« PreviousContinue »
"But you risked your life, you foolhardy man!" cried Dorothee, who was shuddering at her husband's explanation.
The latter shrugged his shoulders.
"Ah, bah!" he said with careless gayety; "who risks nothing has nothing; I have found Farraut— that's the principal thing. If the grandfather sees us from up there, he ought to be satisfied."
This reflection, made in an almost indifferent tone, touched Arnold, who held out his hand impetuously to the peasant.
"What you have done was prompted by a good heart," he said with feeling.
"What? Because I have kept a dog from drowning?" answered Moser. "Dogs and men—thank God I have helped more than one out of a hole since I was born; but I have sometimes had better weather than to-night to do it in. Say, wife, there must be a glass of cognac left; bring the bottle here; there is nothing that dries you better when you're wet."
Dorothee brought the bottle to the farmer, who drank to his guest's health, and then each sought his bed.
The next morning the weather was fine again; the sky was clear, and the birds, shaking their feathers, sang on the still dripping trees.
When he descended from the garret, where a bed had been prepared for him, Arnold found near the door Parraut, who was warming himself in the sun, while little Jean, seated on his crutches, was making him a collar of eglantine berries. A little further on, in the first room, the farmer was clinking glasses with a beggar who had come to collect his weekly tithe; Dorothee was holding his wallet, which she was filling.
"Come, old Henri, one more draught," said the peasant, refilling the beggar's glass; "if you mean to finish your round you must take courage."
"That one always finds here," said the beggar with a smile; "there are not many houses in the parish where they give more, but there is not one where they give with such good will."
"Be quiet, will you, Pere Henri?" interrupted Moser; "do people talk of such things? Drink and let the good God judge each man's actions. You, too, have served; we are old comrades."
The old man contented himself with a shake of the head and touched his glass to the farmer's; but one could see that he was more moved by the heartiness that accompanied the alms than the alms itself.
When he had taken up his wallet again and bade them good-by, Moser watched him go until he had disappeared around a bend in the road. Then drawing a breath, he said, turning to his guest:
"One more poor old man without a home. You may believe me or not, monsieur, but when I see men with shaking heads going about like that, begging their bread from door to door, it turns my blood. I should like to set the table for them all and touch glasses with them all as I did just now with Pere Henri. To keep your heart from breaking at such a sight, you must believe that there is a world up there where those who have not been summoned to the ordinary here will receive double rations and double pay."
"You must hold to that belief," said Arnold; "it will support and console you. It will be long before I shall forget the hours I have passed in your house, and I trust they will not be the last."
"Whenever you choose," said the old soldier; "if you don't find the bed up there too hard and if you can digest our bacon, come at your pleasure, and we shall always be under obligations to you."
He shook the hand that the young man had extended, pointed out the way that he must take, and did not leave the threshold until he had seen his guest disappear in the turn of the road.
For some time Arnold walked with lowered head, but upon reaching the summit of the hill he turned to take a last backward look, and seeing the farmhouse chimney, above which curled a light wreath of smoke, he felt a tear of tenderness rise to his eye.
"May God always protect those who live under that roof!" he murmured; "for where pride made me see creatures incapable of understanding the finer qualities of the soul, I have found models for myself. I judged the depths by the surface and thought poetry absent because, instead of showing itself without, it hid itself in the heart of the things themselves; ignorant observer that I was, I pushed aside with my foot what I thought were pebbles, not guessing that in these rude stones were hidden diamonds."
JOHN HOWARD PAYNE AND "HOME, SWEET HOME"
^BOUT a hundred years ago, a young man, little more than a boy, was drawing large audiences to the theaters of our eastern cities. New York received him with enthusiasm, cultured Boston was charmed by his person and his graceful bearing, while warm-hearted Baltimore fairly outdid herself in hospitality. Until this time five hundred dollars was a large sum for a theater to yield in a single night in Baltimore, but people paid high premiums to hear the boy actor, and a one-evening audience brought in more than a thousand dollars.
About the same time in Engand another boy actor, Master Betty, was creating great excitement, and him they called the Young Roscius, a name that was quickly caught up by the admirers of the Yankee youth, who then became known as the Young American Roscius.
He was a wonderful boy in every way, was John Howard Payne. One of a large family of children, several of whom were remarkably bright, he had from his parents the most careful training, though they were not able always to give him the advantages they wished. John was born in New York City, but early moved with his parents to East Hampton, the most eastern town on the jutting southern point of Long Island. Here in the charming little village he passed his childhood, a leader among his playmates, and a favorite among his elders. His slight form, rounded face, beautiful features and graceful bearing combined to attract also the marked attention of every stranger who met him.
At thirteen years of age he was at work in New York, and soon was discovered to be the editor in secret of a paper called The Thespian Mirror. The merit of this juvenile sheet attracted the attention of many people, and among them of Mr. Seaman, a wealthy New Yorker who offered the talented boy an opportunity to go to college free of expense. Young Payne gladly accepted the invitation, and proceeded to Union College, where he soon became one of the most popular boys in the school. His handsome face, graceful manners and elegant delivery were met with applause whenever he spoke in public, and a natural taste led him to seek every chance for declamation and acting. Even as a child he had showed his dramatic ability, and more than once he was urged to go upon the stage. But his father refused all offers and kept the boy steadily at his work.
When he was seventeen, however, two events occurred which changed all his plans. First his mother died, and then his father failed in business, and the young man saw that he must himself take up the burdens of the family. Accordingly he left college before graduation and began his career as an actor.
His success was immediate and unusual, if we may judge from the words of contemporary critics. His first appearance in Boston was on February 24,