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Title: The Baritone's Parish - or "All Things to all Men"
Author: Ludlow, James M. (James Meeker)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Illustration: Cover art]



[Frontispiece: ...stood with arms interlocked and heads touching as
their voices soared in the grand finale.]



  _The Baritone's Parish_

  _or_

  "_All Things to all Men_"



  _By_

  _James M. Ludlow_



  _Fleming H. Revell Company_
  _New York  Chicago  Toronto_
  _MDCCCXCVI_



  Copyright, 1896, by
  FLEMING H. REVELL COMPANY.



  BOOKS BY
  JAMES M. LUDLOW,
  D.D., Litt.D.


THE CAPTAIN OF THE JANIZARIES.

A Story of the Times of Scanderbey, and the Fall of Constantinople.


A KING OF TYRE.

Contrasted Scenes of Jewish and Phoenician Life, 400 B.C., woven into
romance.


THAT ANGELIC WOMAN.

A Story from High Life To-day.


A MAN FOR 'A THAT; OR, "MY SAINT JOHN."

A Story of City Life among the Lowly.


THE AGE OF THE CRUSADES.

Life in the XI. and XII. Centuries.  _In preparation_.



  THE BARITONE'S PARISH; OR,
  "ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN"



The pulpit and the choir gallery are closely related in our city
churches.  It is, however, a sad fact that the "sons of the prophets"
and the "sons of Korah" usually know but little of one another; and
this is to the loss of both.  To the musicians the minister often seems
a recluse, and the clergyman comes to look upon his choir as a band of
itinerant minstrels.

It is therefore very refreshing to note that between the pastor of St.
Philemon's, the Rev. Dr. Wesley Knox, and Mr. Philip Vox, there sprang
up an intimacy almost from the day when the new baritone sang his first
solo.  It was Shelley's "Resurrection," which had been rendered as an
offertory after one of the doctor's finest efforts at an Easter sermon.

Deacon Brisk, the chairman of the music committee, met the preacher at
the chancel-rail within fifteen seconds after the benediction had been
pronounced; before the sexton could deliver a message that a
parishioner was in momentary expectation of death, and required the
pastor's immediate attendance; before Lawyer Codey had adjusted his
silk hat like a falcon on his wrist preparatory to his stately march
down the middle aisle; and even before the soprano had adjusted her
handsome face and bonnet over the front of the choir gallery to inspect
the passers-out.

Deacon Brisk was like most music committee-men in that he knew little
about the musical art; but he was a hustler in getting the worth of his
money in whatever job he undertook.  Rubbing his hands in
self-congratulation upon the new baritone's engagement, he delivered
himself of a panegyric which he had spent the time of the closing
prayer in composing:

"I tell you, doctor, Vox was a catch.  Why, he sang

  "'In slumber lay the brooding world
    Upon that glorious night,'

so sweetly that you could almost hear the stars twinkle through the
music; and when he struck

  "'Let heaven's vaulted arches ring,'

it seemed as if the sky were tumbling down through the church roof.
That's great singing; eh, doctor?  Cost only three hundred extra; worth
a thousand on the church market!"

"Yes," said the doctor, "I was pleased with the man's voice.  I am
impressed with the idea that there is more than larynx and training in
him.  There must be bigness and sweetness of soul behind those tones.
Men can't sing that way to order.  Come, Brisk, introduce us when those
young women get through talking to him.  I know I shall like him.  But
I didn't know that you were so well up in musical judgment."

"Why, doctor," rejoined Brisk, "it doesn't require that a man shall be
an electrical engineer in order to invest successfully in a trolley."

The dominie was a bachelor.  That was a pity; for a wife and family of
ten could have homed themselves in his heart without detracting from
the love he had for everybody else.  But having no wife to console him
after the efforts of a hard Sunday, he was accustomed to ask one or
another of the young men to come to the study and "curry him down," as
he said, after evening service.

Soon Vox came to occupy permanently this place of clerical groom.  The
saintly folk who thought that the light burning until Sunday midnight
in the sanctum was a sign of the protracted devotions of their pastor
would, on one occasion at least, have been astounded to see the
reality.  On the lounge was stretched the tired preacher, his feet on a
pile of "skimmed" newspapers, reserved for the more thorough perusal
they would never get.  In his lap lay the head of a big collie, whose
eyes were fixed on the handsome face of his master.  Do dogs have
religious instinct?  If so, this was a canine hour of worship, and the
dog was a genuine mystic.  In some famous pictures of the adoration of
the Magi less reverence and love are depicted on the faces than gleamed
from beneath the shaggy eyebrows of the brute.

By the study-table sat Vox, his big bushy head and square Schiller-cut
face (except for the very unpoetic mustache) bending over a
chafing-dish that sent up the incense of Welsh rarebit, the ingredients
of which were the offering of the landlady's piety.

"Doctor," said Vox, suddenly poising the spoon as if it were a baton,
and dripping the melted cheese on to the manuscript of the night's
sermon before the preacher had decided whether to put it into his
"barrel" or his waste-basket--"doctor, do you know that I feel like a
hypocrite, singing in a Christian church?"

"You a hypocrite, Vox?  You couldn't act a false part any more than you
could sing a false note without having the shivers go all through you."

"Well," replied the singer, "that is just what is the matter with me.
The shivers do go through me.  I am shocked at the moral discord I am
making.  I am striking false notes all the time.  My life doesn't
follow the score of my conscience.  I don't mean that I have committed
murder or picked pockets, but it seems to me that I am breaking the
commandment by bearing false witness about myself, making people think
I am a saint, or want to be one, when the fact is that I put no more
heart into my singing than the organ-pipe does."

So saying Vox strode across the floor, holding a plate of rarebit as if
it were a sheet of music, and jerked the toasted cheese off it as he
seemed to jerk the notes off the paper when he sang.

The doctor slipped from the lounge just in time to escape a savory
splash which was aiming itself straight for the space between his vest
and shirt-bosom.  The dog growled at the apparent attack upon his
master, but was diverted from further warlike demonstrations by the bit
of toast that fell under his nose.

"Your dog is as good as a special policeman for you, doctor."

"Yes, he defends me in more ways than one.  Do you know why I call him
Caleb?  Caleb is Hebrew for 'God's dog.'  One day, when he was a pup, I
forgot myself and dropped into a regular pessimist over some
materialistic trash I was reading.  The pup seemed to notice my sour
face, and put his paws upon my knees, lolled out his tongue, and
searched me through and through with those bright eyes of his.  It was
as much as to say, 'Master, you're a fool.  Look at me.  Didn't it take
a God to make such a marvelous creature as I am?'  So I have called him
Caleb ever since.  He tackles many a doubt for me, as he would any
other robber."

"I wish I had your faith, doctor," said Vox, putting his arm around
Caleb's neck, and dropping another piece of toast into the waiting jaws.

"Faith?  You have got it, Phil; only you don't know it."

"Nonsense, doctor!  I suppose I believe the Creed; at least I don't
disbelieve it.  But I don't feel these things.  That's what makes me
say that I am a hypocrite to sing in a Christian church.  To-night I
saw a woman crying during my solo.  I felt like stopping.  I never feel
like crying, except when the notes cry themselves; then I confess to a
moistening that goes all through me.  Now what right have I to make
another feel what I don't feel myself?  I tell you, doctor, I am
nothing but a bellowing hypocrite.  I'm going into opera, where it is
all make-believe.  You know that I've had offers that would tempt a
singing devil; and I believe I would be one if it were not for you."

The doctor eyed his guest quizzically for a moment, then deliberately
stretched himself again on the lounge.

"Phil, that cheese has gone to your head.  I didn't think it was so
strong.  Yet I can understand your mistake, for I used to talk that way
to myself when I was as green and unsophisticated as you are.  I would
scratch out the best sentences from my sermons, because I didn't feel
all they meant, and would accuse myself of duplicity and cant because
my experience was not up to my doctrine.  But what if it wasn't?  My
brain isn't as big as the Bible.  My conscience isn't as true and vivid
as Moses' was when he wrote down the Ten Commandments.  My heart isn't
as tender as Christ's.  If a preacher says only what he is able to feel
at the moment, there will be poor fodder for the parish.  So it is all
through life.  People talk in society on a higher level than they
habitually think.  They ought to.  That is what society is for--to tune
up to key the sagging strings of common, humdrum life.  All politeness
will cease when everybody acts on your theory.  We must not say
'Good-morning' to a neighbor because at the moment we do not really
care whether his day is going to be pleasant or not.  You must not take
off your hat to a lady on the street, unless at the instant you are
possessed of a profound respect for the sex.  Who was that composer
that said that he never knew what a piece he had written until he heard
Joseffy play it?  They asked Parepa to sing 'Coming through the Rye.'
She said, 'Pshaw!  I've sung it threadbare.  I grind it out now as the
hand-organ does.'  But she sang it, and brought down the house.  Why
shouldn't she?  Feel!  Do you suppose that old violin feels anything of
the joy that thrills through its fibers?  Shall I smash it for a
hypocritical contrivance of wood and catgut?  Did I kick Dr. Cutt out
of the study the other day because he didn't realize the good he had
done me in reducing the swelling of my sprained ankle?  Yet you want me
to let you kick yourself out of the church because you are not one of
the 'angels of Jesus,' or haven't had all the joy of life crushed out
of you by affliction, so that you are 'weary of earth,' as you sing!"

The doctor warmed with his theme, until, standing up, he put his big
hands on Vox's shoulders, and fairly shouted at him:

"Sing, Phil!  Sing the brightest, happiest things that God ever
inspired men to write.  But don't go croaking like an owl because you
don't feel like a nightingale."

"Well," said Vox, drawing a long breath, and letting it out in a
whistle, "that cheese or something else has inspired you, doctor.  I
never heard you so eloquent in the pulpit.  Why don't you preach at us
that way?  Take us, as it were, one by one, and go through us, instead
of preaching at humanity in the lump.  I confess that you have
persuaded me about my Sunday work.  I am not going to leave it off.
But now for the other six days in the week.  I can convince you that
they are full of husks that do nobody any good.  Here's my diary.
Isn't it contemptible for a man with even a singer's conscience?
Monday, sung at Checkley's musicale for fifty dollars and a score of
feminine compliments; Tuesday, in oratorio for one hundred dollars and
some newspaper puffs, which were all wrong from a critical standpoint;
Wednesday, moped all day because I couldn't sing--raw throat; Thursday,
made believe teach a lot of tone-deaf fellows who can never sing any
more than crows, and took their money for the imposition; Friday,
ditto; Saturday, rehearsal.  Now who am I helping by peddling my
chin-wares?"

Vox stopped for lack of breath, as well as from the fact that his week
had run out.

"Go on," said the doctor, nonchalantly.  "You can certainly slander
yourself worse than that.  What! no more?  Why, Vox, I know there are
worse things about you than what you have told me."

Vox colored.

"You needn't blush so over it, Phil," and the doctor burst out laughing
at him.  "I am not going to twit you on any disagreeable facts.  I
didn't say I knew what those worse things were; but I do know that you
are not such a sweet saint as to have only the faults mentioned.  If
they were all, I would have a glass case made for you at once, put your
bones up in leather, and place a basin of holy water at your door for
passers-by to dip their fingers in.  But soberly, Phil, I think I can
size you up, or down."

"All right; try it.  You may find me so big a fool that it will take
some time to get my full measurement."

With that he stretched himself to his full height, and posed with his
fingers in his vest-holes.  The attitude interested Caleb, who
stretched himself out to almost corresponding dimensions horizontally
along the floor, recovering his legs slowly to the accompaniment of a
long and dismal whine.

"He does that," said the doctor, "only when there is going to be a
death in the neighborhood, or when I begin to read my sermons aloud in
the study.  He knows I am going to lecture you.  Charge, Caleb!

"Dearly beloved Vox! you have two first-class deficiencies.  First, a
purposeless life.  You happen to be doing good with that wonderful
voice of yours; but that is nothing to your credit.  You can't help
cheering people when you wag your jaws any more than Caleb can help
being a comfort to me when he wags his tail.  You didn't study music
for the sake of helping anybody, but only because music gave you a
pleasurable means of getting a livelihood.  So you have no
soul-satisfaction in your profession, for all you are succeeding so
grandly in it.  You are like that piece of music which you said was a
failure, because, though there were some fine harmonies in it, it had
no theme, no prevailing idea, no musical purpose."

"That's me," said Vox, _sotto voce_, holding his head in his hands.  "I
know that I am a mere medley, part sacred, part profane, and both parts
played by the devil!  Go on."

"Stop your pessimism," rejoined the doctor.  "That poetic head of yours
reminds me that Schiller in the 'Bell' gives utterance to the same idea
I am trying to beat into you."

"The Bell?  That's me, too; all brass and clapper!" grumbled Vox,
twisting Caleb's ears until the brute whined.

The doctor, not heeding either the singer's soliloquy or the brute's,
quoted in oratorical style:

  "'So let us duly ponder all
    The works our feeble strength achieves;
  For mean, in truth, the man we call
    Who ne'er what he completes conceives.

  And well it stamps our human race,
    And hence the gift to understand,
  That man within the heart should trace
    Whate'er he fashions with the hand.'"


Vox groaned.  "That's rather heavy poetry for creatures of our caliber,
isn't it, Caleb?  But I guess that I catch on.--It means the same as
the line of the hymn you gave out to-night, doctor;" and Vox sang:

  "'Take my voice, and let me sing
  Always, only, for my King.'

"That is, if I'm a bell, I should be one on purpose, whether a
church-bell, or a door-bell, or only 'God's dog,' to growl"--patting
Caleb.  "But what is that second thing I lack?  Since you've taken the
contract to make me over, I want you to be thorough with the job."

"The second thing you need," said the doctor, "is in some way to be
made to see that you are doing good.  From your perch in the gallery
you don't get a glimpse into the people's hearts.  I couldn't preach if
I didn't go among the people during the week, and get the encouragement
of knowing that I had helped somebody."

"Yes," said Vox, "I've heard Joe Jefferson say that he couldn't act
worth a cent if the people didn't applaud.  I beg your pardon, doctor,
for comparing the pulpit with the stage.  But go on with your lecture."

"Oh, you've knocked the lecture out of my head with your nonsense,
Phil."

"But you knocked it pretty well into mine.  I'd like to see somebody
I've helped.  Show him up."

"Humph!" grunted the doctor, and, after a moment's silence, said
abruptly, "Phil, will you go with me to-morrow night?"

"Where?"

"Leave that to me."

"That's a blind sort of an invitation, doctor.  But, of course, I will
go anywhere you want me to.  But what is it?  Some holy Sorosis?  That
reformed theater you talk about?  Any charge for admittance, or
collection?  Of course, going with a distinguished clergyman I shall
have to appear in swallow-tails and arctic shirt-front."

"Not a bit of it, Phil; your oldest clothes, so that you will look just
as mean as you say you feel; then, for once, you can't accuse yourself
of being a hypocrite."


There was a motley crowd in the front room of a Bowery twenty-cent
lodging-house.  The room was the parlor, but the occupants called it
the "deck," in distinction from the rest of the house, which was filled
with bunks.  There were hard old soakers in a periodical state of
repentance; or, to speak more scientifically, in that state of
gland-moistening that comes after a certain amount of poor beer has
permeated the system.  There were young prodigals, in there for the
night because they had no money for a night's carousal elsewhere.
There was a sprinkling of honest men, thankful for even this refuge
from the sleety streets.  There were some two hundred pieces of the
great human wreck made by the hard times, which were beached in Brady's
Harbor, as the place was called.

The usual hubbub had calmed while a story-teller, who sat on the edge
of a table, and whose slouch-hat and high ulster collar did not
altogether conceal the genial face of Dr. Knox, entertained the crowd
with old army yarns, which, as usual with such literature, were taken
largely from the apocryphal portion of our national annals.

"Bully for you!  Give us another!" was the encore, emphasized with the
rattle of backgammon-boards and boot-heels.

"Haven't any more; but I have a friend here who will bring up the
reserves in the way of a song."

"Song, song!  Rosin your larynx, old boy!" greeted the suggestion,
while the crowd gathered closer about Vox, and several who had "turned
in" for the night turned out of their bunks again, minus coats and
boots.  A friendly slap on the back by something less than a ten-pound
hand helped the singer to clear his throat.

Vox gave them "O'Grady's Goat" and one or two other classics of the
Tenderloin district, with the rapt appreciation of his audience.  Tom
Moore's "Minstrel Boy," to the genuine old Irish melody, struck the
heroic chord in the breasts of men most of whom were deserters from the
real battle-fields of life.  Then Vox dropped into a lullaby.  The
tender mother words given in his masculine tones seemed a burlesque as
he began; but the deep bass took on the softness and sweetness of a
contralto, and made one think, if not of a mother cooing to her baby,
at least of some rough, great-hearted man who had found a lost child
and was rocking it to sleep in his strong arms.  More than one greasy
sleeve got into its owner's eyes before Vox ended.

"An' 'aven't ye a Scotch sang, me laddie?" asked an old fellow,
knocking the ashes from his pipe against the window-sill.

"My Ain Countrie" followed.  As the music floated, the thick smoke of
the room seemed to drift away.  The land of birds and beauty lay before
eyes that for months and years had looked only upon the crowded misery
of slumdom.  When the voice ceased the illusion continued for a while
in spite of the picking sleet at the window-panes.

At length the silence was broken by a voice that came from a distant
corner of the room.  It repeated the last verse in tones as pure as
those of Vox himself, though a high tenor in quality.  Some of the
notes were broken by hiccups.

Vox looked in amazement at the singer--a half-drunken youngish man
curled nearly double in a chair which was tipped back against the wall.
His battered derby and unscraped chin did not effectually disguise the
handsome fellow beneath them.  He was like the Apollo Belvedere when
first exhumed from the mud of Antium.

"Who are you, my friend?" asked Vox, in as kindly a tone as his
surprise allowed.

"Friend? (hic) haven't got any friend," replied the man; and he struck
up the verse that had just been rendered.  His voice was husky at
first, but after a few notes it clarified itself, as brooks do in
running.  His tones became marvelously sweet, touching the highest note
without the slightest suggestion of falsetto.  It was a transcendent
voice, one that might have once belonged to some spirit, and gone
astray among men.  The singer went through the verse this time without
hiccup or slur; but the instant he stopped the drunk resumed its sway.
Down came the chair with a bump on to its front legs, which sent the
man headlong into the arms of Vox, with whom he wanted to fight.

"I won't fight you," said Vox, helping him back to his seat; "but I'll
dare you to sing with me."

"Sin' wi' you!  'Cept your challenge.  I can whip you with my--my
tongue (hic) as bad as my wife she (hic) whipped me with her (hic)
tongue."

"What shall we sing, old boy?" inquired Vox, with that easy familiarity
which showed that he had seen such customers before.

  "Sin' a song o' sispence,
  Pocket full o' rye,"

sang the man.  "Say, what's the use o' havin' your pocket full o' rye
(hic)?  'D rather have a belly full o' rye; wouldn't you (hic)?"

"You've enough rye in you for to-night," said Vox.  "Come, pull the
cork out of your throat, and let's have a song."

Vox got a chair, and tipped it back by the side of the maudlin fellow,
then struck up Mazzini's two-part song, "The Muleteers."  The stranger
joined in.  Such singing was never heard before nor since in Brady's
Harbor, nor, for that matter, in Carnegie Hall.  After a bar or two the
men rose to their feet and stood with arms interlocked and heads
touching as their voices soared in the grand finale.

The noise brought in Brady, who said it was "galoreous," but for all
that they'd have to "bolt up their chins," as it was past twelve
o'clock, and the "perlice wasn't so easy on lodgin'-houses as they was
on the swill-shops."

"See here, Vox," said the doctor, "I am going home alone to-night.
Find out your pal.  Chum him a bit.  A man with that voice has had
culture.  Scrape the rust off him, and you will find something polished
beneath, or I am no judge of human nature.  Take him for your parish,
Phil."

"A heathenish sort of a mission that," replied Vox, looking at the
fellow, who was trying, as he said, to find his night-key to get his
boots off with.  After a moment's hesitation, Vox added: "All right,
doctor; you've had as hard a field with me, if it wasn't so dirty a
one.  I'll take him for a sobering walk in the drizzle, and then get
him into better quarters than he has here."

Vox had his hands full with his job, and at times his arms full too.
His companion insisted that the Bowery sidewalk, covered with sleet,
was a toboggan-slide, and that he was tumbling off the sled.  What
could Vox do with his protégé?  He couldn't walk him or slide him all
night.  A policeman proposed to relieve him of his anxiety by taking
them both to the station-house, but was persuaded not to perform this
heroic exploit by the man's assurance that his pal's legs hadn't any
snakes in them, and by Vox's demonstration that he could stand alone.
Then Vox thought of the story of the good Samaritan, with rising
respect for the priest that passed by on the other side.  Next, having
got into the charity business, he envied the Samaritan at least his
ass, "instead," as Vox soliloquized, "of making an ass of myself."  He
thought of taking the fellow to some hotel, paying for his lodging, and
hiring the clerk to see that he was properly sobered off in the
morning; but concluded that, whatever might have been the case on the
road to Jericho, there was no innkeeper on the Bowery whom he could
trust with such a commission, or who would trust him to call in the
morning and pay the bill.  He could take him back to Brady's Harbor, he
thought; but when they turned about the man declared that he wouldn't
walk up a toboggan-slide, and sat down on the sidewalk for another ride.

The flash of a passing cab let a little light in upon his problem.
Hailing the driver, with whose help he got his load into the vehicle,
he told him to drive to No. -- Madison Avenue, where he had his own day
quarters--elegant rooms, fitted up for his instruction of the
fashionable "daughters of music" at six dollars an hour.  Sweezy, the
janitor, was roused up, and with his assistance Vox was able to
congratulate himself that he had gone "one better" on the good
Samaritan, in that he had lodged his man in finer chambers.  He could
not help laughing at the incongruousness of the snoring mass and the
elegant divan on which it lay.  He thought of Bottom the weaver, with
the ass's head, in the lap of Titania, and, as he piled the cushions so
that the fellow would not tumble off, addressed him in the words of the
fairy:

  "Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed,
    While I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
  And stick musk roses in thy sleek smooth head,
    And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy."

But tears are near to laughter, and as Vox contemplated his completed
work he had to sit down a moment and cry.

"It's a hard sight, sir," said Sweezy, "but bless you, Mr. Vox, the
best of us has just sich among our closest friends.  I wish, sir, as
how it was my own boy, Tommy, you had found the night."  And Sweezy
cried too.

Sweezy promised to take an early look at the man in the morning when he
turned on the steam heat.  Vox went away to his boarding-house around
the corner, vexed at the doctor for getting him into such a scrape, yet
feeling down in the depths of his heart a satisfaction that more than
half compensated him for his rough experience.  He fell asleep thinking
of the good Samaritan, Bottom with the ass's head, Salvation Army
lasses, and the Prohibition party; and, in the midst of a horrid dream,
woke up imagining himself drunk and about to fall off a precipice.

Before breakfast next morning he went around to the rooms to look after
his charge.  The fellow had vamosed.  Sweezy was taking account of the
furniture, and, though nothing was missing, and only a lamp-shade
broken, declared that Vox had been victimized by a sharper:

"A regular sharper, sir.  I thought so when you brought him in.  You
ought to have knowed, sir, at a glance of him, what he was.  You've
nussed, sir, a wiper in your bosom, and it's a mercy, sir, a mercy if
he hasn't stung you no worse.  Is your pocket-book with you?  You ought
at least to have took off his boots.  That spot on the cover will never
come out without piecing."

Vox contemplated the scene of his first charity exploit much as
Bonaparte did the battle-field of Waterloo.  He had but one remark to
make, which was:

"Sweezy, don't you open your head about this business."

Vox was not in an amiable mood when he met the doctor the next Sunday
night.  He debated with him the inadvisability of decent people
attempting to do slumming in the name of either religion or charity.
He took the ground that the men who had themselves been rescued from
the dens of the city were the only ones to do this work, as they train
chetahs to hunt their own kind, and reformed thieves to become
detectives.

The doctor was half inclined to agree with him, not so much from
conviction as from seeing the disgust the business had wrought in the
mind of his friend.  Yet he excused himself for having led Vox into
this experience on the ground that it is Christian duty to try to
rescue the fallen, even though one does not accomplish anything.

"I don't believe in your theory," said Vox, warmly.  "Let buzzards
clean up the offal, but decent birds had better follow their sweeter
instincts and keep away.  One thing is certain: I am not going to light
on such moral carrion again."

It was more than a month later when a respectable-looking stranger
called upon Vox at his rooms.  The singer was engaged at the time
arranging with a lady of the Four Hundred for the vocal culture of her
daughters.  The visitor quietly awaited his leisure.  He was very
genteel in appearance.  If one had been critical he might have thought
that for such a stinging cold day an ulster would have been more
suitable than the light fall overcoat he wore; and some might have
observed that it was not the fashion that season to wear one's outer
garment so short that the tails of the under-coat protruded.  But Vox
was occupied with the stranger's face, which was exceedingly
prepossessing.

"Mr. Vox, I believe?"

"My name, sir.  What can we do for each other?"

"If I am not mistaken in the person, you once did me a great service."

"You must be mistaken in the person," said Vox, "or else I have done it
unconsciously, for I have no recollection of our having met."

The man seemed puzzled.  "Possibly!" he said, slowly, as he scanned the
singer's features.

"Undoubtedly it is so," said Vox, and, seeing the man's perplexity,
quickly added, in the most genial manner, "I am sorry it is so, for I
should be glad to remember that I had served you.  Possibly I may do so
in the future."

The man hesitatingly began to withdraw.  Near the door he stopped, and,
glancing about the room, half to himself and half as an apology to Vox,
said, "Perhaps I have dreamed it.  But will you allow me to ask you a
question?  Do you ever sing Mazzini's 'Muleteers'?"

"Often," replied Vox.  "This, you mean," and he struck up the first
line.  His visitor instantly joined him.  Vox stopped as quickly.

"Good heavens!" he exclaimed.  "There are not two voices in the world
like that."  Putting his hand on the man's shoulder, he peered into his
face.  He could not recall the features, for the dim light in Brady's
Harbor and the general slouch of the fellow that night had not really
allowed him to see his face fully.  He imagined how this man might look
with a week's beard on his chin, an untrimmed mustache covering his
fine lips, and a dirty derby concealing his forehead.

"Are you that man?"

"I am; or, rather, I was that man.  But I hope--thanks to God and
you--I am a very different man to-day.  I came to tell you my gratitude
for a kindness which I had come to doubt one man ever rendered to
another, and to apologize for my bestial treatment of you.  I was not a
man then, Mr. Vox, only a beast; and, if you will believe me, I was not
accountable, for I knew no better.  I have the vaguest remembrance of
that night, as of many another night.  When I awoke at daylight in
these rooms I had just sense enough to know that somebody had
befriended me or played a trick on me, and to be ashamed to meet him,
whoever he was.  So I sneaked away.  When I was sobered I couldn't
recall the place.  But the 'Muleteers' rang in my ears, and your voice,
every note, the tone and quality.  I had heard you sing elsewhere, and
knew that but one voice, that of Vox, could have sung in that way.  And
now it has taken a month for me to get up manliness enough to come and
do the decent thing."

"Don't talk in that way," said Vox, coloring as if he were receiving
abuse instead of praise.  "I did nothing that any man would not do for
another.  A man would be inhuman, a mere brute, not to--"

Then he thought of what he had lately said to the doctor about buzzards
and benevolent slummers, and he felt like a hypocrite again.

"But don't talk about the past.  Let it go.  Isn't there something I
can do for you now?" glancing at the man's threadbare coat.

"Yes, there is one favor I would like very much to have you do me.  I
have had a hard struggle with myself these few weeks.  I resolved that
I would not drink again.  I have kept my purpose, but it has been like
being tied to a wild beast in a cage.  More than once I have started
out for a drink, but have come back without it.  It is hard to feel
that you are all alone in the fight, that nobody knows of it.  It's
like making that cane stand by itself."

"But you have friends," said Vox, kindly.

"Friends that have ceased to be friends are worse than strangers,"
replied the man, in an abstracted sort of way.  "My friends don't
believe in me; I've got to make new friends, who don't know how weak I
am.  Perhaps they will believe in me for a while at least, and that
will give a man some strength.  But to be all alone in a fearful
struggle!  Oh, it's the loneliness that takes all the heart out of one.
You know how one voice steadies another in singing.  Drunk as I was
when I sang with you, I believe I sang every note correctly; but alone
I couldn't have rendered three notes true.  I want you to let me rest
for a while on your confidence, your good wishes, Mr. Vox; and to let
me drop in once in a while, just to tell you that I am all right yet."

"My good fellow, you can come, and you can stay with me just as much as
you want to," said Vox; and for all that he knew that this was a very
rash thing to say to a stranger, he would have resented any one's
telling him so.

"No," replied the man, "I shall not intrude upon you; but may I ask you
to keep this pledge I have written?  The paper is crumpled; that's
because I have taken it out so often when the temptation was pretty
strong.  It was something like a friend; and I could say to it, 'You
see I have kept faith with you, bit of paper, and I will.'  So I would
start out on another campaign.  But if you will keep it for me I will
feel better.  I can think then that somebody knows what I am doing."

Vox took the paper.  It was written in fine penmanship, and signed
"Charles Downs."

"Downs?  Charles Downs?  Not Downs who used to be in the Mendelssohn?
The tenor at St. Martha's?  And you are speaking of being grateful to
me for a common act of humanity!  Why, man, I owe more to you than I
can ever repay.  It was hearing you sing once that gave me my first
ambition to be a singer.  I began to save my money that night that I
might take lessons.  I even tried to find you; but you had gone, nobody
knew where."

"I was on the road to hell then," said Downs.  "Thank Heaven you didn't
find me; I might have injured you by my example.  But no, I think not.
You were not inclined my way."

The two men sat in silence for a few moments.  Thought was becoming
oppressive.  Vox was of that mercurial disposition that cannot keep
solemn long at a time.  His vent-valves worked easily.

"Come," said he, "let's try the old song."

If he had deliberated he would not have chosen a reminder of the past.
But there was something irresistible about Vox, and Downs joined with
him as they rollicked through the "Muleteers."

Sweezy stood in the doorway listening.

"That," said Vox, "is the greatest compliment a man can have.  Sweezy
there has no more music in him than a horse; but see! we have woven the
spell about him.  I believe we do sing well together.  What couldn't we
do if we would practise together?  Now I will keep this pledge for you,
Downs, if you will promise to come every day at twelve and sing with
me.  We will lunch together, and I will see that you don't get a drop
to drink."

"I can't."

"Why not?"

"I have engaged to go to work."

"Where?"

"Enlisted."

"What!  Enlisted?  To throw yourself away again?"  Vox gripped the arms
of Downs as if he were a prisoner.  "Where have you enlisted?"

"In the street-sweeping brigade."

"Great guns!" said Vox.

"No, great brooms!" replied his friend.  "I need outdoor work; there I
will get it.  I need to keep away from other men; and on the street I
will be left to my own company as nicely as if I were a hermit.
Besides, there will be a poetic fitness in one who has lived so dirty a
life as I have giving himself up to the work of cleaning things.  Then,
too, I can see life; and that will be interesting.  Nothing is so
fascinating to one who has had my experience as the sight of a crowd,
if only one can himself keep out of it."  With that Downs sang:

  "'Hurry along, sorrow and song;
    All is vanity under the sun.
  Velvet and rags: so the world wags,
    Until the river no more shall run.'"


Vox readily upset the street-sweeping project by showing Downs how he
could be helpful to him in certain musical matters he had on foot, and
even guaranteed to turn over to him several of his pupils who were
trying to develop tenor voices.

The next Sunday night after service the doctor took the singer's arm at
the church door with his usual chirpy invitation, "Come, Phil, don't
let Mrs. Cupp's pepper and mustard get cold, or the cheese get away
from us."

"Walk around the block with me first, doctor; I've got something to
tell you which I'd rather you would hear when you can't see my face."

"Why, what have you been doing now that you are ashamed of, Phil?  Oh,
I know.  You have proposed to the soprano, or been perpetrating some
other trick on your bachelor friends.  I'll forgive you at the start,
however, because"--lowering his voice until there was a frog in
it--"because I know something about--but it's none of your business,
Phil, so I won't tell you anything about it.  No disappointment, my
boy?"

"No."

"Then count on me to marry you for nothing, and throw in the
benediction besides."

"It's no love-affair," said Vox.  "Cupid might as well break his arrows
on a rhinoceros as shoot at me.  It's that drunken fellow.  I've been
awfully taken in."

"What! has he turned up?  Fleeced you again?"

"Well, not exactly fleeced me, but scorched me; he has heaped coals of
fire on my head.  I want to take back all I have said against him, and
everything I said against slumming."

He then related what the reader knows.  Having worked off the steam of
his extra emotion, he accompanied the doctor to the study.  Here Vox
gave a description of his new friend: "a well-educated man, a splendid
all-round musician, a fine business man; has a wife who won't live with
him, nor even let him see her--he has treated her so outrageously; but
he loves her tenderly.  He was once employed by Silver & Co., who
thought so much of him that they were making proposals for his entering
the firm when they began to suspect his rum habit.  His name is Downs."

"Downs?  With Silver & Co.?"  The names set the doctor thinking.  At
length, coming out of his reverie, he picked up from the study-table a
piece of marble, a bit of a fluted column he had found amid the ruins
of the Temple of Diana at Ephesus.  He traced on it with the pen the
word D-o-w-n-s.  Then he rubbed the word out with his finger; but a
black spot was left that he could not get off the marble.

"There! that's the way I would spoil the job if I should try to restore
the ruins of Downs.  Phil, stick to that man.  I'll leave him to you.
He's your parish.  With your voice and his love of music, you ought to
make him follow you as the rocks followed Orpheus.  That's the meaning
of the old legend--you can sing the hardest wretch into heaven.  Try
it, Phil."

The doctor spent a half-hour next day in Silver & Co.'s office.  Just
what he and Silver talked about we cannot say; but Silver was overheard
to remark, as the doctor was leaving, "My wife thinks the world of the
little woman, and when those two women are satisfied with his
reformation, all right."


There never was a finer program for a musicale than that which, some
six months later, packed the upper Carnegie Hall with the elite of the
music-lovers of New York.  Vox was the drawing card, for he had become,
if not the celebrity, at least the fad, of the season.  "Oh, Vox! he's
just splendid!" was as familiarly heard as the clicking of afternoon
tea-cups everywhere between Flushing and Orange Mountain.  On the
occasion referred to he had achieved a sevenfold encore for one
performance.  To the surprise of everybody, however, when he appeared
to acknowledge the ovation, he led another man with him to the
footlights; one who might have been his twin brother, for there was
just that sort of difference between them that ought to exist between a
tenor and a baritone--the former a little slighter in form and
features.  Curiosity was not allowed to get to the whispering-point
when they rendered the Graben-Hoffman duet, "I feel thy angel spirit."

The applause was furious.  Nothing like it had been heard for six
months outside of Brady's Harbor.  Vox gracefully stepped a little to
the rear.  The audience caught his meaning, and the room rang with the
cry of "Tenor! tenor!"

Vox slipped to the piano, and played the chords of "Salva di Mora" from
Gounod's "Faust."  And how grandly Downs sang it!  If Deacon Brisk had
been there, even he, with his "star-twinkling" and "roof-splitting"
metaphors, could not have described it.

"If Faust sang like that," said an elderly gentleman in the audience to
his wife, "no wonder he won the heart of Marguerite."  And he pressed
his wife's hand, which somehow had got into his.

"Hush, John," replied the woman.  Then she put a handkerchief to her
eyes instead of her lorgnette.

"He's all right again," said the man, and he squeezed his wife's arm,
and nudged her nervously.

"John, don't!"  And the woman glanced at the woman next to her, as if
that individual might care what cooing these old doves indulged in.

This other woman wore a half-veil, one of those vizors with which women
hide their beauty or their freckles from the gaze of the curious.  Not
seeing her face, one cannot say what was transpiring behind the veil;
but the veil shook as if some convulsive emotion might be working
itself out, or struggling to keep itself in.

When Downs left the stage Vox hugged him as a bear would her cub.
"Come," said he, "let's go out in the room and talk to the Silvers."

"The Silvers here!" exclaimed Downs, in consternation.

"They were here, but I believe they have left.  Yes, their seats are
empty.  Now that's too bad."

"No wonder they left when they saw me on the stage.  Vox, you know that
they know all about me.  They would kick me off their doorstep if I
were a beggar.  You've disgraced yourself by bringing me here, as I
told you you would.  The Silvers, of all the people in the world!  I
wouldn't have sung if I had suspected their being here."

"Well, you did sing.  Thank God for it, too," replied his friend.

The next Sunday night at the hobnob Vox tried to make a report to the
doctor of the progress of his protégé.

"Oh, he sang magnificently!  I tell you, that man is reinstated in this
community.  Do you know, doctor, the Silvers were both there?"

"Indeed!" ejaculated his friend, pulling Caleb's tail, and laughing at
the dog's surprise.  Then he pulled it again, and laughed at the dog's
jump as if he had never seen such antics before.

"See here, doctor, you don't seem to care about Downs.  That dog is
more to you than a human being.  But you've got to listen to me."

Vox got rapturous in his account of Downs's success, and ended with, "I
couldn't help wishing that his wife had been there to see
him--handsome, healthy, true man in every feature and tone of voice.
She would have had to fall in love again, or I'll forswear all faith in
the sex."

The doctor rolled himself on the sofa in such glee that the dog
accepted his master's antics as a challenge to more of his own, and
pounced upon him.

"What's the matter with you now?" asked the singer, in amazement.

"Why, his wife was there," roared the doctor.

"The thunder she was!"  Vox jumped up as if he had been sitting in an
electric chair.

Caleb growled to hear such language in the presence of his patron saint.

"I beg your pardon, doctor, but how do you know she was there?"

"Why, I suppose she was, because Mrs. Silver promised to go and take
her to hear _you_ sing."  And the doctor laughed so loud and
hilariously that the collie crept under the lounge, as if in fear of
some more serious explosion.

"And you have been playing the hypocrite with me all the time?" Vox was
nettled.  "If I had known that I wouldn't have sung a note, nor would I
have let Downs do it, either."

"Yet you just said you wish she had been there.  Don't you see that had
you known you would have spoiled your own job?" said the doctor,
working out of his hysteria.  "But, Phil, I'm hungry with preaching and
laughing at you.  Light up the chafing-dish, put in plenty of red
pepper, and when your cockles are warmed you may read this," tossing
him a note.

Vox read:


"DEAR DOCTOR: When I heard Downs sing the other night, I felt sure that
your judgment of him was correct, and that he is a new man.  Mrs. Downs
has been with him for several days.  God bless that little woman!  She
has borne up bravely during her trial; never lost heart; and now she
has her reward.  Of course Downs has his old place with us.  I want to
know that Mr. Vox.  Bring him around to dine with us Wednesday night.
If my wife can persuade them, we will have Mr. and Mrs. Downs too.

  "Yours faithfully,
        "JOHN SILVER."


While Vox was reading the note Caleb came out from under the lounge,
and putting his head in the singer's lap, gazed as worshipfully into
his face as he had ever gazed into that of his master.



* * * * * * * *



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