ADAMS, Samuel Hopkins
Three men sat in the Cosmic Club discussing the question: "What's the matter with Jones?" Waldemar, the oldest of the conferees, was the owner, and at times the operator, of an important and decent newspaper. His heavy face wore the expression of good-humored power, characteristic of the experienced and successful journalist. Beside him sat Robert Bertram, the club idler, slender and languidly elegant. The third member of the conference was Jones himself.
From A Bench In Our Square
Peter (flourish-in-red) Quick (flourish-in-green) Banta (period-in-blue) is the style whereby he is known to Our Square. Summertimes he is a prop and ornament of Coney, that isle of the blest, whose sands he models into gracious forms and noble sentiments, in anticipation of the casual dime or the munificent quarter, wherewith, if you have low, Philistine tastes or a kind heart, you have perhaps aforetime rewarded him. In the off-season the thwarted passion of color possesses him; and upon the flagstones before Thornsen's Élite Restaurant, which constitutes his canvas, he will limn you a full-rigged ship in two colors, a portrait of the heavyweight champion in three, or, if financially encouraged, the Statue of Liberty in four. These be, however, concessions to popular taste. His own predilection is for chaste floral designs of a symbolic character borne out and expounded by appropriate legends. Peter Quick Banta is a devotee of his art. Giving full run to his loftier aspirations, he was engaged, one April day, upon a carefully represented lilac with a butterfly about to light on it, when he became cognizant of a ragged rogue of an urchin regarding him with a grin. Peter Quick Banta misinterpreted this sign of interest. "What d'ye think of that?" he said triumphantly, as he sketched in a set of side-whiskers (presumably intended for antennae) upon the butterfly. "Rotten," was the prompt response. "What!" said the astounded artist, rising from his knees. "Punk." Peter Quick Banta applied the higher criticism to the urchin's nearest ear. It was now that connoisseur's turn to be affronted. Picking himself out of the gutter, he placed his thumb to his nose, and wiggled his finger in active and reprehensible symbolism, whilst enlarging upon his original critique, in a series of shrill roars: "Rotten! Punk! No good! Swash! Flubdub! Sacré tas de—de—piffle!" Already his vocabulary was rich and plenteous, though, in those days, tainted by his French origin. He then, I regret to say, spat upon the purple whiskers of the butterfly and took refuge in flight. The long stride of Peter Quick Banta soon overtook him. Silently struggling he was haled back to the profaned temple of Art. "Now, young feller," said Peter Quick Banta. "Maybe you think you could do it better." The world-old retort of the creative artist to his critic! "Any fool could," retorted the boy, which, in various forms, is almost as time-honored as the challenge. Suspecting that only tactful intervention would forestall possible murder, I sauntered over from my bench. But the decorator of sidewalks had himself under control. "Try it," he said grimly. The boy avidly seized the crayons extended to him. "You want me to draw a picture? There?" "If you don't, I'll break every bone in your body." The threat left its object quite unmoved. He pointed a crayon at PeterQuick Banta's creation. "What is that? A bool-rush?" "It's a laylock; that's what it is." "And the little bird that goes to light—" "That ain't a bird and you know it." Peter Quick Banta breathed hard
Oh, well! Likely enough. Most unwise, and rash and inexcusable, that headlong mating; and there will be a reckoning to pay. Babies, probably, and new needs and pressing anxieties, and Love will perhaps flutter at the window when Want shows his grim face at the door; and Wisdom will be justified of his forebodings, and yet--and yet--who am I, old and lonely and uncompanioned, yet once touched with the spheral music and the sacred fire, that I should subscribe to the dour orthodoxies of MacLachan and that ilk?
Years and years ago a bird flew in at my window, a bird of wonderful and flashing hues, and of lilting melodies. It came; it tarried--and I let the chill voice of Prudence overbear its music. It left me. But the song endures; the song endures, and all life has been the richer for its echoes. So let them hold and cherish their happiness, the two young fools.
As for the old one, would that some good fairy, possessed of the pigment and secret of perishable youth, might come down and paint his nose green!