Monday, December 28, 2009

THE PRINCESS OF THE VIOLIN, part 9 of 9; by C. Courtenay Savage (1920)

"Oh, you've got to play Home, Sweet Home! shouted a middle-aged man down in front and the whole house echoed him. "Yes! Home, Sweet Home! You've got to play that!" She smiled at them and touched the bow to the strings.

"Mid pleasure and palaces-" the simple strain of the music flowed from her violin, and then "Home! Home! Sweet, Sweet Home," and so on to the finish of the melody. Obeying a warm, inward impulse she repeated the refrain, the bow wandering in soft harmonies and variations. A sob rose in her heart. The old song was right! There was "no place on Earth" quite like home. And to her, this little theater, with the people who knew her best with John Higgins and his sister, was home to her. They loved her! There was not one of them that wore perfectly correct evening dress; they might not understand her more difficult musical themes. But they loved her! She was one of them. After the last high, sweet note died, she took no bows, she had to hide the free-running tears. She stumbled to the little dressing-room and dropped to a chair. They were real people, her own folk. And in the world beyond lay-what? Success? Money? Yes, but here were men and woman who had driven miles through frosty air to hear her. After all, hearts were more than money, friendship more than fame.

There was a knock at her door. It was John Higgins. She smiled at him through her tears.

"Crying? What's up! You were more wonderful than ever," he said. "I don't wonder the big world calls you. When you played that Holy Night piece, I almost cried--and--"

He stopped abruptly. "What's up--dear?"

"It's nothing," she smiled wanly. "I'm just tired."

"That's all? Sure?"

"They all love me so, John! It's been wonderful playing in the big cities but--'there is no place like home,'" and she sobbed outright.

He dropped to his knees beside her chair. He took her hands in his. "You don't have to be tired any more, Mary. You don't have to fiddle for city folks. You'll never have to work again, but just play when you will for the folks that love you best. Why--" he stopped.

She knew what he meant. That the big farm and the theater could keep them. That he wanted to marry her. That she never again need eat another lonely Christmas dinner. The thought was as the sweetest music that filled her soul. It soothed the ache in her heart.

"Holy Night!" she breathed softly, almost as if in prayer and leaned closer to him.

John Higgins understood. Through the silence of the little, barn-like room came to him the glorious message that Mary's heart had won home--she was giving him the best
Christmas gift in his life, a true woman's love.

The End.

Friday, December 25, 2009

THE PRINCESS OF THE VIOLIN, part 8 of 9; by C. Courtenay Savage (1920)

She dressed herself more than carefully that night and the mirror reflected her image as a handsome woman in startling raiment. She had not seen Higgins. She wondered if he were avoiding her. She hoped not, for after all, she liked John. He had been very, very kind to her and with him, friendship had blossomed into love. She smiled when she realized that if she had wished, she might be Mrs. John Higgins of Thompsonville, instead of Mary Jennings with the sure prospects of a glorious career before her.

As she stepped on to the stage that night, a chorus of "Oh's!" mingled with the thunder of applause. She checked it, almost imperiously, and played. First, there was a lilting waltz which showed all the fire of her art. Then, scarcely waiting for the silence, she played the ever-beloved Christmas lullaby, Silent Night, Holy Night. The hush of a great peace was over the house. A woman muffled a sob. Mary Jennings felt the spirit of her own music as if she were hearing another. It seemed to exalt her, to carry her above smallness and unrest. At their insistent demand she played the Christmas favorites they called for: Hark, the Herald Angels Sing, It Came Upon the Midnight Clear and Good King Wenceslas. A child in front started to sing familiar words. Mary Jennings nodded joyously to the little girl and called "Sing out, dear! Everyone sing!" And they did! "Come all Ye Faithful" someone called and the words were repeated from parquet and box and gallery. They sang the melody, quietly at first but in growing volume as the Christmas spirit that was in their hearts overwhelmed them.

"Come All Ye Faithful!" A thought filled the brain of the "Princess." How faithful they were, these "common people"--in their daily lives--in their love for her. She turned suddenly weary. After all, she had had but little sleep in the past ten days. It was hard to rest even when one traveled in luxury. She would play no more tonight.

She walked toward the side of the stage and bowed, as if to end her program.

To be continued...

Monday, December 21, 2009

THE PRINCESS OF THE VIOLIN, part 7 of 9; by C. Courtenay Savage (1920)

Thompsonville! Suddenly she almost hated the name. For ten days she had traveled in luxury and lived at the best hotels. She had been playing before audiences who wore evening clothes, who applauded correctly, who understood her music. Of course, the small town folk had been fond of her, and John Higgins loved her. But everything was changed now and surely it was a right change.

She found that Helm had gone West but had left an order for her. As she feared, he had not been able to break the Thompsonville engagement. She was to keep it and then report back to Springfield. He would be back the day after Christmas and then the contract for the long tour could be signed.

She was disappointed, so much so that she considered playing sick and so cheating Higgins after all. She shivered at her smallness but argued with herself that she was right. For a whole day she moped about her hotel, one minute deciding that she might as well go, the next determining that she would never play in Tompsonville again.

In the end, however, duty won, duty plus a queer feeling of resentment. She would go down to Tompsonville! She would play as she had never played before! She would wear the gorgeous gown that she had bought with the thought of her Chicago engagement in mind. She would show Tompsonville what it would be missing in the years that were coming!

It was after noon when she arrived, and she went at once to the theater to find what part she was scheduled to play in Higgins' gala program. She found the lobby trimmed with evergreen and in a frame of holly has her name with the familiar Princess of the Violin heading. The stage, too, was gaily decorated. A piano was on the stage and the organist of the Methodist Church, the best local musician, was engaged especially to play her accompaniments. She found too to her surprise, that there was to be no afternoon performance, and only one that evening. Higgins, so the man at the box office told her, had gone to his sister's to eat Christmas dinner but would be back about seven. Her accompanist would meet her at four to practice.

There seemed to be nothing else to do but go back to her hotel room and the hotel proprietor asked her if he could serve her Christmas dinner, assuring her that there was plenty left.

It was a lonely meal! Other years she had been the guest of friends, and last year, she too, had dined at John Higgins' sister's. But now a change had come. She had begun that change herself.

At four she returned to the theater to rehearse, then back to the hotel, for another lonely meal and the dragging hours until the evening engagement.

To be continued...

Friday, December 18, 2009

THE PRINCESS OF THE VIOLIN, Part 6 of 9; by C. Courtenay Savage (1920)

"I guess you can do it!" Helm said bluntly. "Goodnight! I'll call you in the morning."

It was several minutes before she moved. She stood there, thinking, thinking, her brain almost numbed by the glory that had befallen her. This had been her day of days!

When she went back to her hotel she sent half a dozen telegrams, each one cancelling an engagement to play in a small town. Mary Jennings told herself that these telegrams were the knives that cut her free for a wonderful world wide experience.

It was hours before she slept and from a fitful slumber her telephone rudely aroused her. It was a telegram from John Higgins.

Cannot release you from engagement Christmas Day. Have made all preparations for gala performance. Will release you all the rest of the week.

The message angered her. How dare he! When Helm later called her on the telephone, she told him of Higgins' message.

"Did you sign any kind of contract with him?"

"Yes, a little slip of paper."

"H-m! That probably constitutes a contract. Perhaps I can buy him off."

Mary Jennings said that she hoped that it would be possible.

"Well, don't worry about it," Helm assured her. "I've got a lot of work for you to do. I've just had word that Albrie, who's been playing in a concert town with a pianist, and Madame Shavet, the soprano, has been taken sick. I want you to fill in his dates for a few days. Can you start this afternoon?

Could she start? She could have been ready in twenty minutes!

It was ten days before she returned to Springfield and Carl Helm's office. She had not heard from him for several days and was anxious as to whether she was to start for Chicago at once, or if by any strange chance, she would be forced to play the Christmas date at Thompsonville.

To be continued...

Monday, December 14, 2009

THE PRINCESS OF THE VIOLIN, Part 5 of 9; by C. Courtenay Savage (1920)

She had only been in her dressing-room a minute before Helm knocked.

"I was out front," he said quickly. "You made good."

"Do you really think so?"

"Sure--you'll do. I'm not going to hand you any bunk that you're great but you've got something that gets them and that's what counts."

"Then you really think that I could play for big audiences--in big cities?"

He nodded emphatically.

"I have always wondered," she said quietly, "and now--" her eyes sparkled.

"Well, you've had your answer. You got across. You're staying at the Palace Hotel, aren't you? I'll call you up in the morning and we'll talk contracts."

He turned and started from the room but suddenly stopped.

"Say, by the way, I've a couple of open concert dates that I've got to have someone to fill. There's one in Hartford next week, another in Pittsburgh, and--" he stopped, looking at her keenly as if weighing his own wisdom. "Then there's the big Christmas festival in Chicago on the 25th. Say!" he was suddenly enthusiastic. "You can play the kind of stuff that the mob likes to hear and you play it well. I'll put you on at the Christmas festival. That'll make every paper in the country mention your name."

The little woman clasped her hands before her. To play at the Christmas festival in Chicago was a dream that few ever realized. Her eyes were wide as a child seeing its first Christmas tree. A tear of happiness glistened on her lashes. Yes! She would play to them the "kind of stuff" that they liked to hear. She would make every newspaper man mention her name. This meant success, the will-of-the-wisp that she had been blindly pursing for nearly ten years.

"How wonderful!" she breathed.

To be continued...

Friday, December 11, 2009

THE PRINCESS OF THE VIOLIN, Part 4 of 9; by C. Courtenay Savage (1920)

The man nodded but had no word for reply.

It seemed to Mary Jennings as she entered the taxi-cab at the Springfield Union depot the following Sunday, that she had never been more calm. And she should have been excited! At her feet was a bag containing the handsomest dress she had ever owned. On the seat beside her was her violin, a valuable instrument, bought after years of saving and self-denial. With these as her allies she was going to face her first metropolitan audience.

The rehearsal that afternoon was of little importance. She talked with the orchestra leader and the pianist. Carlos Helm, darting here and there about the dim auditorium, had greeted her pleasantly and promptly ignored her after that. About five she returned to the hotel and lay down to rest. She would not be needed until nine.

The orchestra had concluded its first number and an ex-president of the United States was speaking when she came from her dressing room, violin in hand, to stand near the wings. It was almost time for her to play. Helm, seeing her standing there, came forward, smiling.

"Play like a million dollars tonight and that contract will be ready in the morning. And don't be afraid."

She nodded. She was not afraid. If anything, she was too unafraid!

She went slowly forward. There was a sprinkling of applause and she lifted her bow to play. She went through the four numbers, two programmed numbers and their encores, playing with all the skill that had made her a favorite in the rural districts that hailed her as a princess. The audience, used to greater violinists perhaps, but unable to resist the emotion in her music, gave her a more than hearty welcome and a most hearty recall.

To be continued...

Monday, December 7, 2009

THE PRINCESS OF THE VIOLIN, part 3 of 9; by C. Courtenay Savage (1920)

He was gone from the room before she could really answer him. She sat there on the trunk, wide-eyed, but blind to the things about her, until the call for her second performance roused her.

The applause was as generous as usual but it had lost flavor. Springfield! A world tour! Was she dreaming?

When she went back to her dressing room, John Higgins was waiting.

"What did he want, Mary?" he asked quickly. "He said that he was a concert manager. Does he want you to work for him?"

She nodded.

"Yes, he said that I was a good player. He said that I might have an engagement with one of his bands, making a world tour. I'm going to play at a concert for him next Sunday, the twelfth--to try me out.

For a minute the man did not answer. From out of doors came the faint sound of sleighbells as some of the audience drove homeward.

It--it's mighty fine for you, Mary," he said slowly, "but you'll never get any better friends--any folks that like you more than we do."

"I know," she answered him quickly, still it's my chance, and after all, I'd never get any more money than I'm earning now as long as I play in these small towns."

"Money! It don't seem right for you to have to be earning money--why--"

"I know," she interrupted him, "I know that you have this theater and there's the farm that has been such a paying proposition but, John!" a sudden tenderness came into her voice, "I love to play. When I came past the front of the theater tonight and saw that billing, The Princess of the Violin, it seemed to have made up for all the rough places I have traveled. I've been very happy playing here in the small towns but now I want my chance to be great. We can always be wonderful friends, can't we John?"

To be continued...

Friday, December 4, 2009

THE PRINCESS OF THE VIOLIN, part 2 of 9; by C. Courtenay Savage (1920)

I'm pleased to meet you, Miss Jennings," Helm said cordially. He was a large man and by his general appearance, a man of success.

"Yes, he's been waiting to see you--says that he has something very important to say." Higgins spoke almost eagerly. "Then--I guess you folks can get on without me. You played wonderfully tonight, Miss Mary, better than ever!"

"Thank you," Mary Jennings said, smiling, and the stranger, noting the light in her eyes, concluded that the violinist and the theatre proprietor must be more than mere business friends.

"I understand that there are always great houses when you play," Helm said as the door closed.

"Yes, they seem to like my playing." The woman motioned her visitor to a chair and seated herself on the top of her trunk. She was very curious and slightly awed.

"That's what I came about--your playing. One of my advance men heard you in Grafton City last week. He sent word to me and I followed you here. I heard you play this afternoon."

"Yes--?" she asked uneasily.

"And I'll hand it to you--you can play."

"Thank you," she smiled again. There was a long pause. Each was thinking.

"You don't know who I am, do you?" he asked presently. "You don't place me?"

No, she did not place him.

"I'm Carlos Helm, the concert manager. I'm getting ready a big world tour for one of the bands that I send out. We're looking for soloists. I think you'd do for one of them---"

"I? For a world tour?"

"Maybe. I'd like to try you out." He was abruptly business-like.

"I don't know---" she said softly.

"No, neither do I. But I could soon find out. Suppose you plan to come into Springfield next Sunday. We're having a big concert there in connection with a religious drive they are holding. I'm going to have four or five big musical numbers and they're providing the speakers. There's sure to be a crowd and if you get across with that crowd--well, you'll be able to go with any crowd."

The woman's eyes sparkled but she did not speak.

"Now about money. I'm not going to drag you before the public and then have some rival manager grab you up if you make a big hit. How much do you make playing around at these small town theaters? Not much, I'll wager."

"I average a hundred dollars a week, though, of course, I seldom get an engagement in the summer--that is July and August."

"A hundred a week, And you're paying your own expenses," the man smiled. He had an easy task before him.

I'll give you fifty dollars and expenses to play in Springfield. You'll only have to do four pieces. If you go over right, I'll give you a hundred and fifty a week and traveling expenses to begin with. Afterward you'll have more."

"I'll have to think about it," she said softly. "I--it sounds wonderful!"

"Yes, that's right--it sounds wonderful!" Show up at the Auditorium in Springfield about three o'clock on the twelfth. That will give you time for a rehearsal. I've got to run now for my train. Goodbye!"

To be continued...

Monday, November 30, 2009

THE PRINCESS OF THE VIOLIN, part 1 of 9; by C. Courtenay Savage (1920)

In spite of the light whirl of snow which everyone said was seasonable, considering that Christmas was only three weeks off, there were a score of people waiting before the ticket window of the Thompsonville motion picture house. John Higgins, the proprietor, saw the crowd and smiled. He knew why they were there twenty minutes before show time, and with the air of a man regarding a great possession, glanced proudly at the showy billboard.


He read the sign a second and a third time. Then he went quickly into the box office and opening the window, began to sell tickets.

It was half-past seven when Mary Jennings made her first appearance that night, sandwiched between a comedy picture and the big feature of the evening. She was a small woman with dark hair and eyes, no longer really young, and in appearance, foreign to the stage. In her simply cut dress, she could hardly be called good-looking but she had a radiant smile that was all-enveloping. When the spotlight caught her as she entered from one side of the stage, there was a heavy roar of applause which the lifting of her violin checked abruptly. Those out front did not wish to miss a single note.

Mary Jennings had played the violin since childhood and she could make the instrument laugh and sigh, weep and sing and dream. As she swayed the bow over the vibrating strings, so she swayed the hearts of those who listened. She was not a great artist. She played with divine temperament.

Tonight she played three semi-classical melodies and then, with a friendly smile and words, asked her audience to tell her what they would like. The first two "request" pieces came quickly and then with a joyous clamor they called for Home, Sweet Home--old-fashioned, forever beloved, Home Sweet Home. Just as a certain great singer had always sung that ballad best, so it was the choicest number in Mary Jennings' repertoire.

After she had bowed acknowledgement to their sincere applause, they settled back for the feature picture and Mary Jennings' work was over until it was time for the second performance.

Tonight, as she entered the small, scrupulously clean dressing-room to await the second call, she found John Higgins there, and with him a stranger whom he introduced as Mr. Helm.

To be continued...

Friday, November 27, 2009

OVER-WORK IS UNDER-PLAY, by Florence Longley Fosbroke (1918)

There is hardly one of us who has not heard, from physician or family or friends, a great deal about the dangers of over-work.

Today, when we are all trying to do more work and harder work than ever before, the danger bulks very large and close at hand. But--I honestly believe that there is not one-half the danger in over-work that there is in under-play.

Under-play is something about which we have heard very little. Has it ever once occurred to us, for instance, that the woman who one day dropped her pots and pans and fled out into "A vagrant's morning wide and blue, In the early fall, when the wind walks too," was doing a virtuous thing! Why, no, indeed! she was leaving her work undone, her day's plans all awry. What of her beds unmade and her twelve o'clock dinner to cook?

"Efficiency" is the modern cry. Efficiency is an excellent thing in my kitchen but it must leave some room for my soul to grow. A schedule of duties is an excellent thing, in my day, if it be elastic enough to include other values than those of immaculate floors and carefully prepared food. We are all of us too apt--and this applies especially to the most conscientious of us--to postpone the things we should like to do until the things we think we ought to do are done. And that time seems never to come.

We plan for cooking and cleaning; for washing and ironing; for canning and preserving and sewing and mending; for special duties of winter and spring and summer and fall. Do we plan as carefully for reading, for pleasure, for outings or pleasant home afternoons and evenings? And--let us put this question,--even when we do claim for ourselves, either deliberately or on sudden impluse, a little leisure for enjoyment or diversion, do we include the family--all of the family--in our pleasure and rest plans?

To be a Home Mother is the biggest and most beautiful part of being a Housekeeper.

The human relationship is the most valuable thing, as well as the most mysterious and beautiful thing, in the family and in the world. The woman who is merely a mechanic as far as life is concerned, getting work "done" and losing soul-contact with the workers, is cheating herself of the charm that is her birthright and of the love that is her due. You and I simply cannot afford to get along without the intangible possessions of life, which, after all, are the only "real." The state of being a real mother or a real daughter or a real friend, is the only "real" estate which does not change value or suffer loss! I shall never tire of the story told in verse, of the woman who, having only two loaves, "Sold one, and with the dole, bought hyacinths to feed her soul."

Inevitably, as she enriched her own life, she enriched those about her. I can admire even more that woman who, not daring to sell the one loaf which must feed her children, should presently take those children with her out to the fields where daisies grow. To my mind, one of the most wonderful individuals I have known is a washerwoman living in a large city, who, after a hard day's work in another woman's kitchen, takes her two little sons, in the evening, to a free municipal concert to "feed her soul" and theirs.

We have never needed to cherish our ideals as we need to cherish them now. And that we may cherish our ideals it is absolutely imperative that we perserve our necessary leisure and fill it full of warm and pleasant thoughts.

Monday, November 23, 2009

THANKFULNESS (1930 & 1934)


In such a moment of doubt as comes to most of us at times, a reader of The Farmer's Wife writes to us to say:

"Thanksgiving Day approaches again, but how can we be thankful in our community where hail and drouth and other ills of agriculture have given us a lean year and empty purses. I am not irreverent when I say that it is not easy for me to lift my voice in thankfulness and praise."

While it must always remain a personal matter with our friend and with each of us whether or not we find cause for thanksgiving in what has happened to us, yet we suggest that there are good reasons for gratitude which apply to all of us.

Thanksgiving Day is not a time only for giving thanks for larger crops and herds, better prices, and more cash in the bank. If it were, it would be a poor occasion--pitifully poor.

But it is also a time for measuring those things that feed and clothe the spirit--the unseen things that are most able to make life more abundant.

And what are they? Love that we give and that we receive; the sacrifices that grow out of love; freedom to think, to speak and to do; the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; the guarantee of opportunity for all; the knowledge that each day is a new day, and each year a new year, bringing new hope; the assurance that God is still in his world, and that Christ's teachings are still able to save it.

In our land, these are gifts which all of us have, and how could there be greater?

We find a helpful suggestion for Thanksgiving in these words from Paul's letter to the Corinthians:

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, and the things which are not seen are eternal.

IT DOESN'T COST A PENNY--Rainbow, South Dakota (1934)

It doesn't cost a penny: To let my imagination go window shopping while my mind's eye furnishes our homesteader's shack with linoleum in black and ivory squares.

To paint the furniture in ivory with black and rose trim, and the walls in ivory and green with ceiling in apricot.

To curtain the many-paned east windows in shades of apricot and ivory and honeydew.

To replace my worn bedding with rain-bows-round-my-shoulder.

To re-read the stack of good magazines saved from the pre-depression era, and regain the old inspiration.

To rise from bed while the starlight is paling and climb a hill.

To drink deep draughts of cool dawn, and descend a cool, steep canyon for a few strawberries and flowers from God's garden.

To ignore the heat, the drouth, the depression, strikes and rumors of war and find pleasant topics of conversation.

To remember that some kindly wise man said, "Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy."

To read God's Book of eternal truth and gain courage and peace from His word.

To pray unceasingly, with hope and faith, not for material blessings so much as for spiritual development and the salvation of us all.

To remember that the best things in this world, and the next, are without money and without price.

The end...

Happy Thanksgiving to you all,