Caesar's Column, by Ignatius Donnelly

Chapter 27.

Max’s Story Continued — The Blacksmith Shop

“I need not describe the joy there was in the Jansen family when I brought home Mrs. Brederhagan’s deed of gift and the money. Christina did not yet know that her voice was destroyed, and hence was disposed to refuse what she called ‘the good lady’s great generosity.’ But we reminded her that the widow was rich, and that her son had inflicted great and painful wounds upon her, which had caused her weeks of weary sickness, to say nothing of the doctor’s bills and the other expenses they had been subjected to; and so, at last, she consented and agreed that, for the present at least, she would receive the widow’s money, but only until she could resume her place on the boards of the theater. But the deed of gift drove the brooding shadows out of the heart and eyes of poor Mrs. Jansen.

“I need not tell you all the details of Christina’s recovery. Day by day she grew stronger. She began to speak in whispers, and gradually she recovered her power of speech, although the voice at first sounded husky. She was soon able to move about the house, for youth and youthful spirits are great medicines. One day she placed her hand on mine and thanked me for all my great kindness to her; and said, in her arch way, that I was a good, kindhearted friend, and it was a pity I had any weaknesses; and that I must not forget my promise to her about the next New Year’s day. But she feared that I had neglected my business to look after her.

“At length she learned from the doctor that she could never sing again; that her throat was paralyzed. It was a bitter grief to her, and she wept quietly for some hours. And then she comforted herself with the reflection that the provision made for her by Mrs. Brederhagan had placed herself and her family beyond the reach of poverty. But for this I think she would have broken her heart.

“I had been cogitating for some days upon a new idea. It seemed to me that these plain, good people would be much happier in the country than in the city; and, besides, their income would go farther. They had country blood in their veins, and it takes several generations to get the scent of the flowers out of the instincts of a family; they have subtle promptings in them to walk in the grass and behold the grazing kine. And a city, after all, is only fit for temporary purposes — to see the play and the shops and the mob — and wear one’s life out in nothingnesses. As one of the poets says:

“‘Thus is it in the world-hive; most where men

Lie deep in cities as in drifts — death drifts —

Nosing each other like a flock of sheep;

Not knowing and not caring whence nor whither

They come or go, so that they fool together.”

“And then I thought, too, that Mr. Jansen was unhappy in idleness. He was a great, strong man, and accustomed all his life to hard work, and his muscles cried out for exercise.

“So I started out and made little excursions in all directions. At last I found the very place I had been looking for. It was about twelve miles beyond the built-up portions of the suburbs, in a high and airy neighborhood, and contained about ten acres of land. There was a little grove, a field, a garden, and an old-fashioned, roomy house. The house needed some repairs, it is true; but beyond the grove two roads crossed each other, and at the angle would be an admirable place for a blacksmith shop. I purchased the whole thing very cheaply. Then I set carpenters to work to repair the house and build a blacksmith shop. The former I equipped with furniture, and the latter with anvil, bellows and other tools, and a supply of coal and iron.

“When everything was ready I told Christina another of my white lies. I said to her that Mrs. Brederhagan, learning that her voice was ruined forever by her son’s dagger, had felt impelled, by her conscience and sense of right, to make her a present of a little place in the country, and had deputed me to look after the matter for her, and that I had bought the very place that I thought would suit them.

“And so we all started out to view the premises. It would be hard to say who was most delighted, Christina or her mother or her father; but I am inclined to think the latter took more pure happiness in his well-equipped little shop, with the big sign, ‘CARL JANSEN, BLACKSMITH,’ and the picture of a man shoeing a horse, than Christina did in the flowerbed, or her mother in the comfortable household arrangements.

“Soon after the whole family moved out. I was right. A race that has lived for several generations in the country is an exotic in a city.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:53