The Fifth String

by John Philip Sousa

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Chapter VIII

THE sun was high in the heavens when the violinist awoke. A great weight had been lifted from his heart; he had passed from darkness into dawn.

A messenger brought him this note:

⁠My Dear Signor Diotti—I am at home this afternoon, and shall be delighted to see you and return my thanks for the exquisite pleasure you gave me last evening. Music, such as yours, is indeed the voice of heaven. Sincerely,

Mildred Wallace.

The messenger returned with this reply:

⁠My Dear Miss Wallace—I will call at three to-day.

Gratefully,⁠ Angelo Diotti.

He watched the hour drag from eleven to twelve, then counted the minutes to one, and from that time until he left the hotel each second was tabulated in his mind. Arriving at her residence, he was ushered into the drawing-room. It was fragrant with the perfume of violets, and he stood gazing at her portrait expectant of her coming.

Dressed in simple white, entrancing in her youthful freshness, she entered, her face glowing with happiness, her eyes languorous and expressive. She hastened to him, offering both hands. He held them in a loving, tender grasp, and for a moment neither spoke. Then she, gazing clearly and fearlessly into his eyes, said: "My heart has found its melody!"

He, kneeling like Sir Gareth of old: "The song and the singer are yours forever."

She, bidding him arise: "And I for ever yours." And wondering at her boldness, she added, "I know and feel that you love me—your eyes confirmed your love before you spoke." Then, convincingly and ingenuously, "I knew you loved me the moment we first met. Then I did not understand what that meant to you, now I do."

He drew her gently to him, and the motive of their happiness was defined in sweet confessions: "My love, my life—My life, my love."

The magic of his music had changed her very being, the breath of love was in her soul, the vision of love was dancing in her eyes. The child of marble, like the statue of old, had come to life:

⁠"And not long since
I was a cold, dull stone! I recollect
That by some means I knew that I was stone;
That was the first dull gleam of consciousness;
I became conscious of a chilly self,
A cold, immovable identity.
I knew that I was stone, and knew no more!
Then, by an imperceptible advance,
Came the dim evidence of outer things,
Seen—darkly and imperfectly—yet seen
The walls surrounding me, and I, alone.
That pedestal—that curtain—then a voice
That called on Galatea! At that word,
Which seemed to shake my marble to the core,
That which was dim before, came evident.
Sounds, that had hummed around me, indistinct,
Vague, meaningless—seemed to resolve themselves
Into a language I could understand;
I felt my frame pervaded by a glow
That seemed to thaw my marble into flesh;
Its cold, hard substance throbbed with active life,
My limbs grew supple, and I moved—I lived!
Lived in the ecstasy of a new-born life!
Lived in the love of him that fashioned me!
Lived in a thousand tangled thoughts of hope."

Day after day he came; they told their love, their hopes, their ambitions. She assumed absolute proprietorship in him. She gloried in her possession.

He was born into the world, nurtured in infancy, trained in childhood and matured into manhood, for one express purpose—to be hers alone. Her ownership ranged from absolute despotism to humble slavery, and he was happy through it all.

One day she said: "Angelo, is it your purpose to follow your profession always?"

"Necessarily, it is my livelihood," he replied.

"But do you not think that after we stand at the altar, we never should be separated?"

"We will be together always," said he, holding her face between his palms, and looking with tender expression into her inquiring eyes.

"But I notice that women cluster around you after your concerts—and shake your hand longer than they should—and talk to you longer than they should and go away looking self-satisfied!" she replied brokenly, much as a little girl tells of the theft of her doll.

"Nonsense," he said, smiling, "that is all part of my profession; it is not me they care for, it is the music I give that makes them happy. If, in my playing, I achieve results out of the common, they admire me!" and he kissed away the unwelcome tears.

"I know," she continued, "but lately, since we have loved each other, I can not bear to see a woman near you. In my dreams again and again an indefinable shadow mockingly comes and cries to me, 'he is not to be yours, he is to be mine.'"

Diotti flushed and drew her to him. "Darling," his voice carrying conviction, "I am yours, you are mine, all in all, in life here and beyond!" And as she sat dreaming after he had gone, she murmured petulantly, "I wish there were no other women in the world."

Her father was expected from Europe on the succeeding day's steamer. Mr. Wallace was a busy man. The various gigantic enterprises he served as president or director occupied most of his time. He had been absent in Europe for several months, and Mildred was anxiously awaiting his return to tell him of her love.

When Mr. Wallace came to his residence the next morning, his daughter met him with a fond display of filial affection; they walked into the drawing-room, hand in hand; he saw a picture of the violinist on the piano. "Who's the handsome young fellow?" he asked, looking at the portrait with the satisfaction a man feels when he sees a splendid type of his own sex.

"That is Angelo Diotti, the famous violinist," she said, but she could not add another word.

As they strolled through the rooms he noticed no less than three likenesses of the Tuscan. And as they passed her room he saw still another on the chiffonnier.

"Seems to me the house is running wild with photographs of that fiddler," he said.

For the first time in her life she was self-conscious: "I will wait for a more opportune time to tell him," she thought.

In the scheme of Diotti's appearance in New York there were to be two more concerts. One was to be given that evening. Mildred coaxed her father to accompany her to hear the violinist. Mr. Wallace was not fond of music; "it had been knocked out of him on the farm up in Vermont, when he was a boy," he would apologetically explain, and besides he had the old puritanical abhorrence of stage people—putting them all in one class—as puppets who danced or played or talked for an idle and unthinking public.

So it was with the thought of a wasted evening that he accompanied Mildred to the concert.

The entertainment was a repetition of the others Diotti had given, and at its end, Mildred said to her father: "Come, I want to congratulate Signor Diotti in person."

"That is entirely unnecessary," he replied.

"It is my desire," and the girl led the unwilling parent back of the scenes and into Diotti's dressing-room.

Mildred introduced Diotti to her father, who after a few commonplaces lapsed into silence. The daughter's enthusiastic interest in Diotti's performance and her tender solicitude for his weariness after the efforts of the evening, quickly attracted the attention of Mr. Wallace and irritated him exceedingly.

When father and daughter were seated in their carriage and were hurriedly driving home, he said: "Mildred, I prefer that you have as little to say to that man as possible."

"What do you object to in him?" she asked.

"Everything. Of what use is a man who dawdles away his time on a fiddle; of what benefit is he to mankind? Do fiddlers build cities? Do they delve into the earth for precious metals? Do they sow the seed and harvest the grain? No, no; they are drones—the barnacles of society."

"Father, how can you advance such an argument? Music's votaries offer no apologies for their art. The husbandman places the grain within the breast of Mother Earth for man's material welfare; God places music in the heart of man for his spiritual development. In man's spring time, his bridal day, music means joy. In man's winter time, his burial day, music means comfort. The heaven-born muse has added to the happiness of the world. Diotti is a great genius. His art brings rest and tranquillity to the wearied and despairing," and she did not speak again until they had reached the house.

The lights were turned low when father and daughter went into the drawing-room. Mr. Wallace felt that he had failed to convince Mildred of the utter worthlessness of fiddlers, big or little, and as one dissatisfied with the outcome of a contest, re-entered the lists.

"He has visited you?"

"Yes, father."


"Yes, father," spoken calmly.

"Often?" louder and more imperiously repeated the father, as if there must be some mistake.

"Quite often," and she sat down, knowing the catechizing would be likely to continue for some minutes.

"How many times, do you think?"

She rose, walked into the hallway; took the card basket from the table, returned and seated herself beside her father, emptying its contents into her lap. She picked up a card. It read "Angelo Diotti," and she called the name aloud. She took up another and again her lips voiced the beloved name. "Angelo Diotti," she continued, repeating at intervals for a minute. Then looking at her father: "He has called thirty-two times: there are thirty-one cards here and on one occasion he for got his card-case."

"Thirty-two!" said the father, rising angrily and pacing the floor.

"Yes, thirty-two. I remember all of them distinctly."

Her father came over to her, half coaxingly, half seriously. "Mildred, I wish his visits to cease; people will imagine there is a romantic attachment between you."

"There is, father," out it came, "he loves me and I love him."

"What!" shouted Mr. Wallace, and then severely, "this must cease immediately."

She rose quietly and led her father over to the mantel. Placing a hand on each of his shoulders she said:

"Father, I will obey you implicitly if you can name a reasonable objection to the man I love. But you can not. I love him with my whole soul. I love him for the nobility of his character, and because there is none other in the world for him, nor for me."

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