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- Aladdin O'Brien - 10/32 -
The hero of the piece was a jovial big rascal with a spirited voice, and much byplay which kept his good-natured audience in titters--from the young gentlemen and little shrieks--from the young ladies. Mr. Blythoe, the hero, when the curtain had fallen upon what the management was pleased to call the second act, consented, in response to continued applause, due to a double back somersault and two appropriate remarks fired off in midair (this was his great psychic moment), to make a little speech and sing a song. His speech, though syntactically erratic, was delivered in a loud, frank way that won everybody's heart, and in closing he said:
"Three nights ago I met with a young feller in this tow--city [applause], and when we had taken one together for luck [titters from the young gentlemen, who wanted one another to know that they knew what he meant], he made me the loan of the song I'm a-going to sing. He made up the words and the tune of this song hisself, and he's right here in this audience." This gave an opportunity for some buffoonery among the young gentlemen. Mr. Blythoe looked for one instant straight at Aladdin, and Aladdin went into a cold sweat, for he began to recollect that somewhere on a certain awful night he had taken drinks with Mr. Blythoe and had sung him songs. Mr. Blythoe went on:
"This young gentleman said I specially wasn't to mention his name, and I won't, but I want all you ladies and gentlemen to know that this here beautiful ballad was composed right here in this tow--city [applause] by a citizen of this city. And here goes."
Then Mr. Blythoe did a wonderful thing. Much was owing to the words and air, but a little something to the way in which Mr. Blythoe sang. He took his audience with the first bar, and had some of them crying when he was through. And the song should have been silly. It was about a gay, gay young dog of a crow, that left the flock and went to a sunny land and lived a mad, mad life; and finally, penitent and old, came home to the north country and saw his old playmates in the distance circling about the old pine-tree, but was too weak to reach them, or to call loud enough for them to hear, and so lay down and died, died, died. The tune was the sweetest little plaintive wail, and at the end of each stanza it died, died, till you had to cry.
Mr. Blythoe received tremendous applause, but refused to encore. He winked to Aladdin and bowed himself off. Then Aladdin executed an unparalleled blush. He could feel it start in the small of his back and spread all over him--up under the roots of his hair to the top of his head. He should have felt proud, instead of which he was suffused with shame. Margaret caught sight of his face.
"What is it, Aladdin?" she said in a whisper.
"Won't you tell me?"
"It's nothing." He got redder and redder.
With downcast eyes he shook his head. She looked at him dubiously and a little pathetically for a moment. Then she said, "Silly goose," and turned to Manners.
"Poor old crow!" said Manners. "I had one, Margaret, when I was little; he had his wings clipped and used to follow me like a dog, and one day he saw some of his old friends out on the salt-marsh, and he hopped out to talk it over with them, and they set upon him and killed him. And I couldn't get there quick enough to help him--I beg your pardon." He picked up a fan and handed it to the girl on his left, and she, having dropped it on purpose, blushed, thanked him, and giggled. Manners turned to Margaret again. "Ever since then," he said, "when I have a gun in my hand and see a crow, I want to kill him for the sake of the crows that killed mine, and to let him go for the sake of mine, who was such a nice old fellow. So it's an awful problem."
Aladdin sat and looked straight before him. "Is real fame as awful as this?" he thought.
Somebody clapped him on the shoulder, and a hearty voice, something the worse for wear, said loudly in his ear, "Bully, Aladdin, bully!"
Aladdin looked up and recognized that bad companion, Beau Larch.
"That's all right," Aladdin tried to say, but Mr. Larch would not be downed.
"Wasn't it bully, Margaret?" he said.
"Oh--hallo--hallo, Beau!" said she, starting and turning round and collecting her wits. "What? Wasn't what bully?"
Aladdin frowned at Larch with all the forbiddingness that he could muster, but Larch was imperturbable.
"Why, Aladdin's song!" he said. "You know, the one about the old crow--the one the man just sang."
Here a young lady, over whom Beau Larch was leaning, confided to her escort in an audible, nervous voice that she knew Beau Larch had been drinking, but she wouldn't say why she knew --anybody could see he had; and then she sniffed with her nose by way of indicating that seeing was not the only or best method of telling.
"You don't mean to say--"said Margaret to Aladdin, and looked him in the eyes. "Why, Aladdin!" she said. And then: "Peter--Peter--'Laddin wrote it, he did. Isn't it gr-reat!"
And Peter, rising to the occasion, said, "Bully," and "I thought it was great," with such absolute frankness and sincerity that Aladdin's heart almost warmed toward him. It was presently known all over the house that Aladdin had written the song. And some of the more clownish of the young people called for Author, Author. Aladdin hung his head.
At supper at the St. Johns' later was a crisp, brisk gentleman with grayish hair, who talked in a pleasant, dry way. Aladdin learned that it was Mr. Blankinship, editor and proprietor of the Portland "Spy." Almost immediately on learning this important item, he saw Mr. Blankinship exchange a word with Margaret and come toward him.
"The same that sent us three poems a while ago?"
"And you wrote that song we heard to-night?"
"Yes, sir." Aladdin was now fiery red.
"What do you do for a living?"
"I've just finished school," said Aladdin. "And I don't know what to do."
"Newspaper work appeal to you?"
"Timid as a coot," thought Mr. Blankinship.
"Write easily?" he said. "Fast--short words?"
Aladdin thought a moment. "Yes, sir," he said coolly.
"Less timid than a coot," thought Mr. Blankinship.
"Willing to live in Portland?"
"I'll give you five dollars a week and give you a trial."
"Thank you, sir."
"Can you get moved and start work Monday?"
Mr. Blankinship smiled cheerfully.
"Pretty entertainment, isn't it?"
"Well, O'Brien, see you Monday; hope we get on." Mr. Blankinship nodded pleasantly and passed up the room to the punch, muttering as he went, "Writes better than talks--dash of genius--more or less timid than a coot."
Aladdin went quickly to find Margaret. He traced her to the pantry, where she was hurrying the servant who had charge of the ice-cream. Aladdin waited until the servant had gone out with a heaping tray.
"Margaret," he said, "I'm going away to live."
He spoke in the flat, colorless voice with which a little child announces that it has hurt itself.
"What do you mean, Aladdin?" She changed color slightly.
"Only that I've got to make a living, Margaret, and it's on a paper, so I ought to be glad."
"Aren't you glad, Aladdin?"
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