“It—it’s beautiful, Leon! I was to have sung it on my program to-night—only, I’m afraid you had better not—”
“Please, Leon! Nothing you play can ever make me as sad as it makes me glad. Mannie should have too his good-bye.”
“All right then, ma, if—if you’re sure you want it. Will you sing it, Gina?”
She had risen.
“Why, yes, Leon.”
She sang it then, quite purely, her hands clasped simply together and her glance mistily off, the beautiful, the heroic, the lyrical prophecy of a soldier-poet and a poet-soldier.
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
In the silence that followed, a sob burst out stifled from Esther Kantor, this time her mother holding her in arms that were strong.
“That, Leon, is the most beautiful of all your compositions. What does it mean, son, that word, ’rondy-voo’?”
“Why, I—I don’t exactly know. A rendezvous—it’s a sort of meeting, an engagement, isn’t it, Miss Gina? Gina?”
“That’s it, Leon—an engagement.”
“Have I an engagement with you, Gina?”
“Oh, how—how I hope you have, Leon!”
“In the spring?”
“That’s it—in the spring.”
Then they smiled, these two, who had never felt more than the merest butterfly wings of love brushing them, light as lashes. No word between them, only an unfinished sweetness, waiting to be linked up.
Suddenly there burst in Abrahm Kantor.
“Quick, Leon! I got the car downstairs. Just fifteen minutes to make the ferry. Quick! The sooner we get him over there the sooner we get him back! I’m right, mamma? Now—now—no water-works! Get your brother’s suitcase, Isadore. Now—now—no nonsense—quick!”
With a deftly manoeuvred round of good-byes, a grip-laden dash for door, a throbbing moment of turning back when it seemed as though Sarah Kantor’s arms could not unlock their deadlock of him, Leon Kantor was out and gone, the group of faces point-etched into the silence behind him. The poor mute face of Mannie, laughing softly. Rosa Kantor crying into her hands. Esther, grief-crumpled, but rich in the enormous hope of youth. The sweet Gina, to whom the waiting months had already begun their reality.
Not so, Sarah Kantor. In a bedroom adjoining, its high-ceilinged vastness as cold as a cathedral to her lowness of stature, sobs dry and terrible were rumbling up from her, only to dash against lips tightly restraining them.
On her knees beside a chest of drawers, and unwrapping it from swaddling-clothes, she withdrew what at best had been a sorry sort of fiddle. Cracked of back and solitary of string it was as if her trembling arms, raising it above her head, would make of themselves and her swaying body the tripod of an altar. The old twisting and prophetic pain was behind her heart. Like the painted billows of music that the old Italian masters loved to do, there wound and wreathed about her clouds of song.