Mirko, crouched up by the smoldering fire, was playing the Chanson Triste on his violin when the two reached the studio. He had a wonderful talent—of that there was no doubt—but his health had always been too delicate to stand any continuous study. Nor had the means of the family ever been in a sufficiently prosperous condition, in later years, to procure a really good master. But the touch and soul of the strange little fellow sounded in every wailing note. He always played the Chanson Triste when he was sad and lonely. He had been nearly seven when his mother died, and he remembered her vividly. She had so loved Tschaikovsky’s music, and this piece especially. He had played it to her—from ear then—the afternoon she lay dying, and for him, as for them all, it was indissolubly connected with her memory. The tears were slowly trickling down Mirko’s cheeks. He was going to be taken away from his father, his much loved Cherisette would not be near him, and he feared and hated strangers.
He felt he was talking to his mother with his bow. His mother who was in heaven, with all the saints and angels. What could it be like up there? It was perhaps a forest, such as Fontainebleau, only there were sure to be numbers of birds which sang like the nightingales in the Borghese Gardens—there would be no canaries! The sun always shone and Maman would wear a beautiful dress of blue gauze with wings, and her lovely hair, which was fair, not red like Cherisette’s, would be all hanging down. It surely was a very desirable place, and quite different from the Neville Street lodging. Why could he not get there, out of the cold and darkness? Cherisette had always taught him that God was so good and kind to little boys who had crippled backs. He would ask God with all the force of his music, to take him there to Maman.
The sound of the familiar air struck a chill note upon Mimo and Zara, as they came up the stairs; it made them hasten their steps—they knew very well what mood it meant with the child.
He was so far away, in his passionate dream-prayer, that he did not hear them coming until they opened the door; and then he looked up, his beautiful dark eyes all wet with tears which suddenly turned to joy when he saw his sister.
“Cherisette adoree!” he cried, and was soon in her arms, soothed and comforted and caressed. Oh, if he could always be with her, he really, after all, would wish for no other heaven!
“We are going to have such a picnic!” Zara told him. “Papa and I have brought a new tablecloth, and some pretty cups and saucers, and spoons, and knives, and forks—and see! such buns! English buns for you to toast, Mirko mio! You must be the little cook, while I lay the table.”
And the child clapped his hands with glee and helped to take the papers off; he stroked the pretty roses on the china with his delicate, little forefinger—he had Mimo’s caressing ways with everything he admired and loved. He had never broken his toys, as other children do; accidental catastrophes to them had always caused him pain and weeping. And these bright, new flowery cups should be his special care, to wash, and dry, and guard.