The Fifth String
by J. P. Sousa
The coming of Diotti to America had awakened more than usual
interest in the man and his work. His marvelous success as violinist
in the leading capitals of Europe, together with many brilliant
contributions to the literature of his instrument, had long been
favorably commented on by the critics of the old world. Many stories
of his struggles and his triumphs had found their way across the
ocean and had been read and re-read with interest.
Therefore, when Mr. Henry Perkins, the well-known impresario,
announced with an air of conscious pride and pardonable enthusiasm
that he had secured Diotti for a ``limited'' number of concerts,
Perkins' friends assured that wide-awake gentleman that his foresight
amounted to positive genius, and they predicted an unparalleled
success for his star. On account of his wonderful ability as player,
Diotti was a favorite at half the courts of Europe, and the astute
Perkins enlarged upon this fact without regard for the feelings of
the courts or the violinist.
On the night preceding Diotti's debut in New York, he was the
center of attraction at a reception given by Mrs. Llewellyn, a social
leader, and a devoted patron of the arts. The violinist made a deep
impression on those fortunate enough to be near him during the even-
ing. He won the respect of the men by his observations on matters of
international interest, and the admiration of the gentler sex by his
chivalric estimate of woman's influence in the world's progress, on
which subject he talked with rarest good humor and delicately implied
During one of those sudden and unexplainable lulls that always
occur in general drawing-room conversations, Diotti turned to Mrs.
Llewellyn and whispered: ``Who is the charming young woman just
``The beauty in white?''
``Yes, the beauty in white,'' softly echoing Mrs. Llewellyn's
query. He leaned forward and with eager eyes gazed in admiration at
the new-comer. He seemed hypnotized by the vision, which moved slowly
from between the blue-tinted portieres and stood for the instant, a
perfect embodiment of radiant womanhood, silhouetted against the
``That is Miss Wallace, Miss Mildred Wallace, only child of one of
New York's prominent bankers.''
``She is beautiful—a queen by divine right,'' cried he, and then
with a mingling of impetuosity and importunity, entreated his hostess
to present him.
And thus they met.
Mrs. Llewellyn's entertainments were celebrated, and justly so. At
her receptions one always heard the best singers and players of the
season, and Epicurus' soul could rest in peace, for her chef had an
international reputation. Oh, remember, you music-fed ascetic, many,
aye, very many, regard the transition from Tschaikowsky to terrapin,
from Beethoven to burgundy with hearts aflame with anticipatory
joy—and Mrs. Llewellyn's dining-room was crowded.
Miss Wallace and Diotti had wandered into the conservatory.
``A desire for happiness is our common heritage,'' he was saying
in his richly melodious voice.
``But to define what constitutes happiness is very difficult,''
``Not necessarily,'' he went on; ``if the motive is clearly within
our grasp, the attainment is possible.''
``For example?'' she asked.
``The miser is happy when he hoards his gold; the philanthropist
when he distributes his. The attainment is identical, but the motives
``Then one possessing sufficient motives could be happy without
end?'' she suggested doubtingly.
``That is my theory. The Niobe of old had happiness within her
``The gods thought not,'' said she; ``in their very pity they
changed her into stone, and with streaming eyes she ever tells the
story of her sorrow.''
``But are her children weeping?'' he asked. ``I think not.
Happiness can bloom from the seeds of deepest woe,'' and in a tone
almost reverential, he continued: ``I remember a picture in one of
our Italian galleries that always impressed me as the ideal image of
maternal happiness. It is a painting of the Christ-mother standing by
the body of the Crucified. Beauty was still hers, and the dress of
grayish hue, nun-like in its simplicity, seemed more than royal robe.
Her face, illumined as with a light from heaven, seemed inspired with
this thought: `They have killed Him—they have killed my son! Oh,
God, I thank Thee that His suffering is at an end!' And as I gazed at
the holy face, an- other light seemed to change it by degrees from
saddened motherhood to triumphant woman! Then came: `He is not dead,
He but sleeps; He will rise again, for He is the best beloved of the
``Still, fate can rob us of our patrimony,'' she replied, after a
``Not while life is here and eternity beyond,'' he said,
``What if a soul lies dormant and will not arouse?'' she asked.
``There are souls that have no motive low enough for earth, but
only high enough for heaven,'' he said, with evident intention,
looking almost directly at her.
``Then one must come who speaks in nature's tongue,'' she
``And the soul will then awake,'' he added earnestly.
``But is there such a one?'' she asked.
``Perhaps,'' he almost whispered, his thought father to the wish.
``I am afraid not,'' she sighed. ``I studied drawing, worked
diligently and, I hope, intelligently, and yet I was quickly
convinced that a counterfeit presentment of nature was puny and
insignificant. I painted Niagara. My friends praised my effort. I saw
Niagara again—I destroyed the picture.''
``But you must be prepared to accept the limitations of man and
his work,'' said the philosophical violinist
``Annihilation of one's own identity in the moment is possible in
nature's domain—never in man's. The resistless, never-ending rush of
the waters, madly churning, pitilessly dashing against the rocks
below; the mighty roar of the loosened giant; that was Niagara. My
picture seemed but a smear of paint.''
``Still, man has won the admiration of man by his achievements,''
``Alas, for me,'' she sighed, ``I have not felt it.''
``Surely you have been stirred by the wonders man has accomplished
in music's realm?'' Diotti ventured.
``I never have been.'' She spoke sadly and reflectively.
``But does not the passion-laden theme of a master, or the
marvelous feeling of a player awaken your emotions?'' persisted he.
She stood leaning lightly against a pillar by the fountain. ``I
never hear a pianist, however great and famous, but I see the little
cream-colored hammers within the piano bobbing up and down like
acrobatic brownies. I never hear the plaudits of the crowd for the
artist and watch him return to bow his thanks, but I mentally demand
that these little acrobats, each resting on an individual pedestal,
and weary from his efforts, shall appear to receive a share of the
``When I listen to a great singer,'' continued this world-defying
skeptic, ``trilling like a thrush, scampering over the scales, I see
a clumsy lot of ah, ah, ahs, awkwardly, uncertainly ambling up the
gamut, saying, `were it not for us she could not sing thus—give us
our meed of praise.' ''
Slowly he replied: ``Masters have written in wondrous language and
masters have played with wondrous power.''
``And I so long to hear,'' she said, almost plaintively. ``I
marvel at the invention of the composer and the skill of the player,
but there I cease.''
He looked at her intently. She was standing before him, not a
block of chiseled ice, but a beautiful, breathing woman. He offered
her his arm and together they made their way to the drawing-room.
``Perhaps, some day, one will come who can sing a song of perfect
love in perfect tones, and your soul will be attuned to his melody.''
``Perhaps—and good-night,'' she softly said, leaving his arm and
joining her friends, who accompanied her to the carriage.
The intangible something that places the stamp of popular approval
on one musical enterprise, while another equally artistic and as
cleverly managed languishes in a condition of unendorsed greatness,
remains one of the unsolved mysteries.
When a worker in the vineyard of music or the drama offers his
choicest tokay to the public, that fickle coquette may turn to the
more ordinary and less succulent concord. And the worker and the
public itself know not why.
It is true, Diotti's fame had preceded him, but fame has preceded
others and has not always been proof against financial disaster. All
this preliminary,—and it is but necessary to recall that on the
evening of December the twelfth Diotti made his initial bow in New
York, to an audience that completely filled every available space in
the Academy of Music—a representative audience, distinguished alike
for beauty, wealth and discernment.
When the violinist appeared for his solo, he quietly acknowledged
the cordial reception of the audience, and immediately proceeded with
the business of the evening. At a slight nod from him the conductor
rapped attention, then launched the orchestra into the introduction
of the concerto, Diotti's favorite, selected for the first number. As
the violinist turned to the conductor he faced slightly to the left
and in a direct line with the second proscenium box. His poise was
admirable. He was handsome, with the olive-tinted warmth of his
southern home—fairly tall, straight- limbed and lithe—a picture of
poetic grace. His was the face of a man who trusted without reserve,
the manner of one who believed implicitly, feeling that good was
universal and evil accidental.
As the music grew louder and the orchestra approached the
peroration of the preface of the coming solo, the violinist raised
his head slowly. Suddenly his eyes met the gaze of the solitary
occupant of the second proscenium box. His face flushed. He looked
inquiringly, almost appealingly, at her. She sat immovable and
serene, a lace-framed vision in white.
It was she who, since he had met her, only the night before, held
his very soul in thraldom.
He lifted his bow, tenderly placing it on the strings. Faintly
came the first measures of the theme. The melody, noble, limpid and
beautiful, floated in dreamy sway over the vast auditorium, and
seemed to cast a mystic glamour over the player. As the final note of
the first movement was dying away, the audience, awakening from its
delicious trance, broke forth into spontaneous bravos.
Mildred Wallace, scrutinizing the program, merely drew her wrap
closer about her shoulders and sat more erect. At the end of the
concerto the applause was generous enough to satisfy the most
exacting virtuoso. Diotti unquestionably had scored the greatest
triumph of his career. But the lady in the box had remained silent
and unaffected throughout.
The poor fellow had seen only her dur- ing the time he played, and
the mighty cheers that came from floor and galleries struck upon his
ear like the echoes of mocking demons. Leaving the stage he hurried
to his dressing-room and sank into a chair. He had persuaded himself
she should not be insensible to his genius, but the dying ashes of his
hopes, his dreams, were smouldering, and in his despair came the
thought: ``I am not great enough for her. I am but a man; her consort
should be a god. Her soul, untouched by human passion or human skill,
demands the power of god-like genius to arouse it.''
Music lovers crowded into his dressing- room, enthusiastic in
their praises. Cards conveying delicate compliments written in
delicate chirography poured in upon him, but in vain he looked for
some sign, some word from her.
Quickly he left the theater and sought his hotel.
A menacing cloud obscured the wintry moon. A clock sounded the
He threw himself upon the bed and almost sobbed his thoughts, and
their burden was:
``I am not great enough for her. I am but a man. I am but a man!''
Perkins called in the morning. Perkins was happy—Perkins was
positively joyous, and Perkins was self- satisfied. The violinist had
made a great hit. But Perkins, confiding in the white-coated
dispenser who concocted his matin Martini, very dry, an hour before,
said he regarded the success due as much to the management as to the
artist. And Perkins believed it. Perkins usually took all the credit
for a success, and with charming consistency placed all
responsibility for failure on the shoulders of the hapless artist.
When Perkins entered Diotti's room he found the violinist
heavy-eyed and dejected. ``My dear Signor,'' he began, showing a
large envelope bulging with newspaper clippings, ``I have brought the
notices. They are quite the limit, I assure you. Nothing like them
ever heard before—all tuned in the same key, as you musical fellows
would say,'' and Perkins cocked his eye.
Perkins enjoyed a glorious reputation with himself for bright
sayings, which he always accompanied with a cock of the eye. The
musician not showing any visible appreciation of the manager's
metaphor, Perkins immediately proceeded to uncock his eye.
``Passed the box-office coming up,'' continued this voluble
enlightener; ``nothing left but a few seats in the top gallery. We'll
stand them on their heads to-morrow night—see if we don't.'' Then he
handed the bursting envelope of notices to Diotti, who listlessly put
them on the table at his side.
``Too tired to read, eh?'' said Perkins, and then with the
advance-agent instinct strong within him he selected a clipping, and
touching the violinist on the shoulder: ``Let me read this one to
you. It is by Herr Totenkellar. He is a hard nut to crack, but he did
himself proud this time. Great critic when he wants to be.''
Perkins cleared his throat and began: ``Diotti combines tremendous
feeling with equally tremendous technique. The entire audience was
under the witchery of his art.'' Diotti slowly negatived that
statement with bowed head. ``His tone is full, round and clear; his
interpretation lends a story-telling charm to the music; for, while
we drank deep at the fountain of exquisite melody, we saw sparkling
within the waters the lights of Paradise. New York never has heard
his equal. He stands alone, pre-eminent, an artistic giant.''
``Now, that's what I call great,'' said the impresario,
dramatically; ``when you hit Totenkellar that way you are good for
all kinds of money.''
Perkins took his hat and cane and moved toward the door. The
violinist arose and extended his hand wearily. ``Good-day'' came
simultaneously; then ``I'm off. We'll turn 'em away to-morrow; see if
we don't!'' Whereupon Perkins left Diotti alone in his misery.
It was the evening of the fourteenth, In front of the Academy a
strong- lunged and insistent tribe of gentry, known as ticket
speculators, were reaping a rich harvest. They represented a beacon
light of hope to many tardy patrons of the evening's entertainment,
especially to the man who had forgotten his wife's injunction ``to be
sure to buy the tickets on the way down town, dear, and get them in
the family circle, not too far back.'' This man's intentions were
sincere, but his newspaper was unusually interesting that morning. He
was deeply engrossed in an article on the causes leading to
matrimonial infelicities when his 'bus passed the Academy box-office.
He was six blocks farther down town when he finished the article,
only to find that it was a carefully worded advertisement for a new
patent medicine, and of course he had not time to return. ``Oh,
well,'' said he, ``I'll get them when I go up town to-night.''
But he did not. So with fear in his heart and a red-faced woman on
his arm he approached the box-office. ``Not a seat left,'' sounded to
his hen- pecked ears like the concluding words of the black-robed
judge: ``and may the Lord have mercy upon your soul.'' But a reprieve
came, for one of the aforesaid beacon lights of hope rushed forward,
saying: ``I have two good seats, not far back, and only ten apiece.''
And the gentleman with fear in his heart and the red-faced woman on
his arm passed in.
They saw the largest crowd in the history of the Academy. Every
seat was occupied, every foot of standing room taken. Chairs were
placed in the side aisles. The programs announced that it was the
second appearance in America of Angelo Diotti, the renowed Tuscan
The orchestra had perfunctorily ground out the overture to ``Der
Freischuetz,'' the baritone had stentorianly emitted ``Dio
Possente,'' the soprano was working her way through the closing
measures of the mad scene from ``Lucia,'' and Diotti was number four
on the program. The conductor stood beside his platform, ready to
ascend as Diotti appeared.
The audience, ever ready to act when those on the stage cease that
occupation, gave a splendid imitation of the historic last scene at
the Tower of Babel. Having accomplished this to its evident
satisfaction, the audience proceeded, like the closing phrase of the
``Goetterdaemmerung'' Dead March, to become exceedingly quiet—then
This expectancy lasted fully three minutes. Then there were some
impatient handclappings. A few persons whispered: ``Why is he late?''
``Why doesn't he come?'' ``I wonder where Diotti is,'' and then came
unmistakable signs of impatience. At its height Perkins appeared,
hesitatingly. Nervous and jerky he walked to the center of the stage,
and raised his hand begging silence. The audience was stilled.
``Ladies and gentlemen,'' he falteringly said, ``Signor Diotti
left his hotel at seven o'clock and was driven to the Academy. The
call-boy rapped at his dressing-room, and not receiving a reply,
opened the door to find the room empty. We have despatched searchers
in every direction and have sent out a police alarm. We fear some
accident has befallen the Signor. We ask your indulgence for the keen
disappointment, and beg to say that your money will be refunded at
Diotti had disappeared as completely as though the earth had
My Dearest Sister: You doubtless were exceedingly mystified and
troubled over the report that was flashed to Europe regarding my
sudden disappearance on the eve of my second concert in New York.
Fearing, sweet Francesca, that you might mourn me as dead, I sent
the cablegram you received some weeks since, telling you to be of
good heart and await my letter. To make my action thoroughly
understood I must give you a record of what happened to me from the
first day I arrived in America. I found a great interest mani- fested
in my premiere, and socially everything was done to make me happy.
Mrs. James Llewellyn, whom, you no doubt remember, we met in
Florence the winter of 18—, immediately after I reached New York
arranged a reception for me, which was elegant in the extreme. But
from that night dates my misery.
You ask her name?—Mildred Wallace. Tell me what she is like, I
hear you say. Of graceful height, willowy and exquisitely molded, not
over twenty- four, with the face of a Madonna; wondrous eyes of
darkest blue, hair indescribable in its maze of tawny color —in a
word, the perfection of womanhood. In half an hour I was her abject
slave, and proud in my serfdom. When I returned to the hotel that
evening I could not sleep. Her image ever was before me, elusive and
shadowy. And yet we seemed to grow farther and farther apart—she
nearer heaven, I nearer earth.
The next evening I gave my first and what I fear may prove my last
concert in America. The vision of my dreams was there, radiant in
rarest beauty. Singularly enough, she was in the direct line of my
vision while I played. I saw only her, played but for her, and cast
my soul at her feet. She sat indifferent and silent. ``Cold?'' you
say. No! No! Francesca, not cold; superior to my poor efforts. I
realized my limitations. I questioned my genius. When I returned to
bow my acknowledgments for the most generous applause I have ever
received, there was no sign on her part that I had interested her,
either through my talent or by appeal to her curiosity. I hoped
against hope that some word might come from her, but I was doomed to
disappointment. The critics were fulsome in their praise and the
public was lavish with its plaudits, but I was abjectly miserable.
Another sleepless night and I was determined to see her. She received
me most graciously, although I fear she thought my visit one of
vanity—wounded vanity— and me petulant because of her lack of
Oh, sister mine, I knew better. I knew my heart craved one word,
however matter-of-fact, that would rekindle the hope that was dying
Hesitatingly, and like a clumsy yokel, I blurted: ``I have been
wondering whether you cared for the performance I gave?''
``It certainly ought to make little difference to you,'' she
replied; ``the public was enthusiastic enough in its endorsement.''
``But I want your opinion,'' I pleaded.
``My opinion would not at all affect the almost unanimous verdict,
``she replied calmly.
``And,'' I urged desperately, ``you were not affected in the
Very coldly she answered, ``Not in the least;'' and then
fearlessly, like a princess in the Palace of Truth: ``If ever a man
comes who can awaken my heart, frankly and honestly I will confess
``Perhaps such a one lives,'' I said,
but has yet to reach the height to win you—your—''
``Speak it,'' she said, ``to win my love!''
``Yes,'' I cried, startled at her candor, ``to win your love.''
Hope slowly rekindled within my breast, and then with half-closed
eyes, and wooingly, she said:
``No drooping Clytie could be more constant than I to him who
strikes the chord that is responsive in my soul.''
Her emotion must have surprised her, but immediately she regained
her placidity and reverted no more to the subject.
I went out into the gathering gloom. Her words haunted me. A
strange feeling came over me. A voice within me cried: ``Do not play
to-night. Study! study! Perhaps in the full fruition of your genius
your music, like the warm western wind to the harp, may bring life to
I fled, and I am here. I am delving deeper and deeper into the
mysteries of my art, and I pray God each hour that He may place
within my grasp the wondrous music His blessed angels sing, for the
soul of her I love is at. tuned to the harmonies of heaven.
Your affectionate brother, ANGELO. ISLAND OF BAHAMA, January 2.
When Diotti left New York so precipitately he took passage on a
coast line steamer sailing for the Bahama Islands. Once there, he
leased a small cay, one of a group off the main land, and lived alone
and unattended, save for the weekly visits of an old fisherman and
his son, who brought supplies of provisions from the town miles away.
His dwelling-place, surrounded with palmetto trees, was little more
than a rough shelter. Diotti arose at daylight, and after a simple
repast, betook himself to practise. Hour after hour he would let his
muse run riot with his fingers. Lovingly he wooed the strings with
plaintive song, then conquering and triumphant would be his theme.
But neither satisfied him. The vague dream of a melody more beautiful
than ever man had heard dwelt hauntingly on the borders of his
imagination, but was no nearer realization than when he began. As the
day's work closed, he wearily placed the violin within its case,
murmuring, ``Not yet, not yet; I have not found it.''
Days passed, weeks crept slowly on; still he worked, but always
with the same result. One day, feverish and excited, he played on in
monotone almost listless. His tired, over-wrought brain denied a
further thought. His arm and fingers refused response to his will.
With an uncontrollable outburst of grief and anger he dashed the
violin to the floor, where it lay a hopeless wreck. Extending his
arms he cried, in the agony of despair: ``It is of no use! If the God
of heaven will not aid me, I ask the prince of darkness to come.''
A tall, rather spare, but well-made and handsome man appeared at
the door of the hut. His manner was that of one evidently conversant
with the usages of good society.
``I beg pardon,'' said the musician, surprised and visibly nettled
at the intrusion, and then with forced politeness he asked: ``To whom
am I indebted for this unexpected visit?''
``Allow me,'' said the stranger taking a card from his case and
handing it to the musician, who read: ``Satan,'' and, in the lower
left-hand corner ``Prince of Darkness.''
``I am the Prince,'' said the stranger, bowing low.
There was no hint of the pavement- made ruler in the information
he gave, but rather of the desire of one gentleman to set another
right at the beginning. The musician assumed a position of
open-mouthed wonder, gazing steadily at the visitor.
``Satan?'' he whispered hoarsely.
``You need help and advice,'' said the visitor, his voice sounding
like that of a disciple of the healing art, and implying that he had
thoroughly diagnosed the case.
``No, no,'' cried the shuddering violinist; ``go away. I do not
``I regret I can not accept that statement as gospel truth,'' said
Satan, sarcastically, ``for if ever a man needed help, you are that
``But not from you,'' replied Diotti.
``That statement is discredited also by your outburst of a few
moments ago when you called upon me.''
``I do not need you,'' reiterated the musician. ``I will have none
of you!'' and he waved his arm toward the door, as if he desired the
interview to end.
``I came at your behest, actuated entirely by kindness of heart,''
Diotti laughed derisively, and Satan, showing just the slightest
feeling at Diotti's behavior, said reprovingly: ``If you will listen
a moment, and not be so rude to an utter stranger, we may reach some
conclusion to your benefit.''
``Get thee behind—''
``I know exactly what you were about to say. Have no fears on that
score. I have no demands to make and no impossible compacts to insist
``I have heard of you before,'' know- ingly spoke the violinist
nodding his head sadly.
``No doubt you have,'' smilingly. ``My reputation, which has
suffered at the hands of irresponsible people, is not of the best,
and places me at times in awkward positions. But I am beginning to
live it down.'' The stranger looked contrition itself. ``To prove my
sincerity I desire to help you win her love,'' emphasizing her.
``How can you help me?''
``Very easily. You have been wasting time, energy and health in a
wild desire to play better. The trouble lies not with you.''
``Not with me?'' interrupted the violinist, now thoroughly
``The trouble lies not with you,'' repeated the visitor, ``but
with the miserable violin you have been using and have just
destroyed,'' and he pointed to the shattered instrument.
Tears welled from the poor violinist's eyes as he gazed on the
fragments of his beloved violin, the pieces lying scattered about as
the result of his unfortunate anger.
``It was a Stradivarius,'' said Diotti, sadly.
``Had it been a Stradivarius, an Amati or a Guarnerius, or a host
of others rolled into one, you would not have found in it the melody
to win the heart of the woman you love. Get a better and more
``Where is one?'' earnestly interrogated Diotti, vaguely realizing
that Satan knew.
``In my possession,'' Satan replied.
``She would hate me if she knew I had recourse to the powers of
darkness to gain her love,'' bitterly interposed Diotti.
Satan, wincing at this uncomplimentary allusion to himself,
replied rather warmly: ``My dear sir, were it not for the fact that I
feel in particularly good spirits this morning, I should resent your
ill-timed remarks and leave you to end your miserable existence with
rope or pistol,'' and Satan pantomimed both suicidal contingencies.
``Do you want the violin or not?''
``I might look at it,'' said Diotti, resolving mentally that he
could go so far without harm.
``Very well,'' said Satan. He gave a long whistle.
An old man, bearing a violin case, came within the room. He bowed
to the wondering Diotti, and proceeded to open the case. Taking the
instrument out the old man fondled it with loving and tender
solicitude, pointing out its many beauties—the exquisite blending of
the curves, the evenness of the grain, the peculiar coloring, the
lovely contour of the neck, the graceful outlines of the body, the
scroll, rivaling the creations of the ancient sculptors, the solidity
of the bridge and its elegantly carved heart, and, waxing exceedingly
enthusiastic, holding up the instrument and looking at it as one does
at a cluster of gems, he added, ``the adjustment of the strings.''
``That will do,'' interrupted Satan, taking the violin from the
little man, who bowed low and ceremoniously took his departure. Then
the devil, pointing to the instrument, asked: ``Isn't it a beauty?''
The musician, eying it keenly, replied: ``Yes, it is, but not the
kind of violin I play on.''
``Oh, I see,'' carelessly observed the other, ``you refer to that
``Yes,'' answered the puzzled violinist, examining it closely.
``Allow me to explain the peculiar characteristics of this
magnificent instrument,'' said his satanic majesty. ``This string,''
pointing to the G, ``is the string of pity; this one,'' referring to
the third, ``is the string of hope; this,'' plunking the A, ``is
attuned to love, while this one, the E string, gives forth sounds of
``You will observe,'' went on the visitor, noting the intense
interest displayed by the violinist, ``that the position of the
strings is the same as on any other violin, and therefore will require
no additional study on your part.''
``But that extra string?'' interrupted Diotti, designating the
middle one on the violin, a vague foreboding rising within him.
``That,'' said Mephistopheles, solemnly, and with no pretense of
sophistry, ``is the string of death, and he who plays upon it dies at
``The—string—of—death!'' repeated the violinist almost
``Yes, the string of death,'' Satan repeated, ``and he who plays
upon it dies at once. But,'' he added cheerfully, ``that need not
worry you. I noticed a marvelous facility in your arm work. Your
staccato and spiccato are wonderful. Every form of bowing appears
child's play to you. It will be easy for you to avoid touching the
``Why avoid it? Can it not be cut off?''
``Ah, that's the rub. If you examine the violin closely you will
find that the string of death is made up of the extra lengths of the
other four strings. To cut it off would destroy the others, and then
pity, hope, love and joy would cease to exist in the soul of the
``How like life itself,'' Diotti reflected, ``pity, hope, love,
joy end in death, and through death they are born again.''
``That's the idea, precisely,'' said Satan, evidently relieved by
Diotti's logic and quick perception.
The violinist examined the instrument with the practised eye of an
expert, and turning to Satan said: ``The four strings are beautifully
white and transparent, but this one is black and odd looking.
``What is it wrapped with?'' eagerly inquired Diotti, examining
the death string with microscopic care.
``The fifth string was added after an unfortunate episode in the
Garden of Eden, in which I was somewhat concerned,'' said Satan,
soberly. ``It is wrapped with strands of hair from the first mother
of man.'' Impressively then he offered the violin to Diotti.
``I dare not take it,'' said the perplexed musician; ``it's
``Yes, it is directly from there, but I brought it from heaven
when I—I left,'' said the fallen angel, with remorse in his voice.
``It was my constant companion there. But no one in my domain—not I,
myself—can play upon it now, for it will respond neither to our
longing for pity, hope, love, joy, nor even death,'' and sadly and
retrospectively Satan gazed into vacancy; then, after a long pause:
``Try the instrument!''
Diotti placed the violin in position and drew the bow across the
string of joy, improvising on it. Almost instantly the birds of the
forest darted hither and thither, caroling forth in gladsome strains.
The devil alone was sad, and with emotion said:
``It is many, many years since I have heard that string.''
Next the artist changed to the string of pity, and thoughts of the
world's sorrows came over him like a pall.
``Wonderful, most wonderful!'' said the mystified violinist;
``with this instrument I can conquer the world!''
``Aye, more to you than the world,'' said the tempter, ``a woman's
A woman's love—to the despairing suitor there was one and only
one in this wide, wide world, and her words, burning their way into
his heart, had made this temptation possible: ``No droop- ing Clytie
could be more constant than I to him who strikes the chord that is
responsive in my soul.''
Holding the violin aloft, he cried exultingly: ``Henceforth thou
art mine, though death and oblivion lurk ever near thee!''
Perkins, seated in his office, threw the morning paper aside.
``It's no use,'' he said, turning to the office boy, ``I don't
believe they ever will find him, dead or alive. Whoever put up the
job on Diotti was a past grand master at that sort of thing. The
silent assassin that lurks in the shadow of the midnight moon is an
explosion of dynamite compared to the party that made way with
Diotti. You ask, why should they kill him? My boy, you don't know the
world. They were jealous of his enormous hit, of our dazzling
success. Jealousy did it.''
The ``they'' of Perkins comprised rival managers, rival artists,
newspaper critics and everybody at large who would not concede that
the attractions managed by Perkins were the ``greatest on earth.''
``We'll never see his like again— come in!'' this last in answer
to a knock.
Diotti appeared at the open door. Perkins jumped like one shot
from a catapult, and rushing toward the silent figure in the doorway
exclaimed: ``Bless my soul, are you a ghost?''
``A substantial one,'' said Diotti with a smile.
``Are you really here?'' continued the astonished impresario,
using Diotti's arm as a pump handle and pinching him at the same
When they were seated Perkins plied Diotti with all manner of
questions; ``How did it happen?'' ``How did you escape?'' and the
like, all of which Diotti parried with monosyllabic replies, finally
saying: ``I was dissatisfied with my playing and went away to
``Do you know that the failure to fulfill your contract has cost
me at least ten thousand dollars?'' said the shrewd manager, the
commercial side of his nature asserting itself.
``All of which I will pay,'' quietly replied the artist. ``Besides
I am ready to play now, and you can announce a concert within a week
if you like.''
``If I like?'' cried the hustling Perkins. ``Here, James,''
calling his office boy, ``run down to the printer's and give him
this,'' making a note of the various sizes of ``paper'' he desired,
``and tell Mr. Tompkins that Diotti is back and will give a concert
next Tuesday. Tell Smith to prepare the newspaper `ads' and notices
In an hour Perkins had the entire machinery of his office in
motion. Within twenty-four hours New York had several versions of the
disappearance and return, all leading to one common point—that
Diotti would give a concert the coming Tuesday evening.
The announcement of the reappearance of the Tuscan contained a
line to the effect that the violinist would play for the first time
his new suite—a meditation on the emotions.
He had not seen Mildred.
As he came upon the stage that night the lights were turned low,
and naught but the shadowy outlines of player and violin were seen.
His reception by the audience was not enthusiastic. They evidently
remembered the disappointment caused by his unexpected disappearance,
but this unfriendly attitude soon gave way to evidences of kindlier
Mildred was there, more beautiful than ever, and to gain her love
Diotti would have bartered his soul that moment.
The first movement of the suite was entitled ``Pity,'' and the
music flowed like melodious tears. A subdued sob rose and fell with
the sadness of the theme.
Mildred's eyes were moistened as she fixed them on the lone figure
of the player.
Now the theme of pity changed to hope, and hearts grew brighter
under the spell. The next movement depicted joy. As the virtuoso's
fingers darted here and there, his music seemed the very laughter of
fairy voices, the earth looked roses and sunshine, and Mildred,
relaxing her position and leaning forward in the box, with lips
slightly parted, was the picture of eager happiness.
The final movement came. Its subject was love. The introduction
depicted the Arcadian beauty of the trysting place, love-lit eyes
sought each other intuitively and a great peace brooded over the
hearts of all. Then followed the song of the Passionate Pilgrim:
``If music and sweet poetry agree, As they must needs, the sister
and the brother, When must the love be great 'twixt thee and me
Because thou lov'st the one, and I the other.
Thou lov'st to hear the sweet melodious sound That Phoebus' lute
(the queen of music) makes; And I in deep delight, am chiefly drown'd
When as himself to singing he betakes. One god is god of both, as
poets One knight loves both, and both in thee remain.''
Grander and grander the melody rose, voicing love's triumph with
wondrous sweetness and palpitating rhythm. Mildred, her face flushed
with excitement, a heavenly fire in her eyes and in an attitude of
supplication, reveled in the glory of a new found emotion.
As the violinist concluded his performance an oppressive silence
pervaded the house, then the audience, wild with excitement, burst
into thunders of applause. In his dressing-room Diotti was besieged
by hosts of people, congratulating him in extravagant terms.
Mildred Wallace came, extending her hands. He took them almost
reverently. She looked into his eyes, and he knew he had struck the
chord responsive in her soul.
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
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,
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 forever 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
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
``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
``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
``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 for 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
``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,'' 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 forgot his card-case.''
``Thirty-two!'' said the father, rising angrily and pacing the
``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
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.''
Old Sanders as boy and man had been in the employ of the banking
and brokerage firm of Wallace Brothers for two generations. The firm
gradually had advanced his position until now he was confidential
adviser and general manager, besides having an interest in the
profits of the business.
He enjoyed the friendship of Mr. Wallace, and had been a constant
visitor at his house from the first days of that gentleman's married
life. He himself was alone in the world, a confirmed bachelor. He had
seen Mildred creep from babyhood into childhood, and bud from
girlhood to womanhood. To Mildred he was one of that numerous army of
brevet relations known as ``gran- pop,'' ``pop,'' or ``uncle.'' To her
he was Uncle Sanders.
If the old man had one touch of human nature in him it was a
solicitude for Mildred's future—an authority arrogated to
himself—to see that she married the right man; but even that was
directed to her material gain in this world's goods, and not to any
sentimental consideration for her happiness. He flattered himself
that by timely suggestion he had ``stumped'' at least half a dozen
would-be candidates for Mildred's hand. He pooh-poohed love as a
necessity for marital felicity, and would enforce his argument by
quoting from the bard:
``All lovers swear more performance than they are able, and yet
reserve an ability that they never perform; vowing more than the
perfection of ten, and discharging less than the tenth part of one.''
``You can get at a man's income,'' he would say, ``but not at his
heart. Love without money won't travel as far as money without
love,'' and many married people whose bills were overdue wondered if
the old fellow was not right.
He was cold-blooded and generally disliked by the men under him.
The more evil-minded gossips in the bank said he was in league with
``Old Nick.'' That, of course, was absurd, for it does not
necessarily follow, because a man suggests a means looking to an end,
disreputable though it be, that he has Mephistopheles for a silent
partner. The conservative element among the employees would not
openly venture so far, but rather thought if his satanic majesty and
old Sanders ran a race, the former would come in a bad second, if he
were not distanced altogether.
The old man always reached the office at nine. Mr. Wallace usually
arrived a half hour later, seldom earlier, which was so well
understood by Sanders that he was greatly surprised when he walked
into the president's office, the morning after that gentleman had
attended Diotti's concert, to find the head of the firm already there
and apparently waiting for him.
``Sanders,'' said the banker, ``I want your advice on a matter of
great importance and concern to me.''
Sanders came across the room and stood beside the desk.
``Briefly as possible, I am much exercised about my daughter.''
The old man moved up a chair and buried himself in it. Pressing
his elbows tightly against his sides, he drew his neck in, and with
the tips of his right hand fingers consorted and coquetted with their
like on the opposite hand; then he simply asked, ``Who is the man?''
``He is the violinist who has created such a sensation here,
``Yes, I've seen the name in print,'' returned the old man.
``He has bewitched Mildred. I never have seen her show the least
interest in a man before. She never has appeared to me as an
impressionable girl or one that could easily be won.''
``That is very true,'' ejaculated Sanders; ``she always seemed
tractable and open to reason in all questions of love and courting. I
can recall several instances where I have set her right by my
estimation of men, and invariably she has accepted my views.''
``And mine until now,'' said the father, and then he recounted his
experience of the night before. ``I had hoped she would not fall in
love, but be a prop and comfort to me now that I am alone. I am
dismayed at the prospect before me.''
Then the old man mused: ``In the chrysalis state of girlhood, a
parent arranges all the details of his daughter's future; when and
whom she shall marry. `I shall not allow her to fall in love until
she is twenty-three,' says the fond parent. `I shall not allow her to
marry until she is twenty-six,' says the fond parent. `The man she
marries will be the one I approve of, and then she will live happy
ever after,' concludes the fond parent.''
Deluded parent! false prophet! The anarchist, Love, steps in and
disdains all laws, rules and regulations. When finally the father
confronts the defying daughter, she calmly says, ``Well, what are you
going to do about it?'' And then tears, forgiveness, complete
capitulation, and, sometimes, she and her husband live happily ever
``We must find some means to end this attachment. A union between
a musician and my daughter would be most mortifying to me. Some plan
must be devised to separate them, but she must not know of it, for
she is impatient of restraint and will not brook opposition.''
``Are you confident she really loves this violinist?''
``She confessed as much to me,'' said the perturbed banker.
Old Sanders tapped with both hands on his shining cranium and
asked, ``Are you confident he loves her?''
``No. Even if he does not, he no doubt makes the pretense, and she
believes him. A man who fiddles for money is not likely to ignore an
opportunity to angle for the same commodity,'' and the banker, with a
look of scorn on his face, threw himself back into the chair.
``Does she know that you do not approve of this man?''
``I told her that I desired the musician's visits to cease.''
``And her answer?''
``She said she would obey me if I could name one reasonable
objection to the man, and then, with an air of absolute confidence in
the impossibility of such a contingency, added, `But you can not.' ''
``Yes, but you must,'' said Sanders. ``Mildred is strangely
constituted. If she loves this man, her love can be more deadly to
the choice of her heart than her hate to one she abhors. The
impatience of restraint you speak of and her very inability to brook
opposition can be turned to good account now.'' And old Sanders again
tapped in the rhythm of a dirge on his parchment- bound cranium.
``Your plan?'' eagerly asked the father, whose confidence in his
secretary was absolute.
``I would like to study them together. Your position will be
stronger with Mildred if you show no open opposition to the man or
his aspirations; bring us together at your house some evening, and if
I can not enter a wedge of discontent, then they are not as others.''
Mildred was delighted when her father told her on his return in
the evening that he was anxious to meet Signor Diotti, and suggested
a dinner party within a few days. He said he would invite Mr.
Sanders, as that gentleman, no doubt, would consider it a great
privilege to meet the famous musician. Mildred immediately sent an
invitation to Diotti, adding a request that he bring his violin and
play for Uncle Sanders, as the latter had found it impossible to
attend his concerts during the season, yet was fond of music,
especially violin music.
The little dinner party passed off pleasantly, and as old Sanders
lighted his cigar he confided to Diotti, with a braggart's assurance,
that when he was a youngster he was the best fiddler for twenty miles
around. ``I tell you there is nothing like a fiddler to catch a
petticoat,'' he said, with a sharp nudge of his elbow into Diotti's
ribs. ``When I played the Devil's Dream there wasn't a girl in the
country could keep from dancing, and `Rosalie, the Prairie Flower,'
brought them on their knees to me every time;'' then after a pause,
``I don't believe people fiddle as well nowadays as they did in the
good old times,'' and he actually sighed in remembrance.
Mildred smiled and whispered to Diotti. He took his violin from
the case and began playing. It seemed to her as if from above showers
of silvery merriment were falling to earth. The old man watched
intently, and as the player changed from joy to pity, from love back
to happiness, Sanders never withdrew his gaze. His bead-like eyes
followed the artist; he saw each individual finger rise and fall, and
the bow bound over the finger-board, always avoiding, never coming in
contact with the middle string. Suddenly the old man beat a tattoo on
his cranium and closed his eyes, apparently deep in thought.
As Diotti ceased playing, Sanders applauded vociferously, and
moving toward the violinist, said: ``Magnificent! I never have heard
better playing! What is the make of your violin?''
Diotti, startled at this question, hurriedly put the instrument in
its case; ``Oh, it is a famous make,'' he drawled.
``Will you let me examine it?'' said the elder, placing his hand
on the case.
``I never allow any one to touch my violin,'' replied Diotti,
closing the cover quickly.
``Why; is there a magic charm about it, that you fear other hands
may discover?'' queried the old man.
``I prefer that no one handle it,'' said the virtuoso
``Very well,'' sighed the old man resignedly, ``there are violins
and violins, and no doubt yours comes within that category,'' this
``Uncle,'' interposed Mildred tactfully, ``you must not be so
persistent. Signor Diotti prizes his violin highly and will not allow
any one to play upon it but himself,'' and the look of relief on
Diotti's face amply repaid her.
Mr. Wallace came in at that moment, and with perfunctory interest
in his guest, invited him to examine the splendid collection of
revolutionary relics in his study.
``I value them highly,'' said the banker, ``both for patriotic and
ancestral reasons. The Wallaces fought and died for their country,
and helped to make this land what it is.''
The father and the violinist went to the study, leaving the
daughter and old Sanders in the drawing-room. The old man, seating
himself in a large armchair, said: ``Mildred, my dear, I do not
wonder at the enormous success of this Diotti.''
``He is a wonderful artist,'' replied Mildred; ``critics and
public alike place him among the greatest of his profession.''
``He is a good-looking young fellow, too,'' said the old man.
``I think he is the handsomest man I ever have seen,'' replied the
``Where does he come from?'' continued Sanders.
``St. Casciano, a small town in Tuscany.''
``Has he a family?''
``Only a sister, whom he loves dearly,'' good-naturedly answered
``And no one else?'' continued the seemingly garrulous old man.
``None that I have heard him speak of. No, certainly not,'' rather
impetuously replied Mildred.
``How old is he?'' continued the old man.
``Twenty-eight next month; why do you wish to know?'' she
``Simply idle curiosity,'' old Sanders carelessly replied. ``I
wonder if he is in love with any one in Tuscany?''
``Of course not; how could he be?'' quickly rejoined the girl.
``And why not?'' added old Sanders.
``Why? Because, because—he is in love with some one in America.''
``Ah, with you, I see,'' said the old man, as if it were the
greatest discovery of his life; ``are you sure he has not some
beautiful sweetheart in Tuscany as well as here?''
``What a foolish question,'' she replied. ``Men like Angelo Diotti
do not fall in love as soldiers fall in line. Love to a man of his
nobility is too serious to be treated so lightly.''
``Very true, and that's what has excited my curiosity!'' whereupon
the old man smoked away in silence.
``Excited your curiosity!'' said Mildred. ``What do you mean?''
``It may be something; it may be nothing; but my speculative
instinct has been aroused by a strange peculiarity in his playing.''
``His playing is wonderful!'' replied Mildred proudly.
``Aye, more than wonderful! I watched him intently,'' said the old
man; ``I noted with what marvelous facility he went from one string
to the other. But however rapid, however difficult the composition,
he steadily avoided one string; in fact, that string remained
untouched during the entire hour he played for us.''
``Perhaps the composition did not call for its use,'' suggested
Mildred, unconscious of any other meaning in the old man's
observation, save praise for her lover.
``Perhaps so, but the oddity impressed me; it was a new string to
me. I have never seen one like it on a violin before.''
``That can scarcely be, for I do not remember of Signor Diotti
telling me there was anything unusual about his violin.''
``I am sure it has a fifth string.''
``And I am equally sure the string can be of no importance or
Angelo would have told me of it,'' Mildred quickly rejoined.
``I recall a strange story of Paganini,'' continued the old man,
apparently not noticing her interruption; ``he became infatuated with
a lady of high rank, who was insensible of the admiration he had for
``He composed a love scene for two strings, the `E' and `G,' the
first was to personate the lady, the second himself. It commenced
with a species of dialogue, intending to represent her indifference
and his passion; now sportive, now sad; laughter on her part and
tears from him, ending in an apotheosis of loving reconciliation. It
affected the lady to that degree that ever after she loved the
``And no doubt they were happy?'' Mildred suggested smilingly.
``Yes,'' said the old man, with assumed sentiment, ``even when his
profession called him far away, for she had made him promise her he
never would play upon the two strings whose music had won her heart,
so those strings were mute, except for her.''
The old man puffed away in silence for a moment, then with logical
directness continued: ``Perhaps the string that's mute upon Diotti's
violin is mute for some such reason.''
``Nonsense,'' said the girl, half impatiently.
``The string is black and glossy as the tresses that fall in
tangled skeins on the shoulders of the dreamy beauties of Tuscany. It
may be an idle fancy, but if that string is not a woven strand from
some woman's crowning glory, then I have no discernment.''
``You are jesting, uncle,'' she replied, but her heart was heavy
``Ask him to play on that string; I'll wager he'll refuse,'' said
the old man, contemptuously.
``He will not refuse when I ask him, but I will not to-night,''
answered the unhappy girl, with forced determina- tion. Then, taking
the old man's hands, she said: ``Good-night, I am going to my room;
please make my excuses to Signor Diotti and father,'' and wearily she
ascended the stairs.
Mr. Wallace and the violinist soon after joined old Sanders, fresh
cigars were lighted and regrets most earnestly expressed by the
violinist for Mildred's ``sick headache.''
``No need to worry; she will be all right in the morning,'' said
Sanders, and he and the violinist buttoned their coats tightly about
them, for the night was bitter cold, and together they left the
In her bed-chamber Mildred stood looking at the portrait of her
lover. She studied his face long and intently, then crossing the room
she mechanically took a volume from the shelf, and as she opened it
her eyes fell on these lines:
``How art thou fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the
Old Sanders builded better than he knew.
When Diotti and old Sanders left the house they walked rapidly
down Fifth Avenue. It was after eleven, and the streets were bare of
pedestrians, but blinking-eyed cabs came up the avenue, looking at a
distance like a trail of Megatheriums, gliding through the darkness.
The piercing wind made the men hasten their steps, the old man by a
semi-rotary motion keeping up with the longer strides and measured
tread of the younger.
When they reached Fourteenth Street, the elder said, ``I live but
a block from here,'' pointing eastward; ``what do you say to a hot
toddy? It will warm the cockles of your heart; come over to my house
and I'll mix you the best drink in New York.''
The younger thought the suggestion a good one and they turned
toward the house of old Sanders.
It was a neat, red brick, two-story house, well in from the
street, off the line of the more pretentious buildings on either
side. As the old man opened the iron gate, the police officer on the
beat passed; he peered into the faces of the men, and recognizing
Sanders, said, ``tough night, sir.''
``Very,'' replied the addressed.
``All good old gentlemen should be in bed at this hour,'' said the
officer, lifting one foot after the other in an effort to keep warm,
and in so doing showing little terpsichorean grace.
``It's only the shank of the evening, officer,'' rejoined the old
man, as he fumbled with the latch key and finally opened the door.
The two men entered and the officer passed on.
Every man has a fad. One will tell you he sees nothing in
billiards or pool or golf or tennis, but will grow enthusiastic over
the scientific possibilities of mumble-peg; you agree with him, only
you substitute ``skittles'' for ``mumble- peg.''
Old Sanders' fad was mixing toddies and punches.
``The nectar of the gods pales into nothingness when compared with
a toddy such as I make,'' said he. ``Ambrosia may have been all right
for the degenerates of the old Grecian and Roman days, but an
American gentleman demands a toddy—a hot toddy.'' And then he
proceeded with circumspection and dignity to demonstrate the process
of decocting that mysterious beverage.
The two men took off their overcoats and went into the
sitting-room. A pile of logs burned brightly in the fire-place. The
old man threw another on the burning heap, filled the kettle with
water and hung it over the fire. Next he went to the sideboard and
brought forth the various ingredients for the toddy.
``How do you like America?'' said the elder, with commonplace
indifference, as he crunched a lump of sugar in the bottom of the
glass, dissolving the particles with a few drops of water.
``Very much, indeed,'' said the Tuscan, with the air of a man who
had answered the question before.
``Great country for girls!'' said Sanders, pouring a liberal
quantity of Old Tom gin in the glass and placing it where it
gradually would get warm.
``And for men!'' responded Diotti, enthusiastically.
``Men don't amount to much here, women run everything,'' retorted
the elder, while he repeated the process of preparing the sugar and
gin in the second glass. The kettle began to sing.
``That's music for you,'' chuckled the old man, raising the lid to
see if the water had boiled sufficiently. ``Do you know I think a
dinner horn and a singing kettle beat a symphony all hollow for real
down-right melody,'' and he lifted the kettle from the fire-place.
With mathematical accuracy the old man filled the two tumblers
with boiling water.
``Try that,'' handing a glass of the toddy to Diotti; ``you will
find it all right,'' and the old man drew an arm- chair toward the
fire-place, smacking his lips in anticipation.
The violinist placed his chair closer to the fire and sipped the
``Your country is noted for its beautiful women?''
``We have exquisite types of femininity in Tuscany,'' said the
young man, with patriotic ardor.
``Any as fine looking as—as—as—well, say the young lady we
dined with to-night?''
``Miss Wallace?'' queried the Tuscan.
``Yes, Miss Wallace,'' this rather impatiently.
``She is very beautiful,'' said Diotti, with solemn admiration.
``Have you ever seen any one prettier?'' questioned the old man,
after a second prolonged sip.
``I have no desire to see any one more beautiful,'' said the
violinist, feeling that the other was trying to draw him out, and
determined not to yield.
``You will pardon the inquisitiveness of an old man, but are not
you musicians a most impressionable lot?''
``We are human,'' answered the violinist.
``I imagined you were like sailors and had a sweetheart in every
``That would be a delightful prospect to one having polygamous
aspirations, but for myself, one sweetheart is enough,'' laughingly
said the musician.
``Only one! Well, here's to her! With this nectar fit for the gods
and goddesses of Olympus, let us drink to her,'' said old Sanders,
with convivial dignity, his glass raised on high. ``Here's wishing
health and happiness to the dreamy- eyed Tuscan beauty, whom you love
and who loves you.''
``Stop!'' said Diotti; ``we will drink to the first part of that
toast,'' and holding his glass against that of his bibulous host,
continued: ``To the dreamy-eyed women of my country, exacting of
their lovers; obedient to their parents and loyal to their
husbands,'' and his voice rose in sonorous rhythm with the words.
``Now for the rest of the toast, to the one you love and who loves
you,'' came from Sanders.
``To the one I love and who loves me, God bless her!'' fervently
cried the guest.
``Is she a Tuscan?'' asked old Sanders slyly.
``She is an angel!'' impetuously answered the violinist.
``Then she is an American!'' said the old man gallantly.
``She is an American,'' repeated Diotti, forgetting himself for
``Let me see if I can guess her name,'' said old Sanders.
``It's—it's Mildred Wallace!'' and his manner suggested a child
solving a riddle.
The violinist, about to speak, checked himself and remained
``I sincerely pity Mildred if ever she falls in love,''
abstractedly continued the host while filling another glass.
``Pray why?'' was anxiously asked.
The old man shifted his position and assumed a confidential tone
and attitude: ``Signor Diotti, jealousy is a more universal passion
than love itself. Environment may develop our character, influence
our tastes and even soften our features, but heredity determines the
intensity of the two leading passions, love and jealousy. Mildred's
mother was a beautiful woman, but consumed with an overpowering
jealousy of her husband. It was because she loved him. The body-guard
of jealousy—envy, malice and hatred—were not in her composition.
When Mildred was a child of twelve I have seen her mother suffer the
keenest anguish because Mr. Wallace fondled the child. She thought the
child had robbed her of her husband's love.''
``Such a woman as Miss Wallace would command the entire love and
admiration of her husband at all times,'' said the artist.
``If she should marry a man she simply likes, her chances for
happiness would be normal.''
``In what manner?'' asked the lover.
``Because she would be little concerned about him or his
``Then you believe,'' said the musician, ``that the man who loves
her and whom she loves should give her up because her chances of
happiness would be greater away from him than with him?''
``That would be an unselfish love,'' said the elder.
``Suppose they have declared their passion?'' asked Diotti.
``A parting before doubt and jealousy had entered her mind would
let the image of her sacrificing lover live within her soul as a
tender and lasting memory; he always would be her ideal,'' and the
accent old Sanders placed on ALWAYS left no doubt of his belief.
``Why should doubt and jealousy enter her life?'' said the
violinist, falling into the personal character of the discussion
``My dear sir, from what I observed to-night, she loves you. You
are a dan- gerous man for a jealous woman to love. You are not a
cloistered monk, you are a man before the public; you win the
admiration of many; some women do not hesitate to show you their
preference. To a woman like Mildred that would be torture; she could
not and would not separate the professional artist from the lover or
And Diotti, remembering Mildred's words, could not refute the old
``If you had known her mother as I did,'' continued the old man,
realizing his argument was making an impression on the violinist,
``you would see the agony in store for the daughter if she married a
man such as you, a public servant, a public favorite.''
``I would live my life not to excite her suspicions or jealousy,''
said the artist, with boyish enthusiasm and simplicity.
``Foolish fellow,'' retorted Sanders, skeptically; ``women
imagine, they don't reason. A scented note unopened on the dressing
table can cause more unhappiness to your wife than the loss of his
country to a king. My advice to you is: do not marry; but if you must,
choose one who is more interested in your gastronomic felicity than
in your marital constancy.''
Diotti was silent. He was pondering the words of his host. Instead
of seeing in Mildred a possibly jealous woman, causing mental misery,
she appeared a vision of single-hearted devotion. He felt: ``To be
loved by such a one is bliss beyond the dreams of this world.''
A tipsy man is never interesting, and Sanders in that condition
was no exception. The old man arose with some effort, walked toward
the window and, shading his eyes, looked out. The snow was drifting,
swept hither and thither by the cutting wind that came through the
streets in great gusts. Turning to the violinist, he said, ``It's an
awful night; better remain here until morning. You'll not find a cab;
in fact, I will not let you go while this storm continues,'' and the
old man raised the window, thrusting his head out for an instant. As
he did so the icy blast that came in settled any doubt in the young
man's mind and he concluded to stop over night.
It was nearly two o'clock; Sanders showed him to his room and then
returned down stairs to see that everything was snug and secure.
After changing his heavy shoes for a pair of old slippers and
wrapping a dressing gown around him, the old man stretched his legs
toward the fire and sipped his toddy.
``He isn't a bad sort for a violinist,'' mused the old man; ``if
he were worth a million, I believe I'd advise Wallace to let him
marry her. A fiddler! A million! Sounds funny,'' and he laughed
He turned his head and his eyes caught sight of Diotti's violin
case resting on the center table. He staggered from the chair and
went toward it; opening the lid softly, he lifted the silken coverlet
placed over the instrument and examined the strings intently. ``I am
right,'' he said; ``it is wrapped with hair, and no doubt from a
woman's head. Eureka!'' and the old man, happy in the discovery that
his surmises were correct, returned to his chair and his toddy.
He sat looking into the fire. The violin had brought back memories
of the past and its dead. He mumbled, as if to the fire, ``she loved
me; she loved my violin. I was a devil; my violin was a devil,'' and
the shadows on the wall swayed like accusing spirits. He buried his
face in his hands and cried piteously, ``I was so young; too young to
know.'' He spoke as if he would conciliate the ghastly shades that
moved restlessly up and down, when suddenly —``Sanders, don't be a
He ambled toward the table again. ``I wonder who made the violin?
He would not tell me when I asked him to- night; thank you for your
pains, but I will find out myself,'' and he took the violin from the
case. Holding it with the light slanting over it, he peered inside,
but found no inscription. ``No maker's name—strange,'' he said. He
tiptoed to the foot of the stairs and listened intently; ``he must be
asleep; he won't hear me,'' and noiselessly he closed the door. ``I
guess if I play a tune on it he won't know.''
He took the bow from its place in the case and tightened it. He
listened again. ``He is fast asleep,'' he whispered. ``I'll play the
song I always played for her—until,'' and the old man repeated the
words of the refrain:
``Fair as a lily, joyous and free, Light of the prairie home was
she; Every one who knew her felt the gentle power Of Rosalie, the
He sat again in the arm-chair and placed the violin under his
chin. Tremulously he drew the bow across the middle string, his
bloodless fingers moving slowly up and down.
The theme he played was the melody to the verse he had just
repeated, but the expression was remorse.
Diotti sat upright in bed. ``I am positive I heard a violin!'' he
said, holding one hand toward his head in an attitude of listening.
He was wide awake. The drifting snow beat against the window panes
and the wind without shrieked like a thousand demons of the night. He
could sleep no more. He arose and hastily dressed. The room was
bitterly cold; he was shivering. He thought of the crackling logs in
the fire-place below. He groped his way along the darkened staircase.
As he opened the door leading into the sitting-room the fitful gleam
of the dying embers cast a ghastly light over the face of a corpse.
Diotti stood a moment, his eyes transfixed with horror. The violin
and bow still in the hands of the dead man told him plainer than
words what had happened. He went toward the chair, took the
instrument from old Sanders' hands and laid it on the table. Then he
knelt beside the body, and placing his ear close over the heart,
listened for some sign of life, but the old man was beyond human aid.
He wheeled the chair to the side of the room and moved the body to
the sofa. Gently he covered it with a robe. The awfulness of the
situation forced itself upon him, and bitterly he blamed himself. The
terrible power of the instrument dawned upon him in all its force.
Often he had played on the strings telling of pity, hope, love and
joy, but now, for the first time, he realized what that fifth string
``I must give it back to its owner.''
``If you do you can never regain it,'' whispered a voice within.
``I do not need it,'' said the violinist, almost audibly.
``Perhaps not,'' said the voice, ``but if her love should wane how
would you rekindle it? Without the violin you would be helpless.''
``Is it not possible that, in this old man's death, all its fatal
power has been expended?''
He went to the table and took the instrument from its place. ``You
won her for me; you have brought happiness and sunshine into my life.
No! No! I can not, will not give you up,'' then placing the violin
and bow in its case he locked it.
The day was breaking. In an hour the baker's boy came. Diotti went
to the door, gave him a note addressed to Mr. Wallace and asked him
to deliver it at once. The boy consented and drove rapidly away.
Within an hour Mr. Wallace arrived; Diotti told the story of the
night. After the undertaker had taken charge of the body he found on
the dead man's neck, just to the left of the chin, a dullish, black
bruise which might have been caused by the pressing of some blunt
instrument, or by a man's thumb. Considering it of much importance,
he notified the coroner, who ordered an inquest.
At six o'clock that evening a jury was impaneled, and two hours
later its verdict was reported.
On leaving the house of the dead man Diotti walked wearily to his
hotel. In flaring type at every street corner he saw the announcement
for Thursday evening, March thirty-first, of Angelo Diotti's last
appearance: ``To-night I play for the last time,'' he murmured in a
voice filled with deepest regret.
The feeling of exultation so common to artists who finally reach
the goal of their ambition was wanting in Diotti this morning. He
could not rid himself of the memory of Sanders' tragic death. The
figure of the old man clutching the violin and staring with glassy
eyes into the dying fire would not away.
When he reached the hotel he tried to rest, but his excited brain
banished every thought of slumber. Restlessly he moved about the
room, and finally dressing, he left the hotel for his daily call on
Mildred. It was after five o'clock when he arrived. She received him
coldly and without any mark of affection.
She had heard of Mr. Sanders' death; her father had sent word.
``It shocked me greatly,'' she said; ``but perhaps the old man is
happier in a world far from strife and care. When we realize all the
misery there is in this world we often wonder why we should care to
live.'' Her tone was despondent, her face was drawn and blanched, and
her eyes gave evidence of weeping.
Diotti divined that something beyond sympathy for old Sanders'
sudden death racked her soul. He went toward her and lovingly taking
her hands, bent low and pressed his lips to them; they were cold as
``Darling,'' he said; ``something has made you unhappy. What is
``Tell me, Angelo, and truly; is your violin like other violins?''
This unexpected question came so suddenly he could not control his
``Why do you ask?'' he said.
``You must answer me directly!''
``No, Mildred; my violin is different from any other I have ever
seen,'' this hesitatingly and with great effort at composure.
``In what way is it different?'' she almost demanded.
``It is peculiarly constructed; it has an extra string. But why
this sudden interest in the violin? Let us talk of you, of me, of
both, of our future,'' said he with enforced cheerfulness.
``No, we will talk of the violin. Of what use is the extra
``None whatever,'' was the quick reply.
``Then why not cut it off?''
``No, no, Mildred; you do not understand,'' he cried; ``I can not
``You can not do it when I ask it?'' she exclaimed.
``Oh Mildred, do not ask me; I can not, can not do it,'' and the
face of the affrighted musician told plainer than words of the
turmoil raging in his soul.
``You made me believe that I was the only one you loved,''
passionately she cried; ``the only one; that your happiness was
incomplete without me. You led me into the region of light only to
make the darkness greater when I descended to earth again. I ask you
to do a simple thing and you refuse; you refuse because another has
``Mildred, Mildred; if you love me do not speak thus!''
And she, with imagination greater than reasoning power, at once
saw a Tuscan beauty and Diotti mutually pledging their love with
``Go,'' she said, pointing to the door, ``go to the one who owns
you, body and soul; then say that a foolish woman threw her heart at
your feet and that you scorned it!'' She sank to the sofa.
He went toward the door, and in a voice that sounded like the echo
of despair, protested: ``Mildred, I love you; love you a thousand
times more than I do my life. If I should destroy the string, as you
ask, love and hope would leave me forevermore. Death would not be
robbed of its terror!'' and with bowed head he went forth into the
She ran to the window and watched his retreating figure as he
vanished. ``Uncle Sanders was right; he loves another woman, and that
string binds them together. He belongs to her!'' Long and silently
she stood by the window, gazing at the shadowing curtain of the
coming night. At last her face softened. ``Perhaps he does not love
her now, but fears her vengeance. No, no; he is not a coward! I
should have approached him differently; he is proud, and maybe he
resented my imperative manner,'' and a thousand reasons why he should
or should not have removed that string flashed through her mind.
``I will go early to the concert to- night and see him before he
plays. Uncle Sanders said he did not touch that string when he
played. Of course he will play on it for me, even if he will not cut
it off, and then if he says he loves me, and only me, I will believe
him. I want to believe him; I want to believe him,'' all this in a
semi-hysterical way addressed to the violinist's portrait on the
When she entered her carriage an hour later, telling the coachman
to drive direct to the stage-door of the Academy, she appeared more
fascinating than ever before.
She was sitting in his dressing-room waiting for him when he
arrived. He had aged years in a day. His step was uncertain, his eyes
were sunken and his hand trembled. His face brightened as she arose,
and Mildred met him in the center of the room. He lifted her hand and
pressed a kiss upon it.
``Angelo, dear,'' she said in repentant tone; ``I am sorry I
pained you this afternoon; but I am jealous, so jealous of you.''
``Jealous?'' he said smilingly; ``there is no need of jealousy in
our lives; we love each other truly and only.''
``That is just what I think, we will never doubt each other again,
``Never!'' he said solemnly.
He had placed his violin case on the table in the room. She went
to it and tapped the top playfully; then suddenly said: ``I am going
to look at your violin, Angelo,'' and before he could interfere, she
had taken the silken coverlet off and was examining the instrument
closely. ``Sure enough, it has five strings; the middle one stands
higher than the rest and is of glossy blackness. Uncle Sanders was
right; it is a woman's hair!
``Why is that string made of hair?'' she asked, controlling her
``Only a fancy,'' he said, feigning indifference.
``Though you would not remove it at my wish this afternoon,
Angelo; I know you will not refuse to play on it for me now.''
He raised his hands in supplication. ``Mildred! Mildred! Stop! do
not ask it!''
``You refuse after I have come repentant, and confessing my doubts
and fears? Uncle Sanders said you would not play upon it for me; he
told me it was wrapped with a woman's hair, the hair of the woman you
``I swear to you, Mildred, that I love but you!''
``Love me? Bah! And another woman's tresses sacred to you? Another
woman's pledge sacred to you? I asked you to remove the string; you
refused. I ask you now to play upon it; you re- fuse,'' and she paced
the room like a caged tigress.
``I will watch to-night when you play,'' she flashed. ``If you do
not use that string we part forever.''
He stood before her and attempted to take her hand; she repulsed
Sadly then he asked: ``And if I do play upon it?''
``I am yours forever—yours through life—through eternity,'' she
The call-boy announced Diotti's turn; the violinist led Mildred to
a seat at the entrance of the stage. His appearance was the signal
for prolonged and enthusiastic greeting from the enormous audience
present. He clearly was the idol of the metropolis.
The lights were lowered, a single calcium playing with its soft
and silvery rays upon his face and shoulders. The expectant audience
scarcely breathed as he began his theme. It was pity—pity molded
into a concord of beautiful sounds, and when he began the second
movement it was but a continuation of the first; his fingers sought
but one string, that of pity. Again he played, and once more pity
stole from the violin.
When he left the stage Mildred rushed So him. ``You did not touch
that string; you refuse my wish?'' and the sounds of mighty applause
without drowned his pleading voice.
``I told you if you refused me I was lost to you forever! Do you
Diotti returned slowly to the center of the stage and remained
motionless until the audience subsided. Facing Mildred, whose color
was heightened by the in- tensity of her emotion, he began softly to
play. His fingers sought the string of Death. The audience listened
with breathless interest. The composition was weirdly and strangely
The player told with wondrous power of despair,—of hope, of
faith; sunshine crept into the hearts of all as he pictured the
promise of an eternal day; higher and higher, softer and softer grew
the theme until it echoed as if it were afar in the realms of light
and floating o'er the waves of a golden sea.
Suddenly the audience was startled by the snapping of a string;
the violin and bow dropped from the nerveless hands of the player. He
fell helpless to the stage.
Mildred rushed to him, crying, ``Angelo, Angelo, what is it? What
has happened?'' Bending over him she gently raised his head and
showered un- restrained kisses upon his lips, oblivious of all save
``Speak! Speak!'' she implored.
A faint smile illumined his face; he gazed with ineffable
tenderness into her weeping eyes, then slowly closed his own as if in