. This
means so much more to him than you can understand."

"But you will come?" the choir-master persisted in asking. "You _will_

The lad stirred uneasily on his chair.

"Yes, sir," he said all but inaudibly.

His inquisitive, interesting friend of the park path, then, was himself
choir-master of St. John's! And he had asked him whether _he_ knew
anything about the cathedral! Whether _he_ liked music! Whether _he_
knew how boys got into the school! He had betrayed his habit of idly
hanging about the old building where the choir practised and of singing
with them to show what he could do and would do if he had the chance;
and because he could not keep from singing. He had called one of the
Apostles Jim! And another Apostle Pete! He had rejoiced that Gabriel had
not been strong enough to stand up in a high wind!

Thus with mortification he remembered the day. Then his thoughts were
swept on to what now opened before him: he was to be taken into the
choir, he was to sing in the cathedral. The high, blinding, stately
magnificence of its scenes and processions lay before him.

More than this. The thing which had long been such a torture of desire
to him, the hope that had grown within him until it began to burst open,
had come true; his dream was a reality: he was to begin to learn music,
he was to go where it was being taught. And the master who was to take
him by the hand and lead him into that world of song sat there quietly
talking with his mother about the matter and looking across at him,
studying him closely.

No; none of this was true yet. It might never be true. First, he must be
put to the test. The man smiling there was sternly going to draw out of
him what was in him. He was going to examine him and see what he
amounted to. And if he amounted to nothing, then what?

He sat there shy, silent, afraid, all the hardy boldness and business
preparedness and fighting capacity of the streets gone out of his mind
and heart. He looked across at his mother; not even she could help him.

So there settled upon him that terror of uncertainty about their gift
and their fate which is known only to the children of genius. For
throughout the region of art, as in the world of the physical, nature
brings forth all things from the seat of sensitiveness and the young of
both worlds appear on the rough earth unready.

"You _do_ wish to come?" the choir-master persisted in asking.

"Yes, sir," he replied barely, as though the words sealed his fate.

The visitor was gone, and they had talked everything over, and the
evening had ended, and it was long past his bedtime, and she waited for
him to come from the bedroom and say good night. Presently he ran in,
climbed into her lap, threw his arms around her neck and pressed his
cheek against hers.

"Now on this side," he said, holding her tightly, "and now on the other
side, and now on both sides and all around."

She, with jealous pangs at this goodnight hour, often thought already of
what a lover he would be when the time came--the time for her to be
pushed aside, to drop out. These last moments of every night were for
love; nothing lived in him but love. She said to herself that he was the
born lover.

As he now withdrew his arms, he sat looking into her eyes with his face
close to hers. Then leaning over, he began to measure his face upon her
face, starting with the forehead, and being very particular when he got
to the long eyelashes, then coming down past the nose. They were very
silly and merry about the measuring of the noses. The noses would not
fit the one upon the other, not being flat enough. He began to indulge
his mischievous, teasing mood:

"Suppose he doesn't like my voice!"

She laughed the idea to scorn.

"Suppose he wouldn't take me!"

"Ah, but he _will_ take you."

"If he wouldn't have me, you'd never want to see me any more, would

She strained him to her heart and rocked to and fro over him.

"This is what I could most have wished in all the world," she said,
holding him at arm's-length with idolatry.

"Not more than a fine house and servants and a greenhouse and a carriage
and horses and a _new_ piano--not more than everything you used to

"More than anything! More than anything in this world!"

He returned to the teasing.

"If he doesn't take me, I'm going to run away. You won't want ever to
see me any more. And then nobody will ever know what becomes of me
because I couldn't sing."

She strained him again to herself and murmured over him:

"My chorister! My minstrel! My life!"

"Good night and pleasant dreams!" he said, with his arms around her neck
finally. "Good night and sweet sleep!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Everything was quiet. She had tipped to his bedside and stood looking at
him after slumber had carried him away from her, a little distance away.

"My heavenly guest!" she murmured. "My guest from the singing stars of

Though worn out with the strain and excitements of the day, she was not
yet ready for sleep. She must have the luxuries of consciousness; she
must tread the roomy spaces of reflection and be soothed in their
largeness. And so she had gone to her windows and had remained there
for a long time looking out upon the night.

The street beneath was dimly lighted. Traffic had almost ceased. Now and
then a car sped past. The thoroughfare along here is level and broad and
smooth, and being skirted on one side by the park, it offers to speeding
vehicles the illusive freedom of a country road. Across the street at
the foot of the park a few lights gleamed scant amid the April foliage.
She began at the foot of the hill and followed the line of them upward,
upward over the face of the rock, leading this way and that way, but
always upward. There on the height in the darkness loomed the cathedral.

Often during the trouble and discouragement of years it had seemed to
her that her own life and every other life would have had more meaning
if only there had been, away off somewhere in the universe, a higher
evil intelligence to look on and laugh, to laugh pitilessly at every
human thing. She had held on to her faith because she must hold on to
something, and she had nothing else. Now as she stood there, following
the winding night road over the rock, her thoughts went back and
searched once more along the wandering pathway of her years; and she
said that a Power greater than any earthly had led her with her son to
the hidden goal of them both, the cathedral.

The next day brought no disappointment: he had rushed home and thrown
himself into her arms and told her that he was accepted. He was to sing
in the choir. The hope had become an actuality.

Later that day the choir-master himself had called again to speak to her
when the pupil was not present. He was guarded in his words but could
not conceal the enthusiasm of his mood.

"I do not know what it may develop into," he said,--"that is something
we cannot foretell,--but I believe it will be a great voice in the
world. I do know that it will be a wonderful voice for the choir."

She stood before him mute with emotion. She was as dry sand drinking a

"You have made no mistake," she said. "It is a great voice and he will
have a great career."

The choir-master was impatient to have the lessons begin. She asked for
a few days to get him in readiness. She reflected that he could not make
his first appearance at the choir school in white linen knickerbockers.
These were the only suitable clothes he had.

This school would be his first, for she had taught him at home, haunted
by a sense of responsibility that he must be specially guarded. Now just
as the unsafe years came on for him, he would be safe in that fold. When
natural changes followed as follow they must and his voice broke later
on, and then came again or never came again, whatever afterward befell,
behind would be the memories of his childhood. And when he had grown to
full manhood, when he was an old man and she no longer with him,
wherever on the earth he might work or might wander, always he would be
going back to those years in the cathedral: they would be his safeguard,
his consecration to the end.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now a few days later she stood in the same favorite spot, at her
windows; and it was her favorite hour to be there, the coming on of

All day until nearly sundown a cold April rain had fallen. These
contradictory spring days of young green and winter cold the pious folk
of older lands and ages named the days of the ice saints. They really
fall in May, but this had been like one of them. So raw and chill had
been the atmosphere of the grateless garret that the window-frames had
been fastened down, their rusty catches clamped.

At the window she stood looking out and looking up toward a scene of
splendor in the heavens.

It was sunset, the rain was over, the sky had cleared. She had been
tracing the retreating line of sunlight on the hillside opposite. First
it crossed the street to the edge of the park, then crossed the wet
grass at the foot of the slope; then it passed upward over the bowed
dripping shrubbery and lingered on the tree-tops along the crest; and
now the western sky was aflame behind the cathedral.

It was a gorgeous spectacle. The cathedral seemed not to be situated in
the city, not lodged on the rocks of the island, but to be risen out of
infinite space and to be based and to abide on the eternity of light.
Long she gazed into that sublime vision, full of happiness at last, full
of peace, full of prayer.

Standing thus at her windows at that hour, she stood on the pinnacle of
her life's happiness.

From the dark slippery street shrill familiar sounds rose to her ear and
drew her attention downward and she smiled. He was down there at play
with friends whose parents lived in the houses of the row. She laughed
as those victorious cries reached the upper air. Leaning forward, she
pressed her face against the window-pane and peered over and watched
the group of them. Sometimes she could see them and sometimes not as
they struggled from one side of the street to the other. No one, whether
younger or older, stronger or weaker, was ever defeated down there;
everybody at some time got worsted; no one was ever defeated. All the
whipped remained conquerors. Unconquerable childhood! She said to
herself that she must learn a lesson from it once more--to have always
within herself the will and spirit of victory.

With her face still against the glass she caught sight of something
approaching carefully up the street. It was the car of a physician who
had a patient in one of the houses near by. This was his hour to make
his call. He guided the car himself, and the great mass of tons in
weight responded to his guidance as if it possessed intelligence, as if
it entered into his foresight and caution: it became to her, as she
watched it, almost conscious, almost human. She thought of it as being
like some great characters in human life which need so little to make
them go easily and make them go right. A wise touch, and their enormous
influence is sent whither it should be sent by a pressure that would not
bruise a leaf.

She chid herself once more that in a world where so often the great is
the good she had too often been hard and bitter; that many a time she
had found pleasure in setting the empty cup of her life out under its
clouds and catching the showers of nature as though they were drops of

All at once her attention was riveted on an object up the street. Around
a bend a few hundred yards away a huge wild devil of a thing swung
unsteadily, recklessly, almost striking the curb and lamp-post; and
then, righting itself, it came on with a rush--a mindless destroyer. Now
on one side of the street, now in the middle, now on the other side;
gliding along through the twilight, barely to be seen, creeping nearer
and nearer through the shadows, now again on the wrong side of the
street where it would not be looked for.

A bolt of horror shot through her. She pressed her face quickly against
the window-panes as closely as possible, searching for the whereabouts
of the lads. As she looked, the playing struggling mass of them went
down in the road, the others piled on one. She thought she knew which
one,--he was the strongest,--then they were lost from her sight, as they
rolled in nearer to the sidewalk. And straight toward them rushed that
destroyer in the streets. She tried to throw up the sashes. She tried to
lean out and cry down to him, to wave her hands to him with warning as
she had often done with joy. She could not raise the sashes. She had not
the strength left to turn the rusty bolts. Nor was there time. She
looked again; she saw what was going to happen. Then with frenzy she
began to beat against the window-sashes and to moan and try to stifle
her own moans. And then shrill startled screams and piteous cries came
up to her, and crazed now and no longer knowing what she did, she struck
the window-panes in her agony until they were shattered and she thrust
her arms out through them with a last blind instinct to wave to him, to
reach him, to drag him out of the way. For some moments her arms hung
there outside the shattered window-glass, and a shower of crimson drops
from her fingers splashed on the paving-stones below. She kept on waving
her lacerated hands more and more feebly, slowly; and then they were
drawn inward after her body which dropped unconscious to the garret


It was a gay scene over at the art school next morning. Even before the
accustomed hour the big barnlike room, with a few prize pictures of
former classes scattered about the walls, and with the old academy
easels standing about like a caravan of patient camels ever loaded with
new burdens but ever traveling the same ancient sands of art--even
before nine o'clock the barnlike room presented a scene of eager healthy
animal spirits. On the easel of every youthful worker, nearly finished,
lay the portrait of the mother. In every case it had been differently
done, inadequately done; but in all cases it had been done. Hardly could
any observer have failed to recognize what was there depicted. Beyond
smearings and daubings of paint, as past the edges of concealing clouds,
one caught glimpses of a serene and steadfast human radiance. There one
beheld the familiar image of that orb which in dark and pathless hours
has through all ages been the guardian light of the world--the mother.

The best in them had gone into the painting of this portrait, and the
consciousness of our best gives us the sense of our power, and the
consciousness of our power yields us our enthusiasm; hence the
exhilaration and energy of the studio scene.

The interest of the members of the class was not concerned solely with
the portrait, however: a larger share went to the model herself. They
had become strongly bound to her. All the more perhaps because she held
them firmly to the understanding that her life touched theirs only at
the point of the stranger in need of a small sum of money. Repulsed and
baffled in their wish to know her better, they nevertheless became aware
that she was undergoing a wonderful transformation on her own account.
The change had begun after the ordeal of the first morning. When she
returned for the second sitting, and then at later sittings, they had
remarked this change, and had spoken of it to one another--that she was
as a person into whose life some joyous, unbelievable event has fallen,
brightening the present and the future. Every day some old cloudy care
seemed to loose itself from its lurking-place and drift away from her
mind, leaving her face less obscured and thus the more beautifully
revealed to them. Now, with the end of the sittings not far off, what
they looked forward to with most regret was the last sitting, when she,
leaving her portrait in their hands, would herself vanish, taking with
her both the mystery of her old sorrows and the mystery of this new

Promptly at nine o'clock the teacher of the class entered, greeted them,
and glanced around for the model. Not seeing her, he looked at his
watch, then without comment crossed to the easels, and studied again the
progress made the previous day, correcting, approving, guiding,
encouraging. His demeanor showed that he entered into the mounting
enthusiasm of his class for this particular piece of work.

A few minutes were thus quickly consumed. Then, watch in hand once more,
he spoke of the absence of the model:

"Something seems to detain the model this morning. But she has sent me
no word and she will no doubt be here in a few minutes."

He went back to the other end of the studio and sat down, facing them
with the impressiveness which belonged to him even without speech. They
fixed their eyes on him with the usual expectancy. Whenever as now an
unforeseen delay occurred, he was always prompt to take advantage of the
interval with a brief talk. To them there were never enough of these
brief talks, which invariably drew human life into relationship to the
art of portraiture, and set the one reality over against the other
reality--the turbulence of a human life and the still image of it on the
canvas. They hoped he would thus talk to them now; in truth he had the
air of casting about in his mind for a theme best suited to the moment.

       *       *       *       *       *

That mother, now absent, when she had blindly found her way to him,
asking to pose, had fallen into good hands. He was a great teacher and
he was a remarkable man, remarkable even to look at. Massively built,
with a big head of black hair, olive complexion, and bluntly pointed,
black beard, and with a mold of countenance grave and strong, he looked
like a great Rembrandt; like some splendid full-length portrait by
Rembrandt painted as that master painted men in the prime of his power.
With the Rembrandt shadows on him even in life. Even when the sun beat
down upon him outdoors, even when you met him in the blaze of the city
streets, he seemed not to have emerged from shadow, to bear on himself
the traces of a human night, a living darkness. There was light within
him but it did not irradiate him.

Once he had been a headlong art student himself, starting out to become
a great painter, a great one. After years abroad under the foremost
masters and other years of self-trial with every favorable circumstance
his, nature had one day pointed her unswerved finger at his latest
canvas as at the earlier ones and had judged him to the quick: you will
never be a great painter. If you cannot be content to remain less, quit,

Thus youth's choice and a man's half a lifetime of effort and ambition
ended in abandonment of effort not because he was a failure but because
the choice of a profession had been a blunder. A multitude of men topple
into this chasm and crawl out nobody. Few of them at middle age in the
darkness of that pit of failure can grope within themselves for some
second candle and by it once more become illumined through and through.
He found _his_ second candle,--it should have been his first,--and he
lighted it and it became the light of his later years; but it did not
illumine him completely, it never dispelled the shadows of the flame
that had burned out. What he did was this: having reached the end of his
own career as a painter, he turned and made his way back to the fields
of youth, and taking his stand by that ever fresh path, always, as
students would rashly pass him, he halted them like a wise monitor,
describing the best way to travel, warning of the difficulties of the
country ahead, but insisting that the goal was worth the toil and the
trouble; searching secretly among his pupils year after year for signs
of what he was not, a great painter, and pouring out his sympathies on
all those who, like himself, would never be one.

Now he sat looking across at his class, the masterful teacher of them.
They sat looking responsively at him. Then he took up his favorite

"Your work on this portrait is your best work, because the model, as I
stated to you at the outset would be the case, has called forth your
finer selves; she has caused you to _feel_. And she has been able to do
this because her countenance, her whole being, radiates one of the great
passions and faiths of our common humanity--the look of reverent
motherhood. You recognize that look, that mood; you believe in it; you
honor it; you have worked over its living eloquence. Observe, then, the
result. Turn to your canvases and see how, though proceeding
differently, you have all dipped your brushes as in a common medium;
how you have all drawn an identical line around that old-time human
landmark. You have in truth copied from her one of the great
beacon-lights of expression that has been burning and signaling through
ages upon ages of human history--the look of the mother, the angel of
self-sacrifice to the earth.

"While we wait, we might go a little way into this general matter, since
you, in the study of portraiture, will always have to deal with it. This
look of hers, which you have caught on your canvases, and all the other
great beacon-lights of human expression, stand of course for the inner
energies of our lives, the leading forces of our characters. But, as
ages pass, human life changes; its chief elements shift their relative
places, some forcing their way to the front, others being pushed to the
rear; and the prominent beacon-lights change correspondingly. Ancient
ones go out, new ones appear; and the art of portraiture, which is the
undying historian of the human countenance, is subject to this shifting
law of the birth and death of its material.

"Perhaps more ancient lights have died out of human faces than modern
lights have been kindled to replace them. Do you understand why? The
reason is this: throughout an immeasurable time the aim of nature was to
make the human countenance as complete an instrument of expression as it
could possibly be. Man, except for his gestures and wordless sounds, for
ages had nothing else with which to speak; he must speak with his face.
And thus the primitive face became the chronicle of what was going on
within him as well as of what had taken place without. It was his
earliest bulletin-board of intelligence. It was the first parchment to
bear tidings; it was the original newspaper; it was the rude, but vivid,
primeval book of the woods. The human face was all that. Ages more had
to pass before spoken language began, and still other ages before
written language began. Thus for an immeasurable time nature developed
the face and multiplied its expressions to enable man to make himself
understood. At last this development was checked; what we may call the
natural occupation of the face culminated. Civilization began, and as
soon as civilization began, the decline in natural expressiveness began
with it. Gradually civilization supplanted primeval needs; it contrived
other means for doing what the face alone had done frankly,
marvelously. When you can print news on paper, you may cease to print
news on the living countenance. Moreover, the aim of civilization is to
develop in us the consciousness not to express, but to suppress. Its aim
is not to reveal, but to conceal, thought and emotion; not to make the
countenance a beacon-light, but a muffler of the inner candle, whatever
that candle for the time may be. All our ruling passions, good or bad,
noble or ignoble, we now try publicly to hide. This is civilization. And
thus the face, having started out expressionless in nature, tends
through civilization to become expressionless again.

"How few faces does any one of us know that frankly radiate the great
passions and moods of human nature! What little is left of this ancient
tremendous drama is the poor pantomime of the stage. Search crowds,
search the streets. See everywhere masked faces, telling as little as
possible to those around them of what they glory in or what they suffer.
Search modern portrait galleries. Do you find portraits of either men or
women who radiate the overwhelming passions, the vital moods, of our
galled and soaring nature? It is not a long time since the Middle Ages.
In the stretch of history centuries shrink to nothing, and the Middle
Ages are as the earlier hours of our own historic day. But has there not
been a change even within that short time? Did not the medieval
portrait-painters portray in their sitters great moods as no painter
portrays them now? How many painters of to-day can find great moods in
the faces of their sitters?

"And so I come again to your model. What makes her so remarkable, so
significant, so touching, so exquisite, so human, is the fact that her
face seems almost a survival out of a past in which the beacon-lights of
humanity did more openly appear on the features. In her case one
beacon-light most of all,--the greatest that has ever shone on the faces
of women,--the one which seems to be slowly vanishing from the faces of
modern women--the look of the mother: that transfiguration of the
countenance of the mother who believed that the birth of a child was the
divine event in her existence, and the emotions and energies of whose
life centered about her offspring. How often does any living painter
have his chance to paint that look now! Galleries are well filled with
portraits of contemporary women who have borne children: how often among
these is to be found the portrait of the mother of old?"

He rose. The talk was ended. He looked again at his watch, and said:

"It does not seem worth while to wait longer. Evidently your model has
been kept away to-day. Let us hope that no ill has befallen her and that
she will be here to-morrow. If she is here, we shall go on with the
portrait. If she should not be here, I shall have another model ready,
and we shall take up another study until she returns. Bring fresh

He left the room. They lingered; looking again at their canvases,
understanding their own work as they had not hitherto and more strongly
than ever drawn toward their model whom that day they missed. Slowly and
with disappointment and with many conjectures as to why she had not
come, they separated.


It was Sunday. All round St. Luke's Hospital quiet reigned. The day was
very still up there on the heights under the blue curtain of the sky.

When he had been hurled against the curb on the dark street, had been
rolled over and tossed there and left there with no outcry, no movement,
as limp and senseless as a mangled weed, the careless crowd which
somewhere in the city every day gathers about such scenes quickly
gathered about him. In this throng was the physician whose car stood
near by; and he, used to sights of suffering but touched by that tragedy
of unconscious child and half-crazed mother, had hurried them in his
own car to St. Luke's--to St. Luke's, which is always open, always
ready, and always free to those who lack means.

Just before they stopped at the entrance she had pleaded in the doctor's
ear for a luxury.

"To the private ward," he said to those who lifted the lad to the
stretcher, speaking as though in response to her entreaty.

"One of the best rooms," he said before the operation, speaking as
though he shouldered the responsibility of the further expense. "And a
room for her near by," he added. "Everything for them! Everything!"

       *       *       *       *       *

So there he was now, the lad, or what there was left of him, this quiet
Sunday, in a pleasant room opposite the cathedral. The air was like
early summer. The windows were open. He lay on his back, not seeing
anything. The skin of his forehead had been torn off; there was a
bandage over his eyes. And there were bruises on his body and bruises on
his face, which was horribly disfigured. The lips were swollen two or
three thicknesses; it was agony for him to speak. When he realized what
had happened, after the operation, his first mumbled words to her were:

"They will never have me now."

About the middle of the forenoon of this still Sunday morning, when the
doctor left, she followed him into the hall as usual, and questioned him
as usual with her eyes. He encouraged her and encouraged himself:

"I believe he is going to get well. He has the will to get well, he has
the bravery to get well. He is brave about it; he is as brave as he can

"Of course he is brave," she said scornfully. "Of course he is brave."

"The love of such a mother would call him back to life," he added, and
he laid one of his hands on her head for a moment.

"Don't do that," she said, as though the least tenderness toward herself
at such a moment would unnerve her, melt away all her fortitude.

Everybody had said he was brave, the head nurse, the day nurse, the
night nurse, the woman who brought in the meals, the woman who scrubbed
the floor. All this had kept her up. If anybody paid any kind of tribute
to him, realized in any way what he was, this was life to her.

After the doctor left, as the nurse was with him, she walked up and down
the halls, too restless to be quiet.

At the end of one hall she could look down on the fragrant leafy park.
Yes, summer was nigh. Where a little while before had been only white
blossoms, there were fewer white now, more pink, some red, many to match
the yellow of the sun. The whole hillside of swaying; boughs seemed to
quiver with happiness. Her eyes wandered farther down to the row of
houses at the foot of the park. She could see the dreadful spot on the
street, the horrible spot. She could see her shattered window-panes up
above. The points of broken glass still seemed to slit the flesh of her
hands within their bandages.

She shrank back and walked to the end of the transverse hall. Across the
road was the cathedral. The morning service was just over. People were
pouring out through the temporary side doors and the temporary front
doors so placidly, so contentedly! Some were evidently strangers; as
they reached the outside they turned and studied the cathedral curiously
as those who had never before seen it. Others turned and looked at it
familiarly, with pride in its unfolding form. Some stopped and looked
down at the young grass, stroking it with the toes of their fine shoes;
they were saying how fresh and green it was. Some looked up at the sky;
they were saying how blue it was. Some looked at one another keenly;
they were discussing some agreeable matter, being happy to get back to
it now after the service. Not one of them looked across at the hospital.
Not a soul of them seemed to be even aware of its existence. Not a soul
of them!

Particularly her eyes became riveted upon two middle-aged ladies in
black who came out through a side door of the cathedral--slow-paced
women, bereft, full of pity. As they crossed the yard, a gray squirrel
came jumping along in front of them on its way to the park. One stooped
and coaxed it and tried to pet it: it became a vital matter with both of
them to pour out upon the little creature which had no need of it their
pent-up, ungratified affection. With not a glance to the window where
she stood, with her mortal need of them, her need of all mothers, of
everybody--her mortal need of everybody! Why were they not there at his
bedside? Why had they not heard? Why had not all of them heard? Why had
anything else been talked of that day? Why were they not all massed
around the hospital doors, tearful with their sympathies? How could they
hold services in the cathedral--the usual services? Why was it not
crowded to the doors with the clergy of all faiths and the laymen of
every land, lifting one outcry against such destruction? Why did they
not stop building temples to God, to the God of life, to the God who
gave little children, until they had stopped the massacre of children,
His children in the streets!

Yes; everybody had been kind. Even his little rivals who had fought with
him over the sale of papers had given up some of their pennies and had
bought flowers for him, and one of them had brought their gift to the
main hospital entrance. Every day a shy group of them had gathered on
the street while one came to inquire how he was. Kindness had rained on
her; there was that in the sight of her that unsealed kindness in every

She had been too nearly crazed to think of this. Her bitterness and
anguish broke through the near cordon of sympathy and went out against
the whole brutal and careless world that did not care--to legislatures
that did not care, to magistrates that did not care, to juries that did
not care, to officials that did not care, to drivers that did not care,
to the whole city that did not care about the massacre in the streets.

Through the doors of the cathedral the people streamed out unconcerned.
Beneath her, along the street, young couples passed, flushed with their
climb of the park hillside, and flushed with young love, young health.
Sometimes they held each other's hands; they innocently mocked her agony
with their careless joy.

One last figure issued from the side door of the cathedral hurriedly and
looked eagerly across at the hospital--looked straight at her, at the
window, and came straight toward the entrance below--the choir-master.
She had not sent word to him or to any one about the accident; but he,
when his new pupil had failed to report as promised, had come down to
find out why. And he, like all the others, had been kind; and he was
coming now to inquire what he could do in a case where nothing could be
done. She knew only too well that nothing could be done.

       *       *       *       *       *

The bright serene hours of the day passed one by one with nature's
carelessness about the human tragedy. It was afternoon and near the hour
for the choral even-song across the way at the cathedral, the temporary
windows of which were open.

She had relieved the nurse, and was alone with him. Often during these
days he had put out one of his hands and groped about with it to touch
her, turning his head a little toward her under his bandaged eyes, and
apparently feeling much mystified about her, but saying nothing. She
kept her bandaged hands out of his reach but leaned over him in response
and talked ever to him, barely stroking him with the tips of her
stiffened fingers.

The afternoon was so quiet that by and by through the opened windows a
deep note sent a thrill into the room--the awakened soul of the organ.
And as the two listened to it in silence, soon there floated over to
them the voices of the choir as the line moved slowly down the aisle,
the blended voices of the chosen band, his school-fellows of the altar.
By the bedside she suddenly rocked to and fro, and then she bent over
and said with a smile in her tone:

"_Do you hear? Do you hear them?_"

He made a motion with his lips to speak but they hurt him too much. So
he nodded: that he heard them.

A moment later he tugged at the bandage over his eyes.

She sprang toward him:

"O my precious one, you must not tear the bandage off your eyes!"

"I want to see you!" he mumbled. "It has been so long since I saw you!
What's the matter with you? Where are your hands? Why don't you put your
arms around me?"


The class had been engaged with another model. Their work was forced and
listless. As days passed without the mother's return, their thought and
their talk concerned itself more and more with her disappearance. Why
had she not come back? What had befallen her? What did it all mean?
Would they ever know?

One day after their luncheon-hour, as they were about to resume work,
the teacher of the class entered. He looked shocked; his look shocked
them; instant sympathy ran through them. He spoke with difficulty:

"She has come back. She is down-stairs. Something had befallen her
indeed. She told me as briefly as possible and I tell you all I know.
Her son, a little fellow who had just been chosen for the cathedral
choir school was run over in the street. A mention of it--the usual
story--was in the papers, but who of us reads such things in the papers?
They bore us; they are not even news. He was taken to St. Luke's, and
she has been at St. Luke's, and the end came at St. Luke's, and all the
time we have been here a few yards distant and have known nothing of it.
Such is New York! It was to help pay for his education in music that she
first came to us, she said. And it was the news that he had been chosen
for the choir school that accounts for the new happiness which we saw
brighten her day by day. Now she comes again for the same small wage,
but with other need, no doubt: the expenses of it all, a rose-bush for
his breast. She told me this calmly as though it caused her no grief. It
was not my privilege, it is not our privilege, to share her unutterable

"She has asked to go on with the sittings. I have told her to come
to-morrow. But she does not realize all that this involves with the
portrait. You will have to bring new canvases, it will have to be a new
work. She is in mourning. Her hands will have to be left out, she has
hurt them; they are bandaged. The new portrait will be of the head and
face only. But the chief reason is the change of expression. The light
which was in her face and which you have partly caught upon your
canvases, has died out; it was brutally put out. The old look is gone.
It is gone, and will never come back--the tender, brooding, reverent
happiness and peace of motherhood with the child at her knee--that
great earthly beacon-light in women of ages past. It was brutally put
out but it did not leave blankness behind it. There has come in its
place another light, another ancient beacon-light on the faces of women
of old--the look of faith in immortal things. She is not now the mother
with the tenderness of this earth but the mother with the expectation of
eternity. Her eyes have followed him who has left her arms and gone into
a distance. Ever she follows him into that distance. Your portrait, if
you can paint it, will be the mother with the look of immortal things in
her face."

       *       *       *       *       *

When she entered the room next morning, at the sight of her in mourning
and so changed in every way, with one impulse they all rose to her. She
took no notice,--perhaps it would have been unendurable to notice,--but
she stepped forward as usual, and climbed to the platform without
faltering, and he posed her for the head and shoulders. Then, to study
the effect from different angles, he went behind the easels, passing
from one to another. As he returned, with the thought of giving her
pleasure, he brought along with him one of the sketches of herself and
held it out before her.

"Do you recognize it?" he asked.

She refused to look at first. Then arousing herself from her
indifference she glanced at it. But when she beheld there what she had
never seen--how great had been her love of him; when she beheld there
the light now gone out and realized that it meant the end of happy days
with him, she shut her eyes quickly and jerked her head to one side
with a motion for him to take the picture away. But she had been
brought too close to her sorrow and suddenly she bent over her hands
like a snapped reed and the storm of her grief came upon her.

They started up to get to her. They fought one another to get to her.
They crowded around the platform, and tried to hide her from one
another's eyes, and knelt down, and wound their arms about her, and
sobbed with her; and then they lifted her and guided her behind the

"Now, if you will allow them," he said, when she came out with them, one
of them having lent her a veil, "some of these young friends will go
home with you. And whenever you wish, whenever you feel like it, come
back to us. We shall be ready. We shall be waiting. We shall all be

On the heights the cathedral rises--slowly, as the great houses of man's
Christian faith have always risen.

Years have drifted by as silently as the winds since the first rock was
riven where its foundations were to be laid, and still all day on the
clean air sounds the lonely clink of drill and chisel as the blasting
and the shaping of the stone goes on. The snows of winters have drifted
deep above its rough beginnings; the suns of many a spring have melted
the snows away. Well nigh a generation of human lives has already
measured its brief span about the cornerstones. Far-brought,
many-tongued toilers, toiling on the rising walls, have dropped their
work and stretched themselves in their last sleep; others have climbed
to their places; the work goes on. Upon the shoulders of the images of
the Apostles, which stand about the chancel, generations of
pigeons--the doves of the temple whose nests are in the niches--upon the
shoulders of the Apostles generations of pigeons born in the niches have
descended out of the azure as with the benediction of shimmering wings.
Generations of the wind-borne seeds of wild flowers have lodged in low
crevices and have sprouted and blossomed, and as seeds again have been
blown further on--harbingers of vines and mosses already on their
venerable way.

A mighty shape begins to answer back to the cathedrals of other lands
and ages, bespeaking for itself admittance into the league of the
world's august sanctuaries. It begins to send its annunciation onward
into ages yet to be, so remote, so strange, that we know not in what
sense the men of it will even be our human brothers save as they are
children of the same Father.

Between this past and this future, the one of which cannot answer
because it is too late and the other of which can not answer because it
is too soon--between this past and this future the cathedral stands in a
present that answers back to it more and more. For a world of living-men
and women see kindled there the same ancient flame that has been the
light of all earlier stations on that solitary road of faith which runs
for a little space between the two eternities--a road strewn with the
dust of countless wayfarers bearing each a different cross of burden but
with eyes turned toward the same Cross of hope.

As on some mountain-top a tall pine-tree casts its lengthened shadow
upon the valleys far below, round and round with the circuit of the sun,
so the cathedral flings hither and thither across the whole land its
spiritual shaft of light. A vast, unnumbered throng begin to hear of it,
begin to look toward it, begin to grow familiar with its emerging form.
In imagination they see its chapels bathed in the glories of the morning
sun; they remember its unfinished dome gilded at the hush of sunsets.
Between the roar of the eastern and of the western ocean its organ
speaks of a Divine peace above mortal storm. Pilgrims from afar, known
only to themselves as pilgrims, being pilgrim-hearted but not
pilgrim-clad, reach at its gates the borders of their Gethsemane. Bowed
as penitents, they hail its lily of forgiveness and the resurrection.

Slowly the cathedral rises, in what unknown years to stand finished!
Crowning a city of new people, let it be hoped, of better laws. Finished
and standing on its rock for the order of the streets, for order in the
land and order throughout the world, for order in the secret places of
the soul. Majestical rebuker of the waste of lives, rebuker of a country
which invites all lives into it and wastes lives most ruthlessly--lives
which it stands there to shelter and to foster and to save.

So it speaks to the distant through space and time; but it speaks also
to the near.

Although not half risen out of the earth, encumbering it rough and
shapeless, already it draws into its service many who dwell around.
These seek to cast their weaknesses on its strength, to join their brief
day to its innumerable years, to fall into the spiritual splendor of it
as out in space small darkened wanderers drop into the orbit of a sun.
Anguished memories begin to bequeath their jewels to its shrine; dimmed
eyes will their tears to its eyes, its windows. Old age with one foot in
the grave drags the other resignedly about its crypt. In its choir sound
the voices of children herded in from the green hillside of life's

       *       *       *       *       *

Rachel Truesdale! Her life became one of these near-by lives which it
blesses, a darkened wanderer caught into the splendor of a spiritual
sun. It gathered her into its service; it found useful work for her to
do; and in this new life of hers it drew out of her nature the last
thing that is ever born of the mother--faith that she is separated a
little while from her children only because they have received the gift
of eternal youth.

Many a proud happy thought became hers as time went on. She had had her
share in its glory, for it had needed him whom she had brought into the
world. It had called upon him to help give song to its message and to
build that ever-falling rainbow of music over which human Hope walks
into the eternal.

Always as the line of white-clad choristers passed down the aisle, among
them was one who brushed tenderly against her as he walked by, whom no
one else saw. Rising above the actual voices and heard by her alone, up
to the dome soared a voice dearer, more thrilling, than the rest.

Often she was at her window, watching the workmen at their toil as they
brought out more and more the great shape on the heights. Often she
stood looking across at the park hillside opposite. Whenever spring came
back and the slope lived again with young leaves and white blossoms,
always she thought of him. Always she saw him playing in an eternal
April. When autumn returned and leaves withered and dropped, she thought
of herself.

Sometimes standing beside his piano.

Having always in her face the look of immortal things.

       *       *       *       *       *

The cathedral there on its rock for ages saying:

"_I am the Resurrection and the Life_."


*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Cathedral Singer" ***

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