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White Muscats Of Alexandria
by [?]

My wife, said the Pole, was a long time recovering from the birth of our second child. She was a normal and healthy woman, but Nature has a way in these matters of introducing the unnatural; science, too, mistook the ABCs of the case for the XYZs; and our rooms were for many, many weary weeks like a cage in which the bird has ceased to sing. I did what I could. She was not without books, magazines, and delicacies; but I had to attend to my business; so that time hung about her much like a millstone, and she would say: “All’s well with me, Michael, but I am bored–bored–bored.”

Our baby was put out to nurse and our older boy, Casimir, who was seven, began, for lack of his mother’s care, to come and go as he pleased. The assurance and cheek of street boys began to develop in him. He startled me by his knowledge and his naivete. But at the same time he was a natural innocent–a little dreamer. In the matters of street life that arise among children he had, as a rule, the worst of it. He was a born believer of all that might be told him. Such children develop into artists or ne’er-do-wells. It was too soon to worry about him. But I was easiest in mind when I saw that he was fashioning anatomies with mud or drawing with chalk upon the sidewalk. “Wait a little,” I would say to my wife, “and he will be old enough to go to school.”

The happiest times were when it was dark and I had closed the store and could sit by my wife’s bed with Casimir on my knee. Then we would talk over pleasant experiences, or I would tell them, who were both American-born, stories of Poland, of fairies, and sieges; or hum for them the tunes to which I had danced in my early youth. But oftenest my wife and I talked, for the child’s benefit, of the wonderful city in whose slums we lived–upper central New York with its sables and its palaces. During our courtship and honeymoon we had made many excursions into those quarters of the city and the memory of them was dear. But if I remembered well and with happiness, my wife remembered photographically and with a kind of hectic eagerness in which, I fear, may have been bedded the roots of dissatisfaction. Details of wealth and luxury, and manners that had escaped me, even at the time, were as facile to her as terms of endearment to a lover. “And, oh–do you remember,” she would say, “the ruby that the Fifth Avenue bride had at her throat, and how for many, many blocks we thought we could still hear the organ going? That was fun, Michael, wasn’t it, when we stood in front of Sherry’s and counted how many real sables went in and how many fakes, and noticed that the fake sables were as proudly carried as the real?”

One night she would not eat her supper. “Oh, Michael,” she said, “I’m so bored with the same old soup–soup–soup, and the same old porridge–porridge–porridge, and I hate oranges, and apples, and please don’t spend any more money on silly, silly, silly me.”

“But you must eat,” I said. “What would you like? Think of something. Think of something that tempts your appetite. You seem better to-night–almost well. Your cheeks are like cherries and you keep stirring restlessly as if you wanted to get up instead of lying still–still like a woman that has been drowned, all but her great, dear eyes…. Now, make some decision, and were it ambrosia I will get it for you if it is to be had in the city…. Else what are savings-banks for, and thrift, and a knowledge of furs?”

She answered me indirectly.