“Seems to be a party going on here,” remarked Mr. Wing.
“Father!” exclaimed a voice from the crowd, and Agony darted forward to embrace him. “Why didn’t you tell us you were coming? You’re just in time for the party.”
Mr. Wing greeted the guests affably and after a short interval escaped with the artist to his study on the second floor, where they spent an hour in close consultation behind a locked door.
“Now let’s go down and look in on the party,” said Mr. Wing, locking a package of letters carefully into a small drawer in his desk. Before going down he went to his own room and changed to a suit of white flannels in honor of the occasion.
As he was finally making for the stairway he met Veronica Lehar in the upstairs hall. “May I use the telephone in the study?” she asked.
“Certainly,” he replied, and went in and turned the light on for her and then went on downstairs.
Shouts of laughter filled the air; the negro mammy and the gigantic infant, together with the wheelbarrow and the feeding bottle, were holding the stage at the end of the spacious sitting room. Slim was being given his birthday presents and was surrounded with nonsensical articles of every kind—toys, rattles, all-day suckers, and so forth, and was convulsing the crowd with his antics.
The merriment went on until somebody called for Veronica to play on her violin and she came downstairs with her violin in her hands. Then a hush fell on the crowd, and the merrymakers listened, spellbound and dreamy-eyed, to the strains which the passionate-eyed little Hungarian girl drew from the fiddle resting so caressingly in the hollow of her shoulder.
It was a plaintive, melancholy melody she played first, throbbing with unsatisfied longing and quivering with pain and heartbreak. Sahwah shivered and thought of ice cold rain drops falling on long dead leaves, and the restless unhappiness seized upon her again. The melody wandered on, and in its weird minor thirds there seemed to be all the anguish of an oppressed people, hopeless of release from bondage; condemned to toil in darkness forever.
Then a new note crept into the music, a note of protest, of rebellion. Fury took the place of hopelessness; dumb resignation gave way to angry stirrings. Fiercely the storm raged for a moment, and then subsided into feeble murmurs, and flickered out into hopelessness again, blacker and deeper than before. Then came flight, sudden and headlong, hurried and confused; and days of wandering by land and sea, hours of loneliness and homesickness, of mingled hope and fear, of faith and perplexity, ending in a magnificent hymn of thanksgiving and praise for deliverance. It made Sahwah think of the persecuted Jews in Russia, fleeing from a massacre and coming to America for refuge.
But now the music had taken a gayer, brighter turn. Everywhere there was the hum of industry, a contented sound like the buzzing of bees intent upon gathering honey. Songs of happiness rose on every side, mingled with the sound of joyful feet passing in a gay dance. The music took on an irresistible lilt; the feet of the listeners itched to join in the measure and tapped out the time involuntarily.