FROM A BENCH IN OUR SQUARE
Samuel Hopkins Adams
_A Patroness of Art_
_The House of Silvery Voices_
_The Guardian of God's Acre_
_For Mayme, Read Mary_
_Plooie of Our Square_
FROM A BENCH IN OUR SQUARE
A PATRONESS OF ART
Peter (flourish-in-red) Quick (flourish-in-green) Banta (period-in-blue)
is the style whereby
he is known to Our Square.
Summertimes he is a prop and ornament
of Coney, that isle of the blest,
whose sands he models into gracious
forms and noble sentiments, in
anticipation of the casual
dime or the munificent quarter, wherewith, if
you have low, Philistine tastes or a kind heart, you have perhaps
aforetime rewarded him. In the off-season the thwarted passion
possesses him; and upon the flagstones before Thornsen's Elite
Restaurant, which constitutes his canvas, he will limn you a full-rigged
ship in two colors, a portrait
of the heavyweight champion
in three, or,
encouraged, the Statue of Liberty in four. These be,
however, concessions to popular taste. His own predilection is for
chaste floral designs of a symbolic character
borne out and expounded by
appropriate legends. Peter Quick Banta is a devotee of his art.
Giving full run to his loftier aspirations, he was engaged, one April
day, upon a carefully represented lilac with a butterfly
about to light
on it, when he became cognizant of a ragged
rogue of an urchin
him with a grin. Peter Quick Banta misinterpreted this sign of interest.
"What d'ye think of _that_?" he said triumphantly, as he sketched in a
set of side-whiskers (presumably intended for antennae) upon the
"Rotten," was the prompt
"_What_!" said the astounded artist, rising from his knees.
Peter Quick Banta applied
the higher criticism
to the urchin's nearest
ear. It was now that connoisseur's turn to be affronted. Picking himself
out of the gutter, he placed his thumb to his nose, and wiggled his
finger in active and reprehensible symbolism, whilst
enlarging upon his
original critique, in a series
"Rotten! Punk! No good! Swash! Flubdub! Sacre tas de--de--piffle!"
Already his vocabulary
was rich and plenteous, though, in those days,
tainted by his French origin.
He then, I regret to say, spat upon the purple
whiskers of the butterfly
and took refuge
in flight. The long stride
of Peter Quick Banta soon
overtook him. Silently struggling he was haled back to the profaned
temple of Art.
"Now, young feller," said Peter Quick Banta. "Maybe you think you could
do it better." The world-old retort
of the creative
"Any fool could," retorted the boy, which, in various forms, is almost
as time-honored as the challenge.
Suspecting that only tactful intervention
would forestall possible
murder, I sauntered over from my bench. But the decorator of sidewalks
had himself under control.
"Try it," he said grimly.
The boy avidly seized the crayons extended
"You want me to draw a picture? There?"
"If you don't, I'll break every bone in your body."
left its object quite unmoved. He pointed
a crayon at Peter
Quick Banta's creation.
"What is that? A bool-rush?"
"It's a laylock; that's what it is."
"And the little bird that goes to light--"
"That ain't a bird and you know it." Peter Quick Banta breathed hard.
"That's a butterfly."
"I see. But the lie-lawc, it drop--so!" The gesture
was inimitable. "And
the butterfly, she do not come down, plop! She float--so!" The grimy
hands fluttered and sank.
"They do, do they? Well, you put it down on the sidewalk."
From that moment the outside world ceased to exist for the urchin. He
fell to with concentrated fervor, while Peter Quick Banta and I diverted
the traffic. Only once did he speak:
"Yellow," he said, reaching, but not looking up.
Silently the elder artist put the desired crayon in his hand. When the
last touches were done, the boy looked up at us, not boastfully, but
"There!" said he.
It was crude. It was ill-proportioned. The colors were raw. The
arrangements were false.
_But_--the lilac bloomed. _And_--the butterfly
hovered. The artist had
spoken through his ordained medium
and the presentment of life stood
forth. I hardly dared look at Peter Quick Banta. But beneath his uncouth
exterior there lay a great and magnanimous soul.
"Son," said he, "you're a wonder. Wanta keep them crayons?"
Unable to speak for the moment, the boy took off his ragged
cap in one
of the most gracious
gestures I have ever witnessed, raising dog-like
eyes of gratitude
to his benefactor. Tactfully, Peter Quick Banta
proceeded to expound for my benefit the technique
of the drawing, giving
time to recover before the inevitable
"Where did you learn that?"
"Nowhere. Had a few drawing
lessons at No. 19."
"Would you like to work for me?"
Peter Quick Banta pointed
to the sidewalk.
"That?" The boy laughed happily. "That ain't work. That's fun."
So the partnership
was begun, the boy, whose name was Julien Tennier
(soon simplified into Tenney for local use), sharing Peter Quick Banta's
roomy garret. Success, modest
but unfailing, attended it from the first
appearance of the junior
member of the firm at Coney Island, where, as
the local cognoscenti still maintain, he revolutionized the art and
practice of the "sand-dabs." Out of the joint takings grew a bank
account. Eventually Peter Quick Banta came to me about the boy's
"He's a swell," said Peter Quick Banta. "Look at that face! I don't care
if he did crawl outa the gutter. I'm an artist and I reco'nize
aristocracy when I see it. And I want him brung up accordin'."
So I inducted the youngster
into such modest
groves of learning
old, half-shelved pedagogue has access
to, and when the Bonnie Lassie
came to Our Square to make herself and us famous with her tiny bronzes
(this was before she had captured, reformed, and married Cyrus the
Gaunt), I took him to her and he fell boyishly and violently
with her beauty and her genius
alike, all of which was good for his
developing soul. She arranged for his art training.
"But you know, Dominie," she used to say, wagging her head like a
profound and thoughtful
bird; "this is all very foolish and shortsighted
on my part. Five years from now that gutter-godling of yours will be
doing work that will make people forget poor little me and my poor
To which I replied that even if it were true, instead of the veriest
nonsense, about Julien Tenney or any one else ever eclipsing her, she
would help him just the same!
But five years from then Julien had gone over to the Philistines.
Justly catalogued, Roberta Holland belonged to the idle rich. She would
have objected to the latter classification, averring that, with the
rising cost of furs and automobile upkeep, she had barely
enough to keep
her head above the high tide of Fifth Avenue prices. As to idleness, she
scorned the charge. Had she not, throughout the war, performed
prodigious feats of committee work, all of it meritorious and some of it
useful? She had. It had left her with a dangerous and destructive
appetite for doing good to people. Aside from this, Miss Roberta was a
distracting young person. Few looked at her once without wanting
again, and not a few looked again to their undoing.
Being-done-good-to is, I understand, much in vogue in the purlieus of
Fifth Avenue where it is practiced
with skill and persistence by a large
and needy cult of grateful
recipients. Our Square doesn't take to it. As
recipients we are, I fear, grudgingly grateful. So when Miss Holland
transferred her enthusiasms and activities to our far-away corner of the
world she met with a lack of response
which might have discouraged one
with a less new and superior sense of duty to the lower orders. She came
to us through the Bonnie Lassie, guardian
of the gateway
from the upper
strata to our humbler domain, who--Pagan that she is!--indiscriminately
accepts all things beautiful simply for their beauty. Having arrived,
Miss Holland proceeded to organize
us with all the energy
high-blooded sweet-and-twenty and all the imperiousness of confident
wealth and beauty. She organized an evening sewing-circle for women
whose eyelids would not stay open after their long day's work. She
classes for such as Leon Coventry, the
printer, who knows half the literatures of the world, and MacLachan, the
tailor, to whom Carlyle is by way of being light reading. She delivered
some edifying exhortations upon the subject of Americanism to Polyglot
Elsa, of the Elite Restaurant (who had taken upon her sturdy
shoulders the support of an old mother and a paralytic sister, so that
her two brothers might enlist
for the war--a detail of patriotism which
the dispenser of platitudes might have learned
And so forth and so on. Miss Roberta Holland meant well, but she had
many things to learn and no master to teach her.
Yet when the flu epidemic
returned upon us, she stood by, efficient,
deft, and gallant, though still imperious, until the day when she
clashed her lath-and-tinsel sword of theory against the tempered steel
of the Little Red Doctor's experience. Said the Little Red Doctor (who
was pressed for time at the moment): "Take orders. Or get out. Which?"
She straightened like a soldier. "Tell me what you want done."
At the end of the onset, when he gave her her release
service, she turned shining eyes upon him. "I've never been so treated
in my life! You're a bully and a brute."
"You're a brick," retorted the Little Red Doctor. "I'll send for you
next time Our Square needs help."
"I'll come," said she, and they shook hands solemnly.
Thereafter Our Square felt a little more lenient toward her
ministrations, and even those of us who least approved her activities
felt the stir of radiance
and color which she brought with her.
On a day when the local philanthropy market was slack, and Miss Holland,
seated in the Bonnie Lassie's front window, was maturing some new and
upon our sensibilities, she called out to the sculptress
at work on a group:
"There's a queer man making queer marks on your sidewalk."
"That's Peter Quick Banta. He's a fellow artist."
"And another man, young, with a big, maney head like an amiable
quite a beautiful lion. He's making more marks."
"Let him make all he wants."
"They're waving their arms at each other. At least the queer man is. I
think they're going to fight."
"They won't. It's only an academicdiscussion
"Who is the young one?"
"He's the ruin of what might have been a big artist."
"No! Is he? What did it? Drink?"
"Does he look it?"
The window-gazer peered more intently
at the debaters below. "It's a
peculiar face. Awfully interesting, though. He's quite poorly
Does he need money? Is that what's wrong?"
"That's it, Bobbie," returned the Bonnie Lassie with a half-smile. "He
needs the money."
The rampant philanthropist stirred within Miss Roberta Holland's fatally
well-meaning soul. "Would it be a case where I could help? I'd love to
put a real artist back on his feet. Are you sure he's real?"
On the subject of Art, the Bonnie Lassie is never anything but sincere
and direct, however much she may play her trickeries with lesser
interests, such as life and love and human fate.
"No; I'm not. If he were, I doubt whether he'd have let himself go so
"Perhaps it isn't too late," said the amateurmissionary
he a man to whom one could offer money?"
The Bonnie Lassie's smile broadened without change in its subtle
quality. "Julien Tenney isn't exactly a pauper. He just thinks he can't
afford to do the kind of thing he wants and ought to."
"What ought he to do?"
"Paint--paint--paint!" said the Bonnie Lassie vehemently. "Five years
ago I believe he had the makings of a great painter
in him. And now look
what he's doing!"
"Making marks on sidewalks, you mean?"
"Worse. Commercial art."
"Designs and that sort of thing?"
"Do you ever look at the unearthly beautiful, graceful
dressed young super-Americans who appear in the advertisements, riding
in super-cars or wearing super-clothes or brushing super-teeth with
"I suppose so," said the girl vaguely.
"He draws those."
"Is that what you call pot-boiling?"
"And I suppose it pays just a pittance."
"Well," replied the Bonnie Lassie evasively, "he sticks to it, so it
must support him."
"Then I'm going to help him."
"'To fulfill his destiny,' is the accepted phrase," said the Bonnie
Lassie wickedly. "I'll call him in for you to look over. But you'd best
leave the arrangements for a later meeting."
Being summoned, Julien Tenney entered the house as one quite at home
despite his smeary garb of the working
artist. His presentation
Holland was as brief as it was formal, for she took her departure
"Who is she?" asked Julien, staring after her.
"Bobbie Holland, a gilded butterfly
"What's she doing here?"
"O Lord!" said he in pained tones. "Has she got a Cause?"
"There ain't no sich a animile."
"There is. She's a patron
ornament [´ɔ:nəmənt] n.装饰(物) vt.装饰 (初中英语单词)gracious [´greiʃəs] a.和蔼可亲的；任慈的 (初中英语单词)passion [´pæʃən] n.激情；激怒；恋爱 (初中英语单词)canvas [´kænvəs] n.帆布；油画(布) (初中英语单词)champion [´tʃæmpiən] n.冠军 vt.拥护 (初中英语单词)statue [´stætʃu:] n.塑像，雕像 (初中英语单词)character [´kæriktə] n.特性；性质；人物；字 (初中英语单词)butterfly [´bʌtəflai] n.蝴蝶；蝶式 (初中英语单词)criticism [´kritisizəm] n.批评；评论(文) (初中英语单词)series [´siəri:z] n.连续；系列；丛书 (初中英语单词)vocabulary [və´kæbjuləri, vəu-] n.词汇；词汇量 (初中英语单词)purple [´pə:pl] n.紫色 a.紫(红)的 (初中英语单词)refuge [´refju:dʒ] v.&n.避难(所)；庇护 (初中英语单词)flight [flait] n.逃走；飞行；班机 (初中英语单词)silently [´sailəntli] ad.寂静地；沉默地 (初中英语单词)pointed [´pɔintid] a.尖(锐)的；中肯的 (初中英语单词)gesture [´dʒestʃə] n.手势 v.打手势 (初中英语单词)traffic [´træfik] n.交通，运输 (初中英语单词)supreme [su:´pri:m, sju:-] a.最高的，无上的 (初中英语单词)medium [´mi:diəm] n.中间；平均 a.中等的 (初中英语单词)gratitude [´grætitju:d] n.感激，感谢 (初中英语单词)youngster [´jʌŋstə] n.年轻人；小伙子；少年 (初中英语单词)modest [´mɔdist] a.谦虚的；朴素的 (初中英语单词)junior [´dʒu:niə] a.年少的 n.年少者 (初中英语单词)maintain [mein´tein] vt.维持；保持；继续 (初中英语单词)learning [´lə:niŋ] n.学习；学问；知识 (初中英语单词)genius [´dʒi:niəs] n.天才(人物)；天赋 (初中英语单词)holland [´hɔlənd] n.荷兰 (初中英语单词)barely [´beəli] ad.公开地；仅仅 (初中英语单词)charge [tʃɑ:dʒ] v.收费；冲锋 n.费用 (初中英语单词)grateful [´greitful] a.感谢的；令人愉快的 (初中英语单词)organize [´ɔ:gənaiz] v.组织；编组；建立 (初中英语单词)energy [´enədʒi] n.活力，精力；能力 (初中英语单词)cultural [´kʌltʃərəl] a.文化(上)的；教养的 (初中英语单词)improvement [im´pru:vmənt] n.改进，改善，进步 (初中英语单词)reading [´ri:diŋ] n.(阅)读；朗读；读物 (初中英语单词)restaurant [´restərɔnt] n.饭店，菜馆 (初中英语单词)gallant [´gælənt, gə´lænt] a.英勇的；华丽的 (初中英语单词)release [ri´li:s] vt&n.释放；放松；赦免 (初中英语单词)discussion [di´skʌʃən] n.讨论；辩论 (初中英语单词)amateur [´æmətə, ,æmə´tə:] n.业余爱好者 (初中英语单词)painter [´peintə] n.画家；(油)漆工 (初中英语单词)commercial [kə´mə:ʃəl] a.商业的 n.广告节目 (初中英语单词)graceful [´greisfəl] a.优美的，流畅的 (初中英语单词)working [´wə:kiŋ] a.工人的；劳动的 (初中英语单词)formal [´fɔ:məl] a.正式的；外表的 (初中英语单词)guardian [´gɑ:diən] n.监护人；保护人 (高中英语单词)casual [´kæʒuəl] a.偶然的；临时的 (高中英语单词)portrait [´pɔ:trit] n.肖像；相片；雕像 (高中英语单词)ragged [´rægid] a.衣服破烂的 (高中英语单词)prompt [prɔmpt] a.敏捷的 vt.促使 (高中英语单词)whilst [wailst] conj.当…时候；虽然 (高中英语单词)shrill [ʃril] a.(声音)尖锐的 (高中英语单词)stride [straid] n.进展 v.跨过；骑 (高中英语单词)retort [ri´tɔ:t] n.&v.报复；反击；反驳 (高中英语单词)threat [θret] n.恐吓，威胁 (高中英语单词)inevitable [i´nevitəbəl] a.不可避免的 (高中英语单词)partnership [´pɑ:tnəʃip] n.合伙关系 (高中英语单词)access [´ækses] n.接近；通路；进入 (高中英语单词)violently [´vaiələntli] ad.强暴地；猛烈地 (高中英语单词)thoughtful [´θɔ:tfəl] a.深思的；体贴的 (高中英语单词)classification [,klæsifi´keiʃən] n.分类(法)；等级 (高中英语单词)response [ri´spɔns] n.回答；响应 (高中英语单词)gateway [´geit-wei] n.入口；通道；途径 (高中英语单词)sturdy [´stə:di] a.坚强的；坚定的 (高中英语单词)enlist [in´list] vt.征募；赞助 (高中英语单词)learned [´lə:nid] a.有学问的，博学的 (高中英语单词)outrage [´aut,reidʒ] n.残暴 vt.虐待；伤害 (高中英语单词)awfully [´ɔ:fuli] ad.令人畏惧地 (高中英语单词)missionary [´miʃənəri] a.传教(士)的 n.传教士 (高中英语单词)patron [´peitrən] n.庇护人，保护人；赞助人 (高中英语单词)silvery [´silvəri] a.银一般的 (英语四级单词)whereby [weə´bai] ad.凭什么；靠那个 (英语四级单词)triumphantly [trai´ʌmfəntli] ad.胜利地；洋洋得意地 (英语四级单词)gutter [´gʌtə] n.(檐)槽；排水沟 (英语四级单词)creative [kri:´eitiv] a.有创造力的；创作的 (英语四级单词)drawing [´drɔ:iŋ] n.画图；制图；图样 (英语四级单词)garret [´gærit] n.阁楼，顶楼 (英语四级单词)eventually [i´ventʃuəli] ad.最后，终于 (英语四级单词)idleness [´aidlnis] n.懒；闲着不干事 (英语四级单词)domain [də´mein,dəu-] n.领土；版图；范围 (英语四级单词)epidemic [,epi´demik] n.&a.流行病(的) (英语四级单词)radiance [´reidjəns] n.发光；光彩；辐射 (英语四级单词)amiable [´eimiəbəl] a.亲切的，温和的 (英语四级单词)academic [,ækə´demik] a.学术的 n.大学学生 (英语四级单词)intently [in´tentli] ad.专心地 (英语四级单词)poorly [´puəli] a.不舒服的 ad.贫穷地 (英语四级单词)presentation [,prezən´teiʃən] n.介绍；赠送；提出 (英语四级单词)wherewith [wɛə´wiθ] ad.用什么；用以 (英语六级单词)philistine [´filistain] n.腓力斯人 a.市侩的 (英语六级单词)financially [fi´nænʃəli] ad.在金融方面 (英语六级单词)urchin [´ə:tʃin] n.顽童 (英语六级单词)applied [ə´plaid] a.实用的，应用的 (英语六级单词)intervention [,intə´venʃən] n.干涉；调停；插入 (英语六级单词)extended [iks´tendid] a.伸长的；广大的 (英语六级单词)unmoved [ʌn´mu:vd] a.无动于衷的；坚定的 (英语六级单词)benefactor [´beni,fæktə] n.捐助人；恩人 (英语六级单词)technique [tek´ni:k] n.技术；技巧；方法 (英语六级单词)wanting [´wɔntiŋ, wɑ:n-] a.短缺的；不足的 (英语六级单词)practiced [´præktist] a.经验丰富的；熟练的 (英语六级单词)judicious [dʒu:´diʃəs] a.明智的；贤明的 (英语六级单词)imperious [im´piəriəs] a.傲慢的；紧急的 (英语六级单词)hopefully [´həupfəli] ad.抱着希望地 (英语六级单词)